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Arato on European Federalism and the Lisbon Judgment of the German Constitutional Court

JILP’s own Julian Ara­to has pub­lished a com­ment on EJIL Talk titled “A Pre­emp­tive Strike Against Euro­pean Fed­er­al­ism: The Deci­sion of the Bun­desver­fas­sungs­gericht Con­cern­ing the Treaty of Lis­bon.”  Julian sum­ma­rizes his argu­ment as fol­lows:

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 and una­mend­able core of the Ger­man Con­sti­tu­tion. (Specif­i­cal­ly, in these cas­es, Arti­cle 20, entrench­ing democ­ra­cy and the rule of law). 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). 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.

This post focus­es 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.

The entire post is rich­ly detailed and worth a close read.  In addi­tion to being a third-year NYU Law stu­dent, Julian is a Senior Arti­cles Edi­tor at JILP.

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