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We might be faced with this situation sooner than we think: on Thursday Belgian Prime Minister Leterme handed in his resignation to the Belgian King due to his five-party coalition government being about to collapse with the Flemish Liberals and Democrats pulling out over the “BHV” affair with less than three months left before Belgium takes over the reigns of the EU Presidency on the 1st July.

Moral-political question: should they be allowed to run the EU Presidency? I have heard all three answers in the last 24 hours:

  • Yes, of course, because with the new institutionalised troika system, Belgium will be supported by Spain and Hungary and/or in any case the country holding the Presidency is simply following the Union’s priorities so their input is minimal. Also, Belgium is known to work particularly well when there is no government in place and, hence, they will probably even do a better job with a “Caretaker government”!
  • No, because how can Belgium lead from the front, find compromise solutions, broker deals and demonstrate leadership – fair point!
  • Don’t know: is the majority view because most citizens are clueless about what the EU Presidency is, let alone what it is supposed to do – a sad state of affairs.

Then I heard someone comment on the radio – no fear Herman Van Rompuy – a Belgian – will come to the rescue as the President of the European Union!

The reality is that Belgium will most probably muddle through with the support of the Spanish and the Hungarians and with a structure and system which seems to just keep rolling, despite institutional upheavals such as the “NON” to the EU Constitution or the Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty.

But do we simply want to push through and hope that the institutional snowball takes us forward? Clearly not and, hence, this latest possible scenario demonstrates that Europe still has a long way to go and needs to mature…

Blaming it on the Belgians though would be unfair as other Member States like the Czech Republic have been in the hot seat without a Government.

Russell Patten

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You could almost bet on it… Following the German Constitutional Court issuing a landmark ruling in response to the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, today’s ruling on the Lisbon Treaty again testifies to the central role Karlsruhe – the seat of the Court – plays in EU matters when asked.

Whilst most attention was focusing on the second Irish referendum, Europe seemed to lose sight of the case that had been pending before the German Constitutional Court for many months. Indeed, it was often mistakenly reported that Germany had already ratified the Lisbon Treaty, but since the challenge against the German law transposing the Lisbon Treaty had been brought forward by a group of MPs and lawyers, President Köhler had announced his intention not to sign anything before Karlsruhe’s verdict on the matter.

Now what is this ruling all about? First, Köhler’s signature will have to be further postponed, effectively meaning that the ratification process in Germany is temporarily suspended. This is because laws that strengthen the participatory powers of the German legislature will have to come into force first.

The complainants have praised this judgement as a great success in their fight against the apparent erosion of the influence of the democratically elected German legislature on decisions made in Brussels. Now, it rests on this very legislature to pass the relevant legislation very rapidly if the Treaty is to be ratified in early 2010 at the latest. Just imagine what effect a delay would have on the second referendum in Ireland and the decisions in Poland and the Czech Republic!

– Bennet

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Today, the Senate of the Czech Republic approved the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, de facto making President Vaclav Klaus the last line of defence against the Czech ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

In an official TV statement, Vaclav Klaus immediately railed at those senators who “betray national interests” and made it clear that the ratification process was far from over. Klaus however did not say he would not sign. But it seems likely that he will wait until the very last moment – when he knows what the other pieces in the game (the Irish and the Polish) are doing.

As the controversial political figure likes to repeat “a good chess player never reveals his next move”

– Maxime

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