Fresh Blow in Wake of Irish No Vote: German, Polish Presidents Refuse to Sign EU Reform Treaty
Attempts to reform the European Union's institutions, already in disarray following Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty last month, have suffered fresh blows in the last two days with the refusal of the presidents of Germany and Poland to complete the ratification of the treaty.
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski says it would be "pointless" to sign the EU reform treaty.
German President Horst Köhler's office announced on Monday he would not sign the ratification documents until the Federal Constitutional Court, the country's highest court, rules on legal challenges to the treaty, which aims to streamline the bloc's institutions following the 2004 accession of central and eastern European countries.
Köhler's role is largely ceremonial but he still has the power to halt legislation. The court had asked him not to sign the treaty, approved by both houses of the German parliament earlier this year, pending its hearing of two challenges brought by the Left Party and by a politician from Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union party. There is no date set for a ruling by the court, but it may not come until next year.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski followed suit on Tuesday by saying he will not sign the treaty either for the time being because of Ireland's rejection.
Kaczynski told Polish newspaper Dziennik that it was "pointless" to sign the treaty even though Poland's parliament had ratified it in April.
Asked by the newspaper if he would sign the treaty, Kaczynski said: "This is now pointless. But it is difficult to say how this whole thing will end."
The Lisbon Treaty is intended to ensure that the EU's institutions remain workable following the accession of 12 mainly Central and Eastern European countries to the bloc since 2004 which enlarged it to 27 member countries.
It has to be ratified by all member states but Ireland's rejection of it has thrown the reform plans into disarray. Irish voters rejected the treaty for reasons ranging from the fact the text is incomprehensible to concerns it would bring higher taxes or legalized abortion.
"The Bloc Will Go on Functioning"
Kaczynski likened the situation of the EU to that in 2005 when French and Dutch voters rejected a more ambitious EU constitution, which was later revamped into the Lisbon Treaty.
"The bloc functioned, functions and will go on functioning. It's not perfect but such a complicated structure cannot be perfect," he said.
The fresh setback comes as France takes over the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union from Slovenia on Tuesday with French President Nicholas Sarkozy pledging to restore public faith in the EU and get the treaty, which he helped to broker last year, back on track.
In a live televised interview on Monday, Sarkozy said he would address voters' concerns by pushing for tax breaks on products such as gasoline.
"Things are not going well. Things are not going well at all," Sarkozy told France 3 television. "Europe worries people and, worse than that, I find, little by little our fellow citizens are asking themselves if after all the national level isn't better equipped to protect them than the European level," he said, adding that was not the case.
"We have to think about how we can make this Europe a means to protect Europeans in their daily lives ... We must not be afraid of this word -- 'protection'," he said, adding that citizens wanted to be shielded from the risks of globalization.
© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2008
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH