28th May 2020

EU treaty set to be examined by Czech and German courts

The Lisbon treaty is set to be examined to see if it breaches national laws in two member states, raising the risk that the 1 January 2009 deadline for the document to come into force across the EU will be delayed.

The Czech Senate on Thursday (24 April) voted in favour of asking the constitutional court to check whether the treaty is in line with Czech law.

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  • All 27 member states must approve the treaty for it to come into force as planned at the beginning of next year (Photo: wikiepdia)

Of the 70 senators present, 48 voted in favour of the move, four against and 18 abstained.

The senate will not take a vote on the treaty until after the court has been consulted - the lower house already voted in favour of the charter.

The court announced it would deal with the issue straight away but its spokesperson refused to speculate on how long the procedure will take.

The key issues that the senators asked the court to check include the transfer of certain powers to EU institutions, the shift of decision-making among member states from unanimous to majority voting, as well as the legal implications of adopting the Charter of Fundamental Rights - with the charter causing the most concern among Czech lawmakers.

The move was originally mainly promoted by a number eurosceptic figures within the ruling ODS party but was eventually also supported by the party's junior coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

The key centre-left opposition party of CSSD tried to push through the ratification but was unsuccessful.

Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg spoke out against the court move. He concluded the debate with senators with a story about a poor boy who married a rich girl from Brussels but as he was to start fulfilling his marriage duties after the wedding, he asked his lawyer whether by doing so he would also be assuming new duties and so he didn't let his wife into his bedroom for a year.

"Admit that this bridegroom must be making quite a weird impression on his new family," the minister told senators, according to the Czech Press Agency.


Meanwhile, Germany's court is also set to examine the treaty. After the lower house of parliament strongly endorsed the charter on Thursday, conservative MP Peter Gauweiler repeated his intention to bring the treaty before the country's constitutional court.

"What Brussels is supposed to get in powers is not compatible with our democratic principles," Mr Gauweiler told the Saarbruecker newspaper.

He said his reason for bringing the case is the constitutional court's loss of power to the European court. The constitutional court has until now kept an eye on the inalienable rights of German citizens given to them by Germany's constitution (Grundgesetz), he noted.

"With the Lisbon Treaty, the sovereignty over these rights is given to foreign courts, whose members are not sworn to protect the constitution. That is not allowed by the constitution," the MP told the paper.

The MP is expected to formally present the complaint after the upper house has ratified the treaty next month.

The court case could delay signature of the treaty by Germany's president Horst Koehler – the signature is needed as the final step of ratification.

All 27 member states must approve the treaty for it to come into place as planned at the beginning of next year. So far 11 countries have ratified it.

Several debates and discussions about the technical preparation of the implementation of the treaty are currently being undertaken in Brussels with the expectation that January is the date of entry into force.


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