German constitutional court to examine Lisbon treaty
By Honor Mahony
Germany's constitutional court is preparing for an unusually long hearing on the EU's Lisbon treaty in a process that will help determine the fate of the document across the European Union.
Over two days next month (10-11 February) the court's judges will discuss whether the treaty breaches Germany's constitution.
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The time the court has allotted for the debate is exceptionally long. According to Focus magazine, it only happens once or twice in a decade that the court gives more than one day for a hearing.
The court is considering a complaint brought by conservative MP Peter Gauweiler, who has argued that the treaty infringes on the rights given to German citizens in their country's constitution by allowing a foreign court - the European Court of Justice - to decide upon such issues.
He also argues that the treaty undermines the power of Germany's own parliament, the Bundestag.
Dietrich Murswiek, the lawyer handling the case for Mr Gauweiler, also remarked on the hearing's length: "This shows that the constitutional court is taking the issue very seriously. A hearing of longer than a day happens very rarely."
Although Germany's parliament has ratified the treaty and the president has signed it off, the final step to complete the process – formally handing the papers over in Rome – will remain stalled until the court has decided.
But the fate of the treaty, which has to be ratified in all 27 member states to come into force, remains in the balance in three additional countries.
The Czech Republic, Poland and Ireland also have yet to complete ratification. The Czech parliament is due to debate the charter at the beginning of February. If it passes parliament, it then faces another hurdle in the shape of the country's eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, who must also give his approval.
Ireland is having another go at ratifying the treaty after it was rejected by Irish citizens last June. The second referendum will take place in the autumn. The result will directly influence Poland's treaty situation.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski has said he will only give the nod to the treaty if Ireland's referendum produces a Yes vote.