Sven Giegold

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

Country Parliamentary approval is required Parliament Structure Referendum possible
Belgium yes Bicameral no
Bulgaria yes Unicameral yes
Denmark yes Unicameral yes
Germany yes Bicameral no
Estonia yes Unicameral no
Finland yes Unicameral no
France yes Bicameral yes
Greece yes Unicameral yes
Ireland yes Bicameral yes
Italy yes Bicameral no
Croatia yes Unicameral yes
Latvia yes Unicameral no
Lithuania yes Unicameral yes
Luxemburg yes Unicameral no
Malta no Unicameral no (only if “Act of Parliament”)
The Netherlands yes Bicameral yes
Austria yes Bicameral yes
Poland yes Bicameral yes
Portugal yes Unicameral no
Romania yes Bicameral yes
Sweden yes Unicameral no
Slovakia yes Unicameral yes
Slovenia yes Bicameral no
Spain yes Bicameral no
Czech Republic yes Bicameral no
Hungary yes Unicameral yes
United Kingdom yes Bicameral yes
Cyprus yes Unicameral no


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


Country Requirements Participation in Parliament
Belgium no further requirements in the Constitution bicameral, equal rights
Bulgaria Art. 85 Par. 1, international treaty results in financial obligations of the state unicameral
Denmark no other requirements in the constitution unicameral
Germany Art. 59 Par. 2, international treaty concerns political ties of the federal government or the object of federal legislation bicameral, unequal rights
Estonia Section 121 No. 4, international treaty results in military or material obligations unicameral
Finland Section 94 Par. 1, international treaty falls under legislation or has another significant meaning unicameral
France Art. 53, international treaties that are peace or trading agreements or agreements on state finance, civil status or changes of legal regulations bicameral, equal rights
Greece Art. 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 people unicameral
Ireland no further requirements in the Constitution bicameral, unequal rights
Italy Art. 80, political international agreements, agreements on arbitration, regulations about justice, territorial changes, financial burdens or the amendment of laws bicameral, equal rights
Croatia Art. 140, international treaties that result in the enactment or amendment of a law, of military or political nature, financial obligate the Republic of Croatia unicameral
Latvia Art. 68, the international treaty must concern a legislative issue unicameral
Lithuania Art. 138, particularly No. 6: international treaty is a multilateral or long-term economic agreement unicameral
Luxemburg no further requirements in the Constitution unicameral + review by the State Council
Malta Art. 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 organisation unicameral
The Netherlands no further requirements in the Constitution bicameral, equal rights
Austria Art. 10 Par. 1 No. 2, 50 Par. 1 No. 1, Ratification by the National Council bicameral, unequal rights
Poland Art. 89 No. 6, Matters that have been regulated in the law or for which a law is provided for in the Constitution bicameral, unequal rights
Portugal Art. 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 matters unicameral
Romania no further requirements in the Constitution bicameral, equal rights
Sweden Chapter 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 duties unicameral
Slovakia Art. 7 Par. 4, international political treaties, international general commercial treaties, international treaties requiring a law in order to enter into force unicameral
Slovenia no further requirements in the Constitution bicameral, unequal rights
Spain Art. 94 e.), international treaties that require a change or repeal of a law or necessitate legislative measures bicameral, unequal rights
Czech Republic Art. 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 agreements bicameral, unequal rights
Hungary Art. 1 Par. 2, international treaties fall under the legislative competency of Parliament unicameral
United Kingdom Part 2 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act; government can conclude treaties, Parliament can comment bicameral, unequal rights
Cyprus Art. 169, in economic and financial matters, additional consultation of the Council of Ministers unicameral


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

Country Referendum possible Requirements
Belgium no
Bulgaria yes Art. 84 No. 5, 98 No. 1 decision of the National Assembly, if an initiative of 200,000 eligible voters, a matter of national significance
Denmark yes Section 42 Par. 1, application of a third of the   Folketing members, three days after the law is passed
Germany no
Estonia no, expressly excluded for international treaties
Finland no Section 53, only consultative referendum is possible
France yes Art. 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
Greece yes Art. 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
Ireland yes Art. 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
Italy no, expressly excluded for international treaties
Croatia yes Art. 87, Sabor can decide if requested by at least 10% of the electorate
Latvia no, expressly excluded for international treaties
Lithuania yes Art. 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
Luxemburg no
Malta no There is a provision for a referendum for “Act of Parliament”, evidently not needed for approval of CETA
The Netherlands yes At the request of 300,000 citizens
Austria yes Art. 43, referendum must be requested by a decision of the National Council or by the majority of the National Council
Poland yes Art. 125, decree of Sejm and the President, if the case is of special importance for the country
Portugal no, expressly excluded for international treaties
Romania yes Art. 90, on request of the President after consulting Parliament for matters of national interest
Sweden no
Slovakia yes Art. 93 Par. 2, important matter of public interest, on petition of the citizens or resolution of the National Council + review of the Constitutional Court
Slovenia no, expressly excluded for international treaties
Spain no
Czech Republic no
Hungary yes THE 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 Kingdom yes so far only in constitutional issues
Cyprus no