14th Apr 2024

Prague seeks get-out clause for EU laws in new treaty

The Czech Republic wants a new EU treaty to include a clause allowing groups of EU states to opt out of Brussels legislation, in a plan set to re-ignite the debate on a two-speed Europe.

Prague's negotiator on the disputed EU constitution Jan Zahradil told EUobserver the new-look version of the treaty should "introduce a measure that would allow a group of states to withdraw from particular European policies."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Prague - opposed to more EU integration (Photo: European Commission)

The treaty clause, recently proposed by Prague in confidential talks with the German EU presidency, would enable a minority group of member states not to sign up to EU laws agreed by a majority in the council, member states' decision making body.

Mr Zahradil said he would table the "collective opt-out" idea at a 15 May gathering of member state 'sherpas' - government appointees for talks on the EU constitution - in Berlin.

Prague believes the mechanism is necessary in light of the voting system proposed in the EU constitution, giving more power to big member states.

"[The constitution] strongly increases the voting weights of some big states - particularly Germany (...) - this creates the possibility that smaller states are more frequently outvoted in controversial issues, such as social schemes, environmental issues or a very fashionable issue of today - consumer protection," said Mr Zahradil.

Prague's latest proposals reflect the views of the government led by the centre-right ODS party which opposes far-reaching EU integration and dislikes Brussels legislation hampering the free market.

Mr Zahradil is himself an ODS politician and member of the European Parliament, in addition to his job as Czech sherpa.

Two-speed Europe

The Czech proposal is likely to fuel the debate on a two-speed Europe which has re-emerged in the context of the renegotiations on the EU constitution, rejected in French and Dutch referendums in 2005.

The idea of some member states moving faster than others is usually promoted by proponents of EU integration who are irritated by sceptics blocking progress.

The EU's current Nice Treaty already contains the possibility for "enhanced cooperation" allowing a group of at least eight states to go ahead on their own.

By contrast, opt out rights are reserved for some individual member states and are carefully negotiated, with Denmark, for example, enjoying an opt-out from the eurozone.

The Czech proposal for a group opt-out would allow a more structured "two-way flexibility", Mr Zahradil said, with Czech officials currently working out the details of the proposal.


But the idea, characterised by Mr Zahradil as "probably controversial", is unlikely to get an easy reception with the German presidency unhappy at the prospect of reopening the institutional core of the EU constitution.

And Poland, which shares the Czech concern about Germany getting too much voting power in the EU constitution, reacted lukewarmly to the Czech idea.

Marek Cichocki, the Polish sherpa, said he had not seen the Czech plan, but signalled that Warsaw would prefer to stick to its more fundamental opposition to the voting weights in the constitution.

"We are above all interested in a general solution to this problem, rather than solutions to particular circumstances," he said.

Warsaw is promoting its own alternative voting model which would give Poland more power, particularly relative to Berlin.

Mr Cichocki added that the Czech plan also runs the risk of "dividing" Europe into "different groups" in "different areas."

"That is something we would like to avoid."

UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

EU and UK negotiators said that a new post-Brexit settlement for Gibraltar was just weeks away from completion following four-way talks in Brussels on Friday (12 April).

Ukraine's farmers slam EU import controls on food products

The paradoxical move to tighten EU import controls on agricultural goods from Ukraine, despite the EU's vocal support for Kyiv, has sparked criticism from Ukrainian farmers. Overall, it is estimated the new measures could cost the Ukrainian economy €330m.

MEPs give teeth to Parliament's anti-harassment training

With 15 votes in favour, nine against and no abstentions, MEPs agreed to introduce concrete sanctions for any elected office-holder who fails to complete mandatory anti-harassment training within the first six months of their mandate.


Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.


The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us