Sven Giegold
Mitglied der Grünen/EFA-Fraktion im Europaparlament

Sprecher Europagruppe Grüne

TTIP and CETA ratification in the EU Member States: a legal study

The Ratification Process in EU Member States: A presentation with particular consideration of the TTIP and CETA free trade agreements

For many months, the European public has been occupied in numerous debates concerning the necessity for ratification of trade agreements such as the TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) by the individual member states of the European Union. The prerequisite of an additional national ratification represents a significant obstacle to be overcome for the TTIP and CETA free trade agreements. This can be an insurmountable prerequisite for the free trade agreements, particularly where referendums are provided for in place of parliamentary approval. They are, after all, essentially met with fierce rejection among the European population.

Firstly, a short overview of the conclusion of international agreements and the content of the provisions of the TTIP and CETA is presented. Then, this paper shall give an overview of the ratification processes in the individual member states of the European Union. Particular consideration is given here to the issue of whether the possibility of a referendum exists for approval of the TTIP and CETA in the member states.

The complete study of Dr Anna Eschbach can be found here: Eschbach_Ratification TTIP CETA in EU MS-EN


Table 1 presents a general overview of the need for a parliamentary approval procedure, the structure of national parliaments, and the possibility of a referendum on the approval of TTIP and CETA.

In Tables 2 and 3 it is worth noting that the terms shown in italics are subject to the respective understanding of the Constitution or discretion of the national government and parliaments. It is uncertain whether the TTIP and CETA free trade agreements will actually be classified under the terms shown in italics by the national governments and parliaments. The assumption is often evident, however.

Table 1: General presentation of results

CountryParliamentary approval is requiredParliament StructureReferendum possible
MaltanoUnicameralno (only if “Act of Parliament”)
The NetherlandsyesBicameralyes
Czech RepublicyesBicameralno
United KingdomyesBicameralyes


The need of an approval law

The presentation has led to the conclusion that a parliamentary approval process will likely be necessary in all member states, with the exception of Malta. The table below examines the requirements in the constitutions and shows how the competencies are distributed within multicameral systems. Bicameral systems are systems where the legislative power comprises two chambers or houses.

Table 2: Requirements for and participation in the parliamentary approval process


CountryRequirementsParticipation in Parliament
Belgiumno further requirements in the Constitutionbicameral, equal rights
BulgariaArt. 85 Par. 1, international treaty results in financial obligations of the stateunicameral
Denmarkno other requirements in the constitutionunicameral
GermanyArt. 59 Par. 2, international treaty concerns political ties of the federal government or the object of federal legislationbicameral, unequal rights
EstoniaSection 121 No. 4, international treaty results in military or material obligationsunicameral
FinlandSection 94 Par. 1, international treaty falls under legislation or has another significant meaningunicameral
FranceArt. 53, international treaties that are peace or trading agreements or agreements on state finance, civil status or changes of legal regulationsbicameral, equal rights
GreeceArt. 36 Par. 2. international treaties concerning trade and taxes, economic cooperation and participation in international organisations or associations and agreements with concessions that could not be disposed of according to other regulations of the Constitution without a law or that personally encumber the Greek peopleunicameral
Irelandno further requirements in the Constitutionbicameral, unequal rights
ItalyArt. 80, political international agreements, agreements on arbitration, regulations about justice, territorial changes, financial burdens or the amendment of lawsbicameral, equal rights
CroatiaArt. 140, international treaties that result in the enactment or amendment of a law, of military or political nature, financial obligate the Republic of Croatiaunicameral
LatviaArt. 68, the international treaty must concern a legislative issue unicameral
LithuaniaArt. 138, particularly No. 6: international treaty is a multilateral or long-term economic agreementunicameral
Luxemburgno further requirements in the Constitutionunicameral + review by the State Council
MaltaArt. 3 Ratification Act, international treaty must concern Malta’s status, Malta’s security, sovereignty, independence, or territorial integrity, or Malta’s relations with a multinational organisationunicameral
The Netherlandsno further requirements in the Constitutionbicameral, equal rights
AustriaArt. 10 Par. 1 No. 2, 50 Par. 1 No. 1, Ratification by the National Councilbicameral, unequal rights
PolandArt. 89 No. 6, Matters that have been regulated in the law or for which a law is provided for in the Constitutionbicameral, unequal rights
PortugalArt. 161 i.), international treaties, if they concern issues of exclusive legislative competency, agreements on the participation of Portugal in international organisations friendship, peace, defence, border correction and settlement agreements that concern military mattersunicameral
Romaniano further requirements in the Constitutionbicameral, equal rights
SwedenChapter 10 Section 3, international treaties requiring a change or repeal of a law or enactment of a new law, that concern an issue within the scope of Parliament’s dutiesunicameral
SlovakiaArt. 7 Par. 4, international political treaties, international general commercial treaties, international treaties requiring a law in order to enter into forceunicameral
Sloveniano further requirements in the Constitutionbicameral, unequal rights
SpainArt. 94 e.), international treaties that require a change or repeal of a law or necessitate legislative measuresbicameral, unequal rights
Czech RepublicArt. 49, international treaties, which affect the rights or obligations of a person, peace treaties, political treaties under which the Czech Republic is a member of an international organisation, general economic agreementsbicameral, unequal rights
HungaryArt. 1 Par. 2, international treaties fall under the legislative competency of Parliamentunicameral
United KingdomPart 2 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act; government can conclude treaties, Parliament can commentbicameral, unequal rights
CyprusArt. 169, in economic and financial matters, additional consultation of the Council of Ministersunicameral


