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20th Jan 2020

German MPs under pressure to get Lisbon law ready

German MPs are under pressure to get an accompanying law strengthening the role of both houses of parliament in EU decision-making wrapped up before general elections at the end of September.

The tight time frame follows a ruling by the country's constitutional court on Tuesday (30 June) in which it said the proposed Lisbon Treaty is in conformity with the German constitution but its ratification may only be completed once parliamentary oversight is boosted.

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Berlin is aiming to get the process fully wrapped up with the law in place before Ireland votes for a second time on the Lisbon Treaty, expected to be on 2 October, and before the German parliament is dissolved for the general elections on 27 September.

An extraordinary session of the parliament has been called for 26 August where MPs are supposed to have the first reading of the new draft law. The second and third reading is expected to take place on 8 September while the upper house (Bundesrat) is to approve the law on 18 September.

Once this step is taken, president Horst Koehler can sign the Lisbon Treaty and the deeds can be handed in to Rome, fully completing ratification.

MPs, who voted overwhelmingly in support of the treaty last year, say this is a huge task for the small window of time they have.

"Normally we would need half a year for such a process," the Europe expert for the centre-right CDU/CSU parties, Michael Stuebgen, said. He added that the coming weeks would be "hard" as a whole new law has to be written, reports the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

A law on how the parliament should be involved in EU decision making when the Lisbon Treaty is in force had already been drawn up in anticipation of the treaty coming into force.

But the constitutional court said it was too weak, particularly highlighting the so-called 'passerelle' clause whereby EU leaders, when acting unanimously, can decide to move an area from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The law, drawn up by the German government, said MPs should be "informed" of any such move and outlines the cases in which the parliament can block the move.

But the proposed law does not foresee that either the Bundestag or the Bundesrat should have a say in principle on when the 'passerelle' clause should be used.

The parliament and the German government have already in the past clashed over the EU competences of the German assembly, with Berlin reluctant to have itself tied down on EU issues by MPs.

Now the parliament is set to draw up a law that would ensure that it would have to vote on any such changes through the 'passerelle' clause.

FAZ reports that a working group on the issue is to be founded as soon as possible, and it will also involve representation from the German regions (Länder).

Some MPs are less than keen to have the government involved. Parliament would rather do without "help with formulation from the government," said Mr Stuebgen.

"We had this [help] last time round and the legal text that emerged has now blown up in our faces."

The court called on the German parliament to have "responsibility for integration" with the assembly now to have a say over every step that goes beyond the Lisbon Treaty.

A comment piece in Die Zeit newspaper notes that the court ruling was a "clip around the ear" for the German parliament for failing to be more active rather than a criticism of the Lisbon Treaty.

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