The long and arduous journey to get the stalled Lisbon Treaty passed was given another little push forward on Tuesday when Germany's lawmakers approved legislation that should allow the European Union's biggest country to ratify the reform treaty.
The German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, passed a package of four pieces of legislation that should allow for a speedy ratification. However, the so-called "accompanying laws" will stilll need to be passed by the upper house or Bundesrat on Sept. 18, before Germany can finally give the green light to Europe's star-crossed treaty.
The treaty, which is designed to ease decision-making in the 27-member European Union, has stalled in a number of countries, including Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. In Ireland a second referendum is to be held on Oct. 2 after the Irish government secured a number of guarantees on issues such as neutrality, abortion, taxation and the right to a commissioner. The latest opinion poll, conducted by the Irish Times, showed only 46 percent of respondents saying they would definitely vote "yes," a slump of eight points from the last poll in May.
In Germany, a number of lawmakers went to the Constitutional Court to try to stop the treaty. The court, based in the city of Karlsruhe, concluded in June that the Lisbon Treaty was compatible with the German constitution. However, it also ruled that the German parliament's role in the implementation of European law needed to be strengthened.
Most of Germany's political elite greeted June's ruling by the Constitutional Court with a sigh of relief. The only party in parliament to oppose the Lisbon Treaty had been the Left Party. However, the Christian Social Union -- the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) -- then looked like putting a spanner in the works by demanding that an additional 14 demands be addressed in any future legislation. Accusations of Euroskepticism and populism were soon levied at the CSU. A compromise was hammered out and all but the Left Party voted for the so-called accompanying law on Tuesday. In the end 446 members of parliament voted in favor of the legislation, 46 voted against and there were two abstentions.
During the debate over the legislation on Tuesday, Chancellor Merkel told the parliament that Germany would continue on its pro-European course and would be "another motor for European integration."
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is running against Merkel in the forthcoming election on Sept. 27, still took a swipe at the conservative divisions over Lisbon ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary vote. Steinmeier, the candidate of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), told Berliner Zeitung that the conservatives were "painting a sorry picture" on European policy. He criticized the CSU's "anti-European policy," which he said they shared with the Left Party.
Steinmeier praised the new legislation as "good for our democracy," arguing that it would "strengthen the rights of the Bundestag, without endangering Germany's ability to negotiate in Brussels."