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15th Dec 2018

German judges express scepticism about EU treaty

  • The court is to examine an article in the German constitution on holding referendums (Photo: Torkil Sørensen/norden.org)

Several of the eight judges in charge of examining whether the EU's Lisbon Treaty is compatible with the German constitution have expressed scepticism about the constitutional effects of further EU integration.

According to reports in the German media, the debate during the crucial two-day hearing starting on Tuesday (10 Februrary) on the treaty centred on criminal law and the extent to which it should be the preserve of member states rather than the EU.

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The judges questioned whether the EU should be allowed to increase its powers in criminal law.

Judge Herbert Landau said new EU powers in criminal justice affected "core issues" of German legislative authority.

"These are issues affecting the shared values of a people," he said.

Judge Udo Di Fabio, who prepared the procedure and will deliver the judgement on the treaty, asked whether the transferral of powers to the EU really means more freedom for EU citizens.

"Is the idea of going ever more in this direction not a threat to freedom?" he asked, according to FT Deutschland.

Judge Rudolf Mellinghoff asked whether the treaty was already "in an extensive way" being applied when its comes to the area of criminal sanctions in environment issues – the European Commission may sanction companies for polluting the environment

In all, four of the eight judges questioned the Lisbon Treaty.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that the judges were united on one issue: that the treaty is not a work of high literature.

Less-than-clear passages from the treaty were read out aloud, guaranteeing a laugh, noted the paper.

Referendum

On Wednesday, the court is to examine article 146 of Germany's constitution, which says that a referendum may be called if the constitutional order in the country is changed to the detriment of Germany's current constitution – the Grundgesetz or Basic Law.

The court could therefore ask for a referendum, concludes the Suedeutsche Zeitung.

The hearing is being watched keenly across Europe as all member states need to ratify the EU treaty before it can go into force.

The German government, a strong supporter of the document, sent two of its senior ministers to defend it during the hearing, which is examining whether the treaty is anti-democratic by allowing the powers of national parliaments to be circumvented.

The case was brought before the court by conservative MP Peter Gauweiler and several deputies from the left-wing Die Linke party.

Ireland, the Czech Republic and Poland have also yet to ratify or complete ratification of the treaty.

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EU leaders said they can do no more than reassure the UK they do not want to trap it over Ireland, but May might need more than that to get the Brexit deal through parliament.

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Migration was overshadowed by Brexit at the EU summit, with leaders stuck on key legislation. Some warned that free movement could be at risk.

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