Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Prague considering referendum on revised EU constitution

  • Prague wants to "avoid strict deadlines" on a new EU treaty (Photo: EUobserver)

The Czech Republic is likely to hold a referendum if the upcoming re-negotiations on the EU constitution result in a similar-style text, the Czech deputy prime minister has said, raising the prospect of a new stumbling block to an early settlement of the divisive issue.

Speaking to EUobserver, Alexander Vondra said on Tuesday (6 March) that "the final text [of a renegotiated constitution] has to be different compared to the one currently on the table", expressing Prague's preference for a slimmed-down version of the charter.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We could hold a referendum if there is a constitution-like document at the end of negotiations", the Czech deputy prime minister said.

According to the ruling Czech conservative ODS party, there is no hurry to adopt a new charter, although Germany - currently holding the EU presidency - is pushing for a compromise text to be agreed before the end of this year and ratified before the 2009 European elections.

"We should avoid strict deadlines, unless we are one hundred percent sure that an agreement is to be born", Mr Vondra said, adding that if a compromise over the disputed constitution is not hammered out by the end of 2008, the Czech presidency – taking over the bloc's six-month rotating chair in January 2009 – will not deal with the EU constitution because of the European Parliament's elections.

The Czech Republic is among seven EU countries that have put ratification of the constitution on hold after it was rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005, forcing EU governments to consider an alternative.

Meanwhile, the UK's Europe minister Geoff Hoon said on Tuesday (6 March) that the Czech and British governments share a common view on the future of Europe.

"We both recognized the importance of Europe not moving too far ahead of public opinion", Mr Hoon said after meeting the Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, stressing the need for deregulation and the return of power to national governments.

Climate change rift?

The Czech conservatives have however politically teamed up with their British colleagues, officially launching on Tuesday their Movement for European Reform, a rather eurosceptic platform seen as a possible spring-board to a new political party in the European Parliament.

"The new group will be established immediately after the 2009 elections", the UK conservative party chief David Cameron said, although his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek has not ruled out the possibility of staying in the European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED), the Parliament's most powerful political grouping.

"We are at the beginning of the process and cannot define the final outcome", Czech deputy prime minister Alexander Vondra told EUobserver, although he was critical of some members of the EPP.

Christian democrats "from the southern countries" have been an obstacle to truly reformist ideas (…), "especially when it comes to the economic and social issues, such was the services directive," he stated.

On top of this, the new Czech-British alliance has hit another snag - to do with global warming - as Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek said he was more concerned about energy security than climate change.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Topolanek said although he thought climate change was a "very important topic", he was concerned "socialists" might start unwisely throwing money at projects to tackle it.

Environment protection has become "big business" and a centre-right party cannot miss this chance, Mr Topolanek said according to media reports.

Last month, the Czech president and conservative party founder, Vaclav Klaus, described climate change as a "false myth". Asked whether he believed mankind was ruining the planet, he replied: "Perhaps only Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person can't."

Mr Cameron, on the other hand, has listed climate change among the Movement's main priorities.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday (6 March) Bulgaria's Union of Democratic Forces, chaired by former president of the country Petar Stoyanov, also joined the Movement for European Reform, becoming its third member.

Feature

Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us