Court ruling allows for ratification of ESM treaty

Wed, Aug 1, 2012, 01:00

THE GOVERNMENT is to begin the process of ratifying the European Stability Mechanism treaty today following a Supreme Court judgment rejecting an application to stop the process.

In a statement last night, a Government spokesman said it would lodge the documents required to begin the ratification process with the general secretariat of the council of the EU in Brussels. Formal ratification would take place once the general secretariat had processed the documents.

The Supreme Court has refused to grant Independent TD Thomas Pringle an injunction restraining the Government from ratifying the ESM treaty before the European Court of Justice rules on its lawfulness. The treaty provides for a bailout fund for distressed euro zone states.

If the court of justice ultimately upholds Mr Pringle’s claims that the treaty unlawfully breaches provisions of the EU treaties, that will be an adequate remedy, the seven-judge Supreme Court ruled.

Pending the European court ruling, the Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing of Mr Pringle’s appeal against the High Court’s rejection of his claim.

The appeal hearing will resume sometime after the European court ruling and the Supreme Court has asked the European court to urgently determine the matter under its accelerated procedures.

The Supreme Court said it believed the intention of the State to ratify the treaty as a matter of urgency justified “the earliest possible determination” of all relevant legal issues. The answer of the European court would inform the Supreme Court’s decision on the domestic proceedings, it said.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court gave a ruling rejecting one of Mr Pringle’s claims in his appeal – that the ESM treaty is unconstitutional and cannot be ratified without a referendum.

The Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, giving the court’s ruling, said it was of the opinion the treaty did not involve a transfer of sovereignty so as to make it incompatible with the Irish Constitution, necessitating a referendum to amend the Constitution before the Government could ratify it.

The court regarded the treaty as one which did not involve any impermissible transfer of powers from the Executive but rather an agreement to pursue a defined policy of the Government, she said. The court would give a full judgment later giving its reasons for that finding. The court also set out the nature of the questions being referred by it to the European court for determination. Those questions relate to the validity of the European Council decision of March 2011 providing for establishment of an ESM.

The European court is also asked to consider whether an EU member state is entitled to enter into an international agreement such as the ESM treaty and whether Irish ratification of the treaty would mean Ireland was undertaking obligations incompatible with the EU treaties.

The questions arise from Mr Pringle’s claims that, by adopting the treaty, Ireland would undertake obligations which would contravene provisions of the EU treaties concerning economic and monetary policy and would directly encroach on the exclusive competences of the EU in the matter of the euro and related policies.