Fresh challenge to Lisbon could be 'explosive'


GERMAN COURT:A LEADING German constitutional lawyer has warned that Berlin’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty could have an “explosive” effect on its future relationship with the European Union.

Prof Dietrich Murswiek, of the University of Freiburg, was commenting on a fresh constitutional challenge to the treaty that could delay Berlin’s ratification until after Ireland’s referendum next month.

The challenge lodged on Monday says that laws created to allow ratification of the treaty in Germany leave the Bundestag ill-equipped on integration matters.

It maintains that the laws do not sufficiently guarantee the role of the constitutional court (BVG) as “guardian of the constitution”.

It asks the constitutional court in Karlsruhe to issue an injunction until they deliver their final verdict, halting ratification by president Horst Köhler.

A spokesman for the president’s office said yesterday that his legal experts were examining the new challenge and could not say if or when they would act.

Prof Murswiek, who led one of the original challenges to the Lisbon Treaty on behalf of Bavarian MP Peter Gauweiler, said he was doubtful the new challenge would be successful.

But, he said, it highlighted future difficulties Berlin may have in interpreting the Lisbon Treaty if and when it is ratified.

In its ruling, the BVG said the Lisbon Treaty was constitutional in Germany, but only within the court’s own limited interpretation.

“A citizen could, for instance, complain to the constitutional court that his freedom to operate his company is hindered by a German law originating in a specific EU regulation,” said Prof Murswiek.

“If, under the BVG’s interpretation of the treaty, the EU has no competence in this area, the court would agree with the complainant.”

To get around the potential clash with the European Court in Luxembourg, some legal watchers have suggested that Berlin note these limitations in a written proviso to be lodged alongside the ratification documents.

A German government spokesman said yesterday that there was no plan for this.

He said that Chancellor Merkel would inform her EU colleagues verbally of the limitations.

“The court ruling is explosive – even jurists who were for the treaty see it this way,” said Prof Murswiek.

“I think the court went so far because they saw a danger to their continued control of the limits of constitutionality and decided to strongly underline their own powers.”