The fall-out of the long awaited decision of the German Constitutional Court on whether the Lisbon Treaty violates the German Constitution (or "Basic Law") is ongoing, with German parties battling it out as to what it all means.
In a nutshell, the Court ruled broadly in favour of Lisbon but withheld approval for immediate ratification, demanding a law to guarantee the rights of the German Parliament in the EU decision-making process.
In its press release, the Constitutional Court noted that the German ratification act should be modified because the German Bundestag (Lower House) and Bundesrat (Upper House) “have not been accorded sufficient rights of participation in European lawmaking procedures and treaty amendment procedures.”
Handelsblatt analysed: “for the Court there is only one real basis for democracy in the EU: the national Parliaments”.
German ratification of the Treaty could be delayed until after the German national elections on 27 September because the Bavarian Christian Democrat CSU party and the Social Democrat SPD party, both of which are in government, have opposed fast-tracking the new law. With Czech President Vaclav Klaus vowing to be the last one to sign the Treaty, the German ruling offers him the opportunity to further delay the final step in Czech ratification. (Welt, 30 June; Handelsblatt, 3 July)
More widely, the ruling raises serious questions about the role of national parliaments and the Lisbon Treaty - shouldn't similar democratic safeguards be required for national parliaments in all member states?
This message has been echoed by publications across Europe, with French newspaper L'Alsace saying, "The German court has signalled that it is necessary - and possible - to convey rights upon the national parliaments in European decision-making. It's a pity such a message was not evoked by France". Dutch magazine Elsevier wrote, "What does this judgment mean for the sovereignty of other member states? Should they not also build a guarantee into their own legislation in order to secure their right to self-determination?"
In an analysis in English, German weekly Der Spiegel noted that the decision "very elegantly demolishes the old European idea that the recognised democratic deficits in the EU would disappear completely of their own accord by enhancing the rights of the European Parliament".
We will very soon return with our analysis of this extremely important question, looking at exactly what the ruling said and what changes are expected to be made to the German system of parliamentary scrutiny of EU law in order for Lisbon to come into force.
But reading through the long, and often awkwardly-worded English version of the Court's decision throws up several devastating conclusions in there that have so far escaped attention.
In particular, the ruling confirms what Open Europe has long been arguing - the simple fact that the Lisbon Treaty's extension of majority voting to so many new policy areas (about 60), necessarily means less influence for national parliaments in policymaking. Advocates of the Treaty have tried to ignore this simple and very logical truth, but here we have it from the Court:
"The status of national parliaments is considerably curtailed by the reduction of decisions requiring unanimity and the suprantioanlisation of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters."
It also clearly states:
"The Treaty of Lisbon does not lead to a new level of development of democracy."
With all these 'ifs' and 'buts', it seems unsurprising that 77% of Germans want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, according to our new poll.