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13th Aug 2022

Czech court green-lights EU Lisbon Treaty

The Czech constitutional court has unanimously ruled that the disputed parts of the Lisbon Treaty are in line with the Czech Constitution but, the judges have admitted they did not analyse the treaty as a whole, sparking speculation that the issue could be raised again by its critics in the country.

In his closely watched verdict announced on Wednesday (26 November), Vojen Guttler, the presiding judge rapporteur, argued that the new reform treaty does not change the fundamental direction of the EU, nor does it harm the sovereignty of the member states.

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  • The Lisbon Treaty does not change the fundamental direction of the EU (Photo: Kevin Connors)

He added that a new provision in the treaty that clears out the terms for countries that wish to leave the union is "the indisputable confirmation" of their sovereignty, while a transfer of powers to the EU level can only happen if it is approved by member states.

The statement contradicts the arguments put forward by President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday (25 November) in his address to the judges during a public hearing. Reacting to the verdict, President Klaus commented that the court's approach was "inexpert", "subjective" and "political".

"I regret to state that the Constitutional Court has not given appropriate response to my legal arguments. I expect a group of deputies or senators will raise these and more other arguments again," he said in a statement.

The court itself pointed out that it was only reacting to the concrete questions received from senators earlier this year. Rapporteur Guttler said that if the judges had reviewed the treaty as a whole, they would not respect the right of other politicians or institutions to raise other issues.

But the chair of the Czech Senate, Premysl Sobotka, of the ruling centre-right Civic Democrat Party (ODS) said that it is "unlikely" that senators would address the constitutional court again, CTZ agency reported.

"At this moment, nothing is blocking the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in both parliamentary chambers" in the Czech Republic, Mr Sobotka added. The ODS party is divided on the issue however, with some deputies following the line of President Klaus, who argues that the ratification should only continue if the treaty is approved in Ireland.

Reactions in Brussels

Meanwhile, some EU personalities in Brussels rushed to comment on the keenly awaited verdict of the Czech court.

"Today's decision of the Court brings to an end the treaty ratification standstill in the Czech Republic," said European Parliament president Hans-Gert Pottering and reminded Prague of its key role as the country chairing EU's rotating presidency country in the first half of 2009.

"In this regard in the European Parliament we trust that the new EU Presidency will seriously contribute to push forward the ratification process," he noted, adding that "ideally" this process should be finalised by the June elections of the EU assembly.

"The decision of the Czech supreme court is very welcome, although hardly a surprise," commented Andrew Duff, a British Liberal MEP in the constitutional committee. He said that the interventions by both senators and President Klaus were "erratic".

"Neither the Senate nor the President showed a sure grasp of the realities of the legal constitutional order of the EU, or of the fact that when the Czech Republic signed up to become a member state of the Union it was subscribing not only to the acquis communautaire [rules] of the past but also to all future obligations."

Nigel Farrage, the leader of the UK's eurosceptics in the EU legislature also said that the verdict came as no real surprise - although for different reasons.

"The pressure from the European Commission and the Czech government's desperate need to fall in line with Brussels as it prepares to take over the Presidency made it a foregone conclusion," he said in a statement.

The European Commission said it does not want to comment on various stages of the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in member states but its spokesperson added: "We are confident that the Czech parliament will honour the commitment which the country made when the treaty was signed."

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