Friday 8 August 2008

EU Lisbon Treaty ratifications for purists

The media and this blog have usually concentrated on the parliamentary ratification stage of the EU Treaty of Lisbon. This is natural, because we live in parliamentary democracies. Approval by parliament is seen as politically decisive, which it normally is. Currently 24 member states’ parliaments out of a total of 27 have already given their approval.

One country, Ireland, has rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum, and in two member states, the Czech Republic and Sweden, the parliamentary process has hardly begun.

This blog has employed expressions like parliamentary approval or ratification, the parliamentary ratification stage and other words to that effect to remind readers of the difference between the main political decision and final ratification.


As with other international treaties, the Lisbon Treaty needs the additional signature of the president or royal assent in most member states to comply with their internal procedures (constitutional requirements). In parliamentary democracies functioning normally, this stage is ordinarily a formality.

There may, however, exist ‘benign’ reasons for delaying the signature.

Administrative delays are normal. In principle, there is no hurry before the end of 2008.

In Germany the president awaits the outcome of the judicial challenges filed with the Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht).

In Finland – although I have seen no official confirmation of the reasons – the president may be waiting (within a three month time limit) for the autonomous Åland Islands to approve or reject the Lisbon Treaty concerning their own territory.

The vagaries of politics being what they are, other reasons may enter into play. For instance, seen from the outside the Polish president Lech Kaczynski seems to be engaged in populist politicking and a power struggle with Poland’s government and parliament. Perhaps one of the Polish readers of this blog could present an expert comment on the constitutional matters and the political questions involved.


Externally, states finalize their approval by notification of their intent to be bound by a treaty. According to Article 54 of the consolidated Lisbon Treaty version of the Treaty on European Union provides that ‘The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Government of the Italian Republic’.

The EU Council web site tells us that thirteen ratifications have been deposited:

The group of finalized ratifications includes the following member states: Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.


Eleven member states have parliamentary approval, but their ratification instruments have still to be deposited. They are: Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain,

Source: Wikipeadia: Treaty of Lisbon (8 August 2008)


By the way, there is a misconception in the Wikipedia article about the Åland Islands (Finland). Currently there is no Åland Islands MEP.

With a population of 28,000 Åland has lobbied for a member of the European Parliament since the beginning of Finnish EU membership, but the chances to succeed are slim, given almost 408,000 inhabitants for each of the 13 future Finnish mandates (presently 14).

Åland has a guaranteed member in the Finnish parliament, which is close to proportional representation given the size of the Finnish population (5.3 million) and 200 MPs.

If the regional parliament of the Åland Islands rejects the Lisbon Treaty, the legal situation would become unclear, leaving part of Finland’s territory outside the geographical scope of the amending treaty and the relations between Åland and the EU to be determined.


The UK territory Gibraltar (28,750) has about the same population size as Åland, but I could find no information on its government’s London web site about the approval of the Lisbon Treaty:

Another 8 km2 to watch, for purists.

Ralf Grahn


  1. But be sure that next time you state that 24 countries have concluded parliamentary ratification (even if you put parliamentary in bold), they will still tell you: "Hang on! The president has not signed, the instrument of ratification hasn't be deposited, the guys at the Official Journal have run out of ink and yet not published...".

  2. I don't think Gibraltar has any role in ratification, Ralf: the UK is responsible for its foreign relations and so its decisions are what count. Gibraltarians didn't even get to vote in EP elections until the Matthews case in the European Court of Human Rights forced us to include Gibraltar in the elections - much to Madrid's annoyance.

  3. Carl,

    The Wikipedia article on the Lisbon Treaty mentions the Gibraltar Parliament to decide on the treaty, but the date to be determined.

    There is the following added information in a footnote:

    "Gibraltar is a British overseas territory. It is part of European Union, but is subject of certain exemptions. Gibraltar Parliament ratification is not necessary for the Treaty to enter into force, but changes in the legislation are needed for its provisions to apply on the territory of Gibraltar."

    In other words, the situation seems to be more or less the same as with regard to the Åland Islands.


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