The Finnish government’s bill to ratify the EU Treaty of Lisbon has now returned to the full house. In April the plenary session remitted the bill and accompanying draft act (23/2008 vp) to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which drafted the report (UaVM 6/2008 vp).
The Grand Committee (which acts as the parliament’s EU committee) and the Constitutional Law Committee were asked to deliver opinions to the drafting committee, and their statements are relatively detailed (SuVL 1/2008 vp and PeVL 13/2008 vp, respectively).
Most of the special committees made use of the opportunity to give statements to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Foreign Affairs Committee proposes that the parliament (Eduskunta) approves the Treaty of Lisbon and the Act on bringing its provisions into force. According to Section 95(2) of the Constitution of Finland (731/1999), the approval of an international treaty of constitutional relevance needs a majority of two thirds of the votes cast:
“Section 95 - Bringing into force of international obligations
The provisions of treaties and other international obligations, in so far as they are of a legislative nature, are brought into force by an Act. Otherwise, international obligations are brought into force by a Decree issued by the President of the Republic.
A Government bill for the bringing into force of an international obligation is considered in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure pertaining to an Act. However, if the proposal concerns the Constitution or a change to the national territory, the Parliament shall adopt it, without leaving it in abeyance, by a decision supported by at least two thirds of the votes cast.
An Act may state that for the bringing into force of an international obligation its entry into force is provided by a Decree. General provisions on the publication of treaties and other international obligations are laid down by an Act.”
The Foreign Affairs Committee’s report endorsing ratification comes as no surprise, because Finland was one of the 18 or two thirds of the EU member states to approve the Constitutional Treaty, in the autumn 2006.
As everywhere, there have been some calls for a referendum by opponents of the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Union, but normal parliamentary ratification was chosen for the full Constitutional Treaty, so there was even less reason to submit the Constitution ‘minus’ or ‘light’ to such an extraordinary procedure.
In true ‘Man bites dog’ style European media attention has centred on the problematic member states, so Finland has appeared on the news screens only with regard to one question: the possible rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Åland Islands (pop. 27,000).
The first reading of the bill ended a short while ago, with the contents approved as proposed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Lisbon Treaty returns to the plenary for a second reading, when the bill is either approved or rejected (but can not be amended). The second reading can take place, at the earliest, on the third day from the first reading.