The possibility of a referendum

Table 3 demonstrates the general possibility of a referendum on approval of international treaties in the member states and the requirements in which such a referendum for approval of TTIP and CETA would be possible.

Table 3: Referendums in the EU on approval of international treaties

CountryReferendum possibleRequirements
BulgariayesArt. 84 No. 5, 98 No. 1 decision of the National Assembly, if an initiative of 200,000 eligible voters, a matter of national significance
DenmarkyesSection 42 Par. 1, application of a third of the   Folketing members, three days after the law is passed
Estoniano, expressly excluded for international treaties
FinlandnoSection 53, only consultative referendum is possible
FranceyesArt. 11, on a proposal of the government or of the two chambers, proclaimed by the President for economic or social policy, the contributing public services, to authorise ratification of a treaty
GreeceyesArt. 44 Par. 1, on important national matters or adopted draft laws on important social matters, if three-fifths of the members of Parliament decide on proposal of two-fifths of the deputies
IrelandyesArt. 25, 27, if the resolution of the majority of members of the Senate and not less than one-third of the members of the Chamber of Deputies on a matter of particular importance for the nation
Italyno, expressly excluded for international treaties
CroatiayesArt. 87, Sabor can decide if requested by at least 10% of the electorate
Latviano, expressly excluded for international treaties
LithuaniayesArt. 67 No. 3, Seimas decides about admissibility, admissible if there are 300,000 signatures from the population or on suggestion of one-fourth of the members of Parliament
MaltanoThere is a provision for a referendum for “Act of Parliament”, evidently not needed for approval of CETA
The NetherlandsyesAt the request of 300,000 citizens
AustriayesArt. 43, referendum must be requested by a decision of the National Council or by the majority of the National Council
PolandyesArt. 125, decree of Sejm and the President, if the case is of special importance for the country
Portugalno, expressly excluded for international treaties
RomaniayesArt. 90, on request of the President after consulting Parliament for matters of national interest
SlovakiayesArt. 93 Par. 2, important matter of public interest, on petition of the citizens or resolution of the National Council + review of the Constitutional Court
Sloveniano, expressly excluded for international treaties
Czech Republicno
HungaryyesTHE STATE /Art. 8, Initiation by 200,000 voters or 100,000 + proposal of the President (admissibility is then left to the discretion of Parliament)
United Kingdomyesso far only in constitutional issues