12 February 2009

'Doesn't Like What it Sees'

The small town of Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg might seem an unlikely place to be deciding the future of the European Union but as the seat of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany that's precisely what has been happening this week.

The Treaty of Lisbon, drafted by the EU authorities after the failure of the Constitution, has been approved by the German Parliament but final ratification requires the approval of the Court. The European Constitution was never tested in the Court since its rejection by the French and Dutch electorate killed it off.

The Treaty of Lisbon has already been rejected by the electorate of Ireland but, true to form, the EU authorities prefer to ignore this manifestation of democracy in pursuit of their own agenda. The Constitutional court will be rather more difficult to ignore.

Previous EU treaties have come before the Court and have gained approval, but the Court has also noted areas of concern in its judgments. The question at issue is whether the Treaty is compatible with the Basic Law of 1949, effectively Germany's Constitution.

Challenges to the Treaty have come from both the Left and the Right and on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week the Second Senate of the Court (left) heard evidence from both challengers and advocates of the Treaty.

Spiegel carried a summary of the response in the German press on Wednesday following the first day of the hearing and it seems clear that the outcome is far from a foregone conclusion. The hearings have now concluded and a judgement is not expected before May.

If the judges do conclude that the Treaty is at odds with the Basic Law it is dead. While the EU authorities simply chose to treat the Irish electorate with a mixture of anger and contempt and carried on regardless it will be impossible to ignore the Court.

Renegotiation of the Treaty to accommodate the Court's objections would be possible in theory but would then require the entire ratification process to start all over again. In particular, in those circumstances it would be impossible for Gordon Brown and the British Government to continue to resist the reasonable demands for a referendum.

This is, after all, the party that having promised a referendum on the Constitution in their 2005 election manifesto (p84) subsequently reneged on that commitment on the dubious grounds that the Treaty is different from the Constitution. (Admittedly, this is not the first time a party has lied to the people in its manifesto).

Better still, by the time any future treaty made it that far we would, I hope, be well rid of Mr Brown and his government of arrogant, authoritarian second-raters.

The big question is whether the political pressure on the Court not to kill the Treaty by finding in favour of the challengers will be such that they will set aside any doubts they might have. I expect they will be getting a lot of 'advice' from the German government in the next few months.

1 comment:

Consul-At-Arms said...

I've quoted you and linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms2.blogspot.com/2009/02/re-doesnt-like-what-it-sees.html