BERLIN — The final barrier to the controversial treaty on West European economic and political union fell on Tuesday as the highest German court rejected a claim that the accord violated the country's law.
Within hours of the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, German President Richard von Weizsaecker had signed the ratification documents, making Germany the last of the European Community's 12 member nations to formally approve the treaty.
The pact is scheduled to take effect Nov. 1, exactly 11 months later than planned.
A court ruling in favor of the challenge would have condemned the treaty to a legal limbo and possibly scuttled it completely.
"The fact that (the treaty) has now been ratified and can go into effect is an encouraging sign," said Jacques Delors, president of the EC's Executive Commission.
Agreed to by Community leaders at a December, 1991, summit in the Dutch city of Maastricht, the treaty lays out plans for a common European currency and a qualified political union by the century's end.
Although it was considered at the time a sensational step that would radically, permanently alter the Continent, events of the intervening two years, including a dimming of the European ideal and last summer's effective collapse of the European Monetary System, have combined to raise serious doubt about the accord's ultimate impact.
Since that collapse, some Maastricht Treaty supporters have said delays are inevitable.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl last August said the timetable for monetary union would need to be extended "by a year or two," but others believe it could take far longer.
Community leaders also overestimated popular support for political union. Stiff public resistance in Denmark and Britain delayed ratification, while public support for the treaty has also eroded sharply in the EC's two pivotal nations, Germany and France.