Julian Arato is a J.D. candidate and Institute of International Law and Justice Scholar at the New York University School of Law . His article on Subsequent Practice and Evolutive Interpretation: Techniques of Treaty Interpretation over Time and Their Diverse Consequences, 9 Law & Prac. Int’l Cts. & Tribs. (forthcoming 2010) is available here.
Editor’s Note: Readers may be interested in previous EJIL:Talk commentary on the Lisbon Judgment discussed below. For pieces by Joseph Weiler see here and here . See also Piet Eeckhout’s ” The European Union and International Law Under the Treaty of Lisbon“. For analysis of the legal guarantees offered to Ireland to secure ratification of the Lisbon treaty, see Laurent Pech’s “The European Union’s Lisbon Treaty: Some Thoughts on the Irish Legal Guarantees“.
On first reading the 2009 Lisbon case of the German Constitutional Court appears to hew quite closely to the Court’s reasoning in 1993, reviewing Germany’s accession to the Maastricht Treaty. Both cases declare that European integration must respect the inviolable core of the German Constitution (Grundgesetz). (Specifically, in these cases, Article 20, entrenching democracy and the rule of law. See Zitierung: BVerfG, 2 BvE 2/08 vom 30.6.2009, ¶233 [hereinafter Lisbon]; Decision concerning the Maastricht Treaty, 33 I.L.M. 388, 422 [hereinafter Maastricht]). In both cases the Court declares that under the Treaties it retains final say over whether European Law is compatible with the Grundgesetz and is thus applicable in Germany (judicial Kompetenz-Kompetenz).[i] Finally Lisbon, like Maastricht, finds that the Treaty ultimately passes constitutional muster. Thus, at first blush, the Court of Lisbon seems to basically restate its 1993 reasoning. I want to argue, however, that the Court has substantially sharpened its challenge since Maastricht, elevating much of the Court’s earlier state-centric interpretation of the status of integration under the Treaties to a statement of German constitutional principle.
I will focus on three ways in which Lisbon represents an advance on Maastricht. The Court announces: 1) that the Grundgesetz entrenches an absolute and unamendable limit on integration, that State sovereignty as such is inalienable, and thus forbids the delegation of excessive competences, especially Kompetenz-Kompetenz; 2) the Grundgesetz requires the German Constitutional Court to retain final review over the actions of German and European public authorities for possible alienation of, or encroachment on, German State sovereignty (judicial Kompetenz-Kompetenz); and 3) the Court goes about rigorously reviewing the Lisbon Treaty for infringements of German sovereignty in a far more searching manner than it had done in the past. Leaving little to implication, the Court spells out the consequences of its decision: in the exceptional case where European institutions overstep their enumerated powers, even with the interpretive blessing of the ECJ, the German Court will exercise review and may instruct German authorities not to apply the European law, even if it means engaging Germany’s international state responsibility.
1. Constitutional limits to integration: Germany must retain substantial competences.
The rhetoric of Lisbon suggests that, like Maastricht, it concerns a democracy review on the model of Solange. However, I want to suggest that Lisbon is really, at its core, about protecting state sovereignty in light of the expansion of competences at the Union level. In this regard, in 1993 the Court held only that under the Treaty of Maastricht, integration would not yet reach the point of a federal state. In 2009 the Court went further, holding that full integration into a supranational federal state (federalization) would be in principle forbidden by the Constitution. Read the rest of this entry…