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3rd Dec 2022

Sarkozy heads to Prague for emergency EU treaty talks

  • The Lisbon treaty was signed last December - but is already "a dead document," says the Czech president (Photo: Portuguese EU Presidency)

French president Nicolas Sarkozy will today (16 June) fly to Prague for emergency talks on the Lisbon Treaty with the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, with Czech president Vaclav Klaus declaring the treaty dead after the Irish No vote.

"The project is over in its entirety," Czech president Vaclav Klaus said after the rejection of the EU pact by Irish voters last week, AFP reports. "It makes no sense to continue the ratification of a dead document."

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The Irish No vote represents a "victory for freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy," he added.

Mr Klaus' remarks come amid calls by the European Commission and some EU leaders – in particular French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel – for the ratification process to continue in the remaining EU countries.

Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek did not comment himself on whether or not his country should approve the document, admitting nevertheless that the Irish result was a "political complication."

The Czech Republic will take over the EU's rotating presidency from France on 1 January 2009.

So far, parliaments in 18 EU member states have approved the Lisbon treaty. The UK has also indicated it would proceed with the document's ratification.

Meanwhile, an adviser to Polish president Lech Kaczynski – who still has to complete Poland's ratification by signing the document – has said that Mr Kaczynski should know whether the Lisbon treaty exists before he goes forward.

"For now, there is a strong suggestion the treaty may have ceased to exist as it was rejected by one [EU] country," the presidential aide, Michal Kaminski, told Polish daily Rzeczpospolita.

The Polish prime minister, Donald Tusk, is strongly pro-ratification, however. A TNS OBOP opinion poll over the weekend said 71 percent of Poles would back the treaty if there was a referendum in Poland.

German leader Angela Merkel will meet Mr Tusk in Gdansk today for a pre-arranged visit on Polish foreign policy plans for the union's eastern neighbours. The pair will also discuss the EU treaty conundrum.

Paris nervous

The Irish No vote has made Paris particularly nervous, as France is to take over the rotating EU presidency in two weeks' time.

Mr Sarkozy was quick to react to the referendum result saying ratification in the eight remaining countries should continue, "so that the Irish incident does not become a crisis."

For his part, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, French EU minister, told French weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday: "We have lost a few months in terms of the institutional blueprint, but we haven't lost any time as far as our plans [for the presidency] are concerned."

"You can count on the [French] president not to leave Europe malfunctioning," he added.

France has put forward an ambitious agenda for its six-month term at the EU's helm, with priorities including immigration, defence, and climate change.

Several analysts and commentators have said the result of the referendum in Ireland may put a brake on the country's far-reaching plans however, forcing it to focus on institutional issues instead.

Paris is counting on a "political agreement" at this week's EU summit (19 – 20 June) to maintain its presidency's agenda, Mr Jouyet said.

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