German ruling on Lisbon due


Germany's highest court will rule tomorrow on the constitutionality of the Lisbon Treaty after members of parliament filed complaints, arguing it would infringe on German sovereignty.

The EU was plunged into an institutional crisis a year ago when Ireland rejected the treaty intended to streamline EU decision making and give the bloc a greater voice in world affairs.

The treaty, which must be ratified by all 27 EU members to take effect, enjoys widespread support in Germany and has already been approved by both houses of parliament. But President Horst Koehler has declined to sign off on it until the eight red-robed judges on the Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court rule on the appeals of Bundestag (lower house) members who want the treaty stopped.

The court is widely expected to reject those appeals tomorrow, but were it to uphold them, it would likely plunge the EU into another deep institutional crisis and possibly doom the treaty for good.

"The court could do it but realistically I would say the chances are very slim," said Peter Becker, an expert on EU affairs at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. "The political costs for the court and for Germany would simply be too high."

Ireland is due to hold a second referendum in October after winning legal guarantees that the treaty will not affect its stance on issues like military neutrality and abortion. In addition to Ireland, the treaty faces hurdles in the Czech Republic and Poland, where euro-sceptic presidents have refused to rubber-stamp it pending the second vote here.

At a hearing in February, German judges signalled they were not ready to sacrifice the treaty, a source said. But the court could attach conditions to its decision which spell out the limits of EU decision-making and stress the need for a strong Bundestag role on matters of national sovereignty.