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The Long and Difficult Road Towards Integration. The Legal Debate on the Maastricht Treaty in Germany and the Judgment of the Constitutional Court of October 12, 1993.

  • Stephan Hobe


At the end of 1992 the law ratifying the Maastricht Treaty was passed by the German Bundestag without much discussion. Yet a heated legal debate developed later when a number of individuals filed claims with the German Constitutional Court seeking to prevent the deposit of the instrument of ratification. They claimed a violation of their basic rights owing to the envisaged transfer of sovereign competence from the German State to the European Union, with the purported result of loss of democratic control. In its judgment of October 12, 1993, however, the German Constitutional Court gave its approval to ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. This article analyses and examines the arguments put forward in the claims, that raised questions of statehood and led to consideration of the scope and limits of European integration. The author concludes with a favourable appraisal of the judgment, although he comments that it leaves unanswered the question of how the concepts of European integration and ‘preservation of statehood’ are to be reconciled.



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1. See the study of Institut für Demoskopie in Allensbach, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Nr. 234 of 8 October 1992, at 5. According to this study a considerable proportion of the population felt uninformed about the Maastricht Treaty.

2. In the following only a relatively rough picture of the structure of the Maastricht Treaty is given; for more details see Bleckmann, A., Der Vertrag über die Europäische Union, 107 Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 335 (1992); P.M. Huber, Maastricht - ein Staatsstreich? (1993); Ress, G., Die Europäische Union und die neue juristische Qualitäl der Beziehungen zu den Europäischen Gemeinschaften, 32 Juristische Schulung 985 (1992); Hobe, S., Die Zentralelemente des Vertrags von Maastricht, 25 Juristische Arbeitsblätter 229 (1993); Hartley, T.C., Constitutional and Institutional Aspects of the Maastricht Agreement, 42 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 213 (1993); Everting, U., Reflections on the Structure of the European Union, 29 Common Market Law Review 1053 (1992).

3. German Source: Bundesgesetzblatt 1952 II, 445.

4. German Source: Bundesgesetzblatt 1957 II, 753.

5. German Source: Bundesgesetzblatt 1957 II, 753.

6. For such reasonsgiven in favourof the necessity for constitutional changes see Beschluβempfehlungen und Bericht des Sonderausschusses ‘Europäische Union’ of the German Bundestag, Bundestags-Drucksache 12/3896, at 16 and the statement of K. Stern in the Committee for the Revision of the Grundgesetz of 22 May 1992, at 11.

7. Amendment of 21 December 1992. Source: Bundesgesetzblatt I 2086. Translation by the author.

8. Article 79 in its relevant provisions reads as follows: (1) This Basic Law can be amended only by laws which expressly ammend or supplement the text thereof. (2) Any such law shall require the affirmative vote of two thirds of the members of the Bundestag and two thirds of the votes of the Bundesrat. (3) Amendments of this Basic Law affecting the division of the Federation into Lānder, the participation on principle of the Lānder in legislation, or the basic principles laid down in Articles I and 20, shall be inadmissible.

9. For a legal assessment of Article 23 see Fabio, U. Di, Der neue Artikel 23 des Grundgesetzes, 32 Der Staat 191(1993); Scholz, R., Grundgesetz und europäische Einigung, 45 Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 2593(1992).

10. See e.g. A. Bleckmann, supra note 2.

11. H. Breyer, F.W. Graefe zu Baringsdorf, C. Roth and W. Telkämper.

12. For such practice see Ossenbühl, F., Maastricht und das Grundgesetz - eine verfassungsrechtliche Wende?, 108 Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 629 (1993).

13. Az. 2 BvR 2134/92.

14. Grundgesetz is the name of the German Constitution. Hereinafter cited as GG.

15. Az. 2 BvR 2159/92.

16. Id., A III, 18 et seq.

17. Id., B II et seq.

18. Id.

19. Id.

20. See B 4.2.b, 43 et seq.

21. Id.

22. The terminology of “Hüter der Verfassung” was first used by Carl Schmitt, Der Hüter der Verfassung (1931) to describe the competence of the Weimarian Reichspräsident. As designation of the role of the Bundesverfassungsgericht see K. Stem, 1 Das Staatsrecht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 182 et seq (2nd ed. 1984).

