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29th Feb 2024

German court deals blow to Berlin's EU constitution plans

  • Will the ratification process be finished in Germany? (Photo: EUobserver)

Germany's plans to put the EU constitution back on track early next year have been dealt a blow by the country's constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

The court on Tuesday (31 October) said it would not rule on whether the EU charter was compatible with the German constitution until after a final decision had been taken on the overall fate of the document, which has been on political ice since it was rejected by French and Dutch voters last year.

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German constitutional judge Siegfried Bros, who is dealing with the EU constitution, said that a decision on the issue was "currently not a priority."

He added, according to German daily Die Welt, that as the EU constitutional process is still under discussion since the two 'no' referendums last year, the issue is not urgent.

Should the text stay as it is, said Mr Bros, he would "resume work on the constitutional complaint" adding "there is definitely sufficient time" to deal with the issue before 2009.

Setback for Merkel

The statements are a setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel who had recently put the EU constitution back on the bloc's political agenda by outlining a roadmap under which the document would be on its political feet by the European elections in mid 2009.

Berlin had been hoping for a decision by the federal constitutional court in early 2007 which would have coincided with the country's six-month stint at the EU helm.

Instead, Mrs Merkel will be leading the constitutional revival efforts although Germany has not yet technically finished ratification.

The German parliament ratified the constitution by an overwhelming majority in 2005 (569 of 603 votes) but president Horst Koehler refused to sign off the ratification process until the federal court had taken a decision on a complaint by centre-right MP Peter Gauweiler that the EU treaty was taking too much power from the national parliament.

The MP filed a legal complaint in 2005 that the EU constitution will take power away from the German parliament. He argued it oversteps the boundaries that the German constitution provides for the integration of state institutions in the EU. He also said that the German parliament cannot give more rights to the EU than it has itself.

Hailing the court's decision on Tuesday, Mr Gauweiler said "the EU constitution has in all probability also failed in Germany."

Second ratification?

Currently 14 member states have passed the EU charter which needs all 25 member states to ratify it before it can come into force.

With Germany and France making statements on the constitution, the issue has slowly moved up the political agenda once more.

However, each new pronouncement raises as many questions as it does answers. France's Nicolas Sarkozy recently suggested the constitution should be pared down to a mini treaty, raising questions for those who have already ratified the document.

Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet told the Irish Times that countries that have already ratified the constitution should not have to ratify a second version of the document.

"For the future, our first preference is that we should avoid the situation that all those (...) countries have to ratify 'Constitutional Treaty Volume II' or something like this," he said according to Thursday's newspaper.

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