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Foreign Minister Steinmeier speaks in the Bundestag on the Lisbon Treaty

13.03.2008 - Speech

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jean Monnet, one of Europe's founding fathers, said in his memoirs: Some people refuse to undertake anything if they have no guarantee that things will work out as they planned. Such people condemn themselves to immobility.

A year ago we were still working on a big undertaking, but – let me remind you – there was no guarantee it would work out. Perhaps one could go so far as to say that, following the failure of the referenda in France and the Netherlands, treaty reform was regarded as a failure.

Let me also remind you that our determination to counter this attitude of resignation met with incredulity, sometimes even with discouragement; I have already spoken in parliament about such reactions on other occasions.

However, we could not afford immobility. Europe could not afford immobility!

In view of the increasing challenges facing Europe in a world changing at a breathtaking pace, we could not afford to remain idle. Global economic competition with up-and-coming trading powers like China and India, climate protection and energy policy – all buzzwords describing these challenges.

Another reason why we could not afford to remain idle was the fact that the failed referenda and the ensuing crisis triggered a European identity crisis.

And let me add this: not only could we not afford to remain idle, we did not want to remain idle. Because we wanted to make the European Union more democratic and more transparent.

Today, little over a year after the start of our project, you have before you the draft bill ratifying the Lisbon Treaty.

Above all else, this is evidence of Europe's powers of renewal and of the sense of responsibility all Member States have displayed over the past year and in recent months.

It is also evidence of the close cooperation between the Federal Government, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat and Bundestag have given constructive and committed support to the Federal Government's efforts to revitalize the reform process from the outset. For that and for the excellent cooperation at a personal level I would like to extend to you my thanks and those of the Federal Government.

In our discussions over the past few months we have been united by our common goal of preserving the substance of the constitutional treaty. We have fulfilled this goal, even if we had to make some compromises along the way. We have talked about these here on other occasions. You know that only by making these compromises was it possible to achieve the result which you have seen and which, I am firmly convinced, will bring crucial progress for Europe's legitimation, its credibility and especially its capacity to act.

We have agreed on the Reform Treaty. Now it is a matter of ensuring that it enters into force as planned and that it is put into action as quickly as possible after January 2009. This includes national implementation, and in particular creating modalities for the enhanced role of national parliaments in decision-making processes.

We have – with the close involvement of the committees of the German Bundestag –considered the various options for implementing the instruments introduced by the Reform Treaty. In the end we were all convinced that the best thing is to enshrine the enhanced role and rights of the Bundestag and Bundesrat in a separate law to be enacted in parallel to our national ratification procedures. As you are also aware, this law will be accompanied by a careful amendment of the Basic Law generally extending the powers of the minority in the Bundestag and harmonizing related procedures. I believe this is overall a sensible, appropriate solution which, I hope, we can all approve.

As you know, Malta, Hungary, Slovenia, France and Romania have already approved the new Treaty. You will also be aware that in some other Member States the ratification process still has some hurdles to overcome; I am thinking here not only of the referendum which has to be held in Ireland in the second week of June.

I hope that in the end all Member States will put in place the conditions for the Treaty's entry into force as planned on 1 January next year. I believe we can favourably influence circumstances in other states if we complete ratification in Germany – with your approval, of course – by 23 May. I think this would be a positive signal which could have an impact on the debate in other countries too, including Ireland.

Let us now bring the project which we began over a year ago to a happy conclusion.

Thank you very much.

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