23. See Part II, 71 ff.

24. See II.2, 23 ff. of their claim of 17 December 1992.

25. See I., 3 ff.

26. See 5 ff. of the enlarged claim dated 22 December 1992.

27. The question was addressed in Oppermann, Th. & Classen, Cd., Europäische Union: Erfüllung des Grundgesetzes, 28 Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 11 n.2 (1993); Bieber, R., Beschwerden über die Verfassung als Verfassungsbeschwerden, 47 Neue Justiz 241–242 (1993).

28. See Murwiek, D., Maastricht und der Pouvoir Constituant, 32 Der Staat, 161 (1993); Kaiser, J.H., Die polilische Klasse verhält sich pflichtwidrig. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Nr. 178 of 4 August 1993, at 8; F. Ossenbühl, supra note 12, K.A. Schachtschneider (who acted as legal counsel to Mr. Brunner in the matter), Die Europäische Union und die Verfassung der Deulschen, 28 Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 3(1993).

29. D. Murswiek, supra note 28, at 174; H.H. Rupp, Muβ das Volk über den Verlrag von Maastricht entscheiden?, 46 Neue Juristische Wochenschrift 38 (1993); id., Maastricht - eine neue Verfassung, Zeitschrift für Rechtspolitik 211 (1993); Wolf, J., Die Revision des Grundgesetzes durch Maastricht, 48 Juristenzeitung 594 (1993); more generally, on need for referenda, see Koenig, Chr., Volksabstimmungen nach dem Grundgesetz auf dem Weg in die Vereinigten Staaten von Europa?, 108 Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 140(1993).

30. For a theoretical appraisal of the theory of pouvoir constituant in German constitutional law see D. Murswiek, Die verfassunggebende Gewalt nach dem Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (1978); E.W. Böckenförde, Die verfassunggebende Gewalt des Volkes - ein Grenzbegriff des Verfassungsrechts, in id., Staat, Verfassung, Demokratie, 90 ff. (1991).

31. Th. Oppermann & CD. Classen, supra note 27, at 18 et seq., J. Schwarze, Das Staatsrecht in Europa, 48 Juristenzeitung 585,588 (1993).

32. BVerfGE 37, 271.

33. See headnote of the judgment, at 271.

34. See e.g. the statements cited by J. Frowein, in Bonner Kommentar zum Grundgesetz, (2nd ed. 1981), Art. 24, Rz. 97 et seq.

35. BVerfGE 73, 339.

36. See the judgment, note 33 sub B II 1 et seq., for comment see M. Hilf, Solange II: Wie lange noch Solange?, 14 Europäische Grundrechte Zeitschrift 1 (1987).

37. BVerfGE 58, 1.

38. See BVerfGE 58, 1, 40.

39. Id., BI.24–28.

40. Id., 28–35.

41. Id., 29; with this statement the Court explicitly overrules its Eurocontrol decision, at 30.

42. Id., 30; reference is made to the Solange II decision of BVerfGE 73, at 339, 387.

43. Article 20 (4) reads as follows: “All Germans shall have the right to resist any person or persons seeking to abolish that constitutional order, should no other remedy be possible.”

44. Id., at 37.

45. Id., at 37–38.

46. Thus the overall statement. Id., at 39–40.

47. Id., at 41–43.

48. Id., at 43.

49. Id., at 45–46.

50. Id., at 48–49.

51. Id., at 53.

52. Id., at 55. 58 ff.

53. Id., at 57 and at 81 ff.

54. Id., at 82.

55. Id., at 66–67.

56. Id., at 68.

57. Id., at 71.

58. Paras. 13 No. 8 and 90 ff. of the Statute of the Bundesverfassungsgericht.

59. See Chr. Pestalozza, Verfassungsprozeβrecht 175 et seq. (1991); B. Schmidt-Bleibtreu in Th. Maunz et al., Bundesverfassungsgerichtsgesetz, looseleaf (1992), at para. 90,50a ff.

60. For an appraisal of the former jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court see B. Schmidt-Bleibtreu, supra note 59, at 65 ff.

