13th Nov 2018

German lower house passes EU treaty law

  • Lisbon campaign posters in Ireland: the country will vote on the treaty on 2 October (Photo: Andrew Willis)

Germany's lower house on Tuesday (5 September) passed legislation allowing the final ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, pushing the focus once more back to Ireland and its referendum.

In a special sitting, 446 deputies in the Bundestag voted in favour of a package of laws that would give it more say over EU affairs, and 46 voted against.

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Germany has been scrambling to ready the legislation since the country's constitutional court in June ruled that while the Lisbon Treaty was in line with the German charter, the proposed national laws accompanying its ratification did not give parliament enough oversight over EU decisions.

The tweaked proposals, comprising four laws in total, involve the parliament in any possible future changes to the Lisbon Treaty. One clause in the treaty allows for moving from an issue that needs unanimity for a decision to qualified majority voting if all member states agree.

A second law governs the changes that need to be made to the German constitution for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, while the third says the government must in writing inform the parliament of its intentions on EU issues. The parliament is also allowed to take a position on the issue and while government is not obliged to follow the parliament's position in Brussels, it must then justify why it did not.

The parliament's approval will be needed for the opening of EU membership negotiations with a country as well as for beginning negotiations on changing an EU treaty.

A fourth law spells out how Germany's regions and the government should co-operate on EU affairs.

The upper house, or Bundesrat, still has to approve the laws in a vote on 18 September before the final step of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty - signature by German President Horst Koehler - can be taken.

The whole process is expected to be wrapped up before the country's general election on 27 September.

The German parliament's vote will mean that renewed focus is expected on Ireland, which is facing a referendum on the treaty on 2 October.

Falling support for the document - although 46 percent plan to say "yes" and 29 percent "no" according to the most recent poll - as well as a government distracted by the economic crisis has led to concern in Brussels about the outcome.

Poland and the Czech Republic have also yet to complete ratification, with their presidents waiting for the outcome of the Irish vote before putting pen to paper.

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