German Lawmakers Easily Pass European Union treaty

By: By Geir Moulson
By: By Geir Moulson

BERLIN (AP) -- German lawmakers Thursday overwhelmingly approved a new European Union treaty - a document Chancellor Angela Merkel described as providing a "new foundation" for the bloc.

The lower house of parliament voted 515-58 to approve the so-called Lisbon Treaty, easily clearing the necessary two-thirds majority.

That reflected wide political support for the treaty in Germany, the EU's most populous country. It now goes to the upper house of parliament, representing the country's 16 state governments, for a May 23 vote. It was expected to pass easily.

Merkel put the effort to draw up the treaty at the center of Germany's EU presidency last year. The treaty is "a project with which we are creating no more and no less than a new foundation for Europe," she told lawmakers Thursday.

The treaty alters the EU's decision-making process, envisaging more decisions by majority vote rather than unanimous endorsement. It also provides for a president and a more powerful senior foreign policy official to give the bloc a stronger voice in global affairs.

The treaty replaces a more ambitious draft constitution that EU leaders drew up to govern the bloc, whose membership has expanded from 15 to 27 member countries over recent years. That charter was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

The new treaty must be approved by all 27 EU members. So far, fewer than half the member nations have ratified the document, but the ratification process is moving ahead steadily. Only Ireland plans to hold a referendum.

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