Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Top German judge questions democratic innovations to EU treaty

Germany's most senior judge has suggested that while democracy has been strengthened in the EU's new treaty, a key innovation involving national parliaments does not go far enough and member states have no guarantee that EU powers will not continue to grow.

Professor Hans-Juergen Papier, president of Germany's constitutional court, points out that the principle of democracy "is for the first time dignified with its own section in the treaty."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But speaking to an audience in Berlin's Humboldt University last week, the judge picked holes in the one of the main democratic improvements contained in the treaty - the role given to national parliaments to scrutinise proposed EU laws and say whether they think the EU is acting in an area where action would better be taken at member state or regional level, the so-called subsidarity principle.

Under the treaty rules, MPs are sent legislative proposals by the commission for examination. If they think the EU should not be acting in this area they have eight weeks to notify the commission, which is not bound to act.

If one third of national parliaments get together to complain about an EU law, it must be reviewed and the commission must give reasons if it intends to keep the law. The European Court of Justice may also be called on by member states to look into whether the subsidiarity principle is being upheld.

Professor Papier points out that the sheer number of laws coming from Brussels - there were 18,167 regulations and 750 directives between 1998 and 2004 - means that the MPs' early warning system is "somewhat impractible."

He also notes that the eight week deadline for delivering an opinion on an EU law considered as going too far from parliament is likely to prove too short in practice, while the numerous parliament opinions needed to get a law reviewed would require "considerable international coordination" in the two month timeframe.

The constitutional law expert also says it remains unclear whether the European Court of Justice, when presented with a case will stick to looking "purely at the verification of the subsidiarity question" or whether whether the EU has competence in the particular area.

According to Professor Papier, the dynamics of subsidiarity are connected to the "ever closer" union principle meaning that there is "from the point of view of member states no fixed limit guaranteed to the creeping transfer of competences [to EU level]."

Referring to the "welcome" fact that the EU's charter of fundamental rights is a binding part of the new treaty, the judge nevertheless the says that London and Warsaw's decision to opt out of the charter "reveals the deeply rooted mistrust of a union and a court" that pulls "ever more competences to it."

He says that at first glance this mistrust appears "misplaced" because the charter specifies that it only applies to EU law.

"But at second glance, the reservations of Poland and the United Kingdom cannot be dismissed fully out of hand," says Professor Papier referring to EU case law.

In 2005, the EU's highest court ruled that a national law on the possibility of limiting the work contracts of older people did not only break the EU's non-discrimination law but also the general legal principle of non-discrimination.

Professor Papier points out that the time period for implementing the EU non-discrimination law had not yet run out for member states so the court had used " the general legal principle of community law."

According to later statements by an attorney general of the European court of justice, quoted by the judge, the principle was less derived from legal texts but from a "platonic legal heaven," with a vagueness concerning both their content and their actual existence.

Amsterdam wins EU medicines agency on coin toss

The staff of the London-based EMA will move to the Dutch city of Amsterdam after Brexit, following a coin toss. Chance also decided the new home of the European Banking Authority: Paris.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaLaunch of Honorary Council on the Occasion of the Eastern Partnership Summit and CEPA
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics
  4. CECEKey Stakeholders to Jointly Tackle the Skills Issue in the Construction Sector
  5. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  6. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  7. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  8. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  10. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  11. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  12. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!

Latest News

  1. Berlin risks being 'culprit' for stalling EU, warns Green MEP
  2. Eastern partners, eastern problems
  3. Germany's Schulz under pressure to enter coalition talks
  4. LuxLeaks trial re-opens debate on whistleblowers' protection
  5. Wilders says Russia is 'no enemy' ahead of Moscow visit
  6. EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit
  7. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  8. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'