29th Mar 2023

Slovakia likely to ratify Lisbon treaty despite press bill row

The Slovak parliament is expected to vote on Thursday (10 April) in favour of the Lisbon treaty despite an unresolved row between the coalition and opposition parties over a controversial press bill, criticised by several international organisations.

The dispute has for months delayed the ratification process of the new EU treaty in Slovakia, with centre-right opposition politicians accusing the government led by centre-left leader Robert Fico of an attempt to undermine the editorial freedom of national media.

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  • Slovakia is likely to join the countries that have ratified the EU's Lisbon treaty despite the controversial media bill (Photo: European Commission)

Mr Fico did allow some amendments to the media bill after the original version had sparked strong criticism by national and European democracy watchdogs, such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

However, the re-drafted and adopted version has still not satisfied its critics, and the three parties forming the coalition did not vote for any of the suggestions proposed by opposition deputies.

The most controversial element is a provision under which newspapers will be obliged to publish reactions to articles by persons claiming their honour is at stake and even if the facts used by the disputed articles were correct

Most opposition party members plan to protest by leaving the plenary during today's vote on the Lisbon treaty even though a majority of them support it, just as they did in previous attempts by the Slovak parliament to hold a vote.

While Mr Fico does have enough votes to push through regular bills, he needs a constitutional majority of three fifths of MPs to have the Lisbon treaty ratified. Without opposition support of at least five votes, he can not achieve it.

But while he previously did not want to allow the vote to take place and fail, he is ready to do so on Thursday, warning the opposition of huge negative publicity for the country in Europe should there be a negative ratification vote.

However, according to Slovak media, it looks likely that the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) may vote in favour of the Lisbon treaty, with its leader, Pal Csaky, also suggesting that he considers the adopted press law as improved comparing to its original version.

If such a scenario proves true, Slovakia will join the list of eight EU member states which have ratified the Lisbon treaty, just one day after its neighbour, Austria, gave its overwhelming parliamentary approval of the document.

Both the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and the People's Party, as well as the opposition Greens voted in favour of the treaty late Wednesday (9 April), while the hard-right Freedom Party and the slightly less right-wing Alliance for the Future of Austria rejected the document.

Instead, the two eurosceptic parties called for a referendum on the new treaty.

Apart from Austria, so far, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Romania, France and Bulgaria have approved the document.

Ratification of the Lisbon treaty is expected to be finalised by the end of this year, in order for the treaty to come into force in 2009.

So far, only Ireland is to hold a referendum on the treaty, expected in June.

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