Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Germany revives EU treaty change debate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has revived the idea of EU treaty change ahead of a summit in Brussels aimed at agreeing on binding reform contracts.

"We have a situation in Europe, where Germany is often accused of baulking at certain developments. This is not the case. We are among those who say that we must change the treaties if the legal base is insufficient," she told German Parliament on Wednesday (18 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Changing the EU treaties is a complicated and lengthy process. And once completed, several countries - including Germany - have a requirement to hold national referendums if there is a substantial transfer of competences from national to EU level.

In 2005, after four years of negotiations, the EU Constitution was struck down in referendums in France and Netherlands.

It took another two years to renegotiate the text. The resulting Lisbon Treaty was struck down in a referendum in Ireland. The treaty came into force in 2009, after passing in a second Irish referendum.

But Merkel indicated that past difficulties should not weigh on future actions.

"Ever since the Lisbon Treaty we have the situation that everyone says we can change everything except the EU treaties. I do not think this is the way to develop a truly functional Europe," she said.

"I know that it is partly difficult to push through treaty changes in various nations. But who wants more Europe must be willing to draw new rules for certain competences," Merkel added.

But she gave no details on what changes Berlin is seeking.

German officials also preferred to stick to "general comments" about the treaty change rather than give concrete examples on why it would be needed.

"We are not blackmailing," a senior German official said.

"We are simply trying to advocate in favour of transposing the lessons of the past in a new treaty so that the mistakes will not be repeated in the future," the source added.

The official pointed out that the Lisbon Treaty was created before the financial and economic crisis which itself resulted in several new pacts and reforms.

But an EU source in Brussels meanwhile noted that Germany "always brings up treaty change" when it doesn't want talks to go in a certain direction.

In this case, this direction is calls by France, Italy and Spain for more "solidarity instruments" - such as cheaper loans or grants - in return for undertaking to carry out reforms.

"Ownership" of reforms is at the core of the German stance in the upcoming EU summit.

The EU may have may have more control of national budgets and greater room to make policy recommendations but Berlin is frustrated that much of it stays on paper and is never transposed into action at national level.

"We all get recommendations in spring that should be implemented at national level. These recommendations are met with more or less enthusiasm - Germany is here not much better than the others - and then life goes on. So far these recommendations did not prove to be binding," Merkel said in the Bundestag.

That is why Germany is pushing on Thursday to get an agreement on binding "reform partnerships."

They would be negotiated between national governments and the EU commission, with the involvement of national parliaments.

"Because these are mostly national competences - for instance social policy, labour market policies or the functioning of administrations - parliaments have to approve. Otherwise the entire thing would not be binding," Merkel explained.

The EU official in Brussels played down expectations of a final deal on the "reform partnerships" or the solidarity mechanisms. "This will be for June next year," the source said.

Germany gets its way on reform 'contracts'

Germany says fellow EU leaders have "accepted the principle" of binding reform contracts that will transfer further sovereignty from national level to Brussels.

Focus

Germany in renewed push for EU treaty change

The German finance minister has said discussions on revising the treaty to secure the eurozone's architecture will begin after the May EU elections.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us