Constitutional change not required for fiscal pact, rules French court


PARIS – France’s constitutional council ruled yesterday that the EU’s budget responsibility pact did not require a change to the constitution, easing its path to ratification and removing a potential headache for President François Hollande.

The court’s ruling opens the way for Mr Hollande’s Socialist government, which had insisted it did not want to write a budgetary rule into the constitution, to implement the pact as soon as September using a “super-law” that requires only a simple majority in parliament.

A constitutional reform would have required a three-fifths majority in a special joint session of parliament and could have entailed an lengthy debate on Europe which could have exposed divisions in Socialist ranks.

The party was bitterly split in 2005 over whether to approve the EU constitution, which was eventually rejected in a national referendum.

Welcoming the decision, Mr Hollande urged his government to press ahead with quickly drafting the legislation.

“The president calls on the government to rapidly prepare a draft law authorising the ratification of the pact as well as a draft organic law to guarantee the appropriate application of the text,” Mr Hollande’s office said.

The fiscal pact, signed in March and committing governments to tight deficit limits, must be ratified by 12 of the 17 euro zone countries before it can come into force in January, with the aim of calming investors concerned at heavy public debts.

The decision by the council, currently made up of 12 career jurists and former politicians, lifts one uncertainty hanging over the pact’s ratification.

Eleven EU member states have ratified the pact, the EU commission said yesterday, not including Germany, where the constitutional court will rule in mid-September on whether it contravenes the German charter.

The council comprises nine appointees including judges but also others with political or administrative backgrounds, plus surviving former French presidents, currently three in number.

Of these, conservatives Nicolas Sarkozy, defeated in May by Hollande, and Jacques Chirac were absent.

But the third, Valery Giscard d’Estaing (86), from the centre-right, was present. An ideological foe of Hollande, Mr Giscard has strongly promoted EU integration since he held office in the 1970s. – (Reuters)