Spain's lower house of parliament has voted to ratify the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, but the pact must still be approved by the upper house.

That vote in the Spanish Senate is expected later this year.

Irish voters rejected the EU treaty two weeks ago and leaders across Europe are now considering how to proceed.

All 27 EU members must ratify the pact for it to take effect.  So far, it has won the approval of 19 EU countries.  

The Lisbon Treaty would replace the proposed EU Constitution, which Dutch and French voters rejected in 2005.

The new pact is intended update the Treaty of Nice, which was negotiated when the European Union had only 15 members.  It reforms EU institutions and streamline the decision-making process.

After Irish voters rejected the treaty in a referendum earlier this month, Ireland's prime minister, Brian Cowen said his government needed time to analyze its options in moving forward.

The British parliament ratified the new EU treaty last week.  However, a businessman, Stuart Wheeler, sued to force a referendum on the pact.

Wednesday, Britain's High Court dismissed the suit, saying it lacks merit. 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.