61. See e.g. K. Hesse, Grundzüge des Verfassungsrechts der Bundesrcpublik Deutschland. 165 ff (16th ed. 1988).

62. See R. Alexy, Grundrechte als subjektive Rechte und objektive Normen, 29 Der Staat 49.61 (1990), arguing for a presumption in favour of the subjective dimension of the basic rights of the Constitution.

63. E.g. Article 5 (I) of the Grundgesetz which contains, inter alia, the institution of broadcasting. This contains also the (individual) freedom of broadcasting.

64. See also F.E. Schnapp, Art. 20, in I. v. Münch & Ph. Kunig (eds.), 1 Grundgesetzkommentar 1040 (4th ed. 1992), who explicitly stresses a tendency towards “individualisation” of the “objective” character of the principles of Article 20 thereby referring to the Courts decisions of vols. 6, 32, 41 ff. and 20, 150, 154 ff.

65. See e.g. J. Isensee, Das legalisierte Widerstandsrecht, II et seq. (1969); K. Stem, 2 Das Staatsrecht der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1507 (1980).

66. See e.g. the AWACS judgment of 8 April 1993 ( 2 BvE 5/93; 2 BvQ 11/93).

67. See Art. 1 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention which contains moreover as a fourth element the capacity of states to enter into international relations. This fourth element has however not found widespread international acceptance in international legal practice. International source: League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. CLXV, at 25.

68. For a review of legal problems of the Union citizenship see Hobe, S., Die Unionsbürgerschaft nach dem Verlrag von Maastricht -Aufdem Weg in den europäischen Bundesstaat?, 32 Der Staat 245 (1993).

69. For the doctrinal discussion on the principle of subsidiarity before the Court's judgment see Pipkom, J.. Das Subsidiaritätsprinzip im Vertrag über die Europäische Union - rechtliche Bedeutung und gerichtliche Überprüjbarkeit, Europäische Zeitschrift für Wirtschaflsrecht 697 (1992); Schweitzer, M. & Fixson, O., Subsidiaritäl und Regionalismus in der EG, 14 Juristische Ausbildung 579(1992); Stewing, C., Das Subsidiaritälsprinzip als Kompetenzverleilungsregel im Europäischen Recht, 107 Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt 1516 (1992); Constantinesco, V., La subsidiarité comme Principe Constilulionnel de l'intégration Européenne, 46 Aussenwirtschaft 439 (1991).

70. For such legal terminology see I. Seidl-Hohenveldern & G. Loibl, Das Recht der internationalen Organisationen einschlieβlich der supranationalen Gemeinschaften 6 ff. (4th ed. 1992).

71. See supra sub VI; also reference to its decision in vol. 68 of its decision is made (B VerfGE 68, 1, 98 ff.).

72. See Articles 2 (1) (d) and 19 ff. of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 23 May 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331 (1969).

73. See Herdegen, M., Die Belastbarkeit des Verfassungsgefüges auf dem Weg zur Europäisehen Union, 19 Europäische Grundrechte Zeitschrift 593 (1992).

74. For this concept: Klein, E., Der Verfassungsstaat als Glied einer europäisehen Gemeinschaft, 50 Veröffentlichungen der Vereinigung der deutschen Staatsrechtslehrer 71 (1991).

75. At 29–30.

76. See supra section 5.

77. See supra section 5.

78. See Kirchhof, P., Deutsches Verfassungsrechl und Europäisches Gemeinschaftsrecht, Europarecht, Beiheft, Appendix I, 24 ff. (1991).

79. See for a similar critizism Tomuschat, Chr., Die Europäische Union unler der Aufsicht des Bundesverfassungsgerichts, 20 Europäische Grundrechte Zeitschrift 489, 496 (1993).

* LL.M. McGill University Montreal 1987, Dr.iur. University of Kiel 1991, Senior Research Assistant at the Institute of International Law of the University of Kiel, currently on leave for a temporary professorship at the university of Rostock. The author wishes sincerely to thank Susan and Kevin Kenny for their help in proofreading the entire manuscript and translating the annexed headnotes.


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