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15th Apr 2024

Irish changes to Lisbon vital for Czech ratification

  • The No vote in Ireland was not given equal weight to the No in France and the Netherlands, says Ludek Sefzig (Photo: EUobserver)

The ratification of the Lisbon treaty in the Czech senate will be "very problematic" if the EU protocols promised to the Irish for a second referendum are not adopted, Ludek Sefzig, head of the EU affairs committee in the Czech senate told EUobserver.

A former member of the European Parliament and currently a Czech senator from the conservative ODS party, Mr Sefzig was present on Monday (19 January) in Brussels at a joint debate with national parliaments on EU policies in the area of justice and home affairs.

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He said that the Czech parliament had paused the ratification of the Lisbon treaty due to some procedural issues in both chambers relating to the legislature's power to appeal at the European Court of Justice.

"We interrupted our ratification procedure because we have more time for discussions now after the Irish No and we prepare our own rules of procedure in both chambers. We will continue the ratification procedure in two months. During this time we will finish our amendments," Mr Sefzig explained.

The issue at stake was the transfer of powers, especially in the area of justice and home affairs, from national to an EU level, where Mr Sefzig as well as other senators feared that decisions could be taken behind closed doors and without parliamentary control.

"In the staging rules of both our chambers we don't have an article about the possibility to send problems of subsidiarity to the European Court of Justice," he added.

"We can use this time to explain better to the people and the representatives of both chambers what these changes mean. A very big number of MPs, especially in the Senate, are against the Lisbon treaty because they don't see it as a way forward to closing the democratic deficit and they consider the Nice treaty as being more democratic than the Lisbon treaty," Mr Sefzig pointed out.

When asked why the Czech government didn't negotiate a better deal when the treaty was agreed, Mr Sefzig answered that the Czech parliament was not "fully satisfied" with the deal obtained by the government.

Yet the Senate was willing to support and adopt the Lisbon treaty, if the protocols promised in December to the Irish were adopted and "valid for all member states," he said. "Otherwise, it will be very problematic to adopt the Lisbon treaty in the Czech senate," Mr Sefzig warned.

States should have paused ratification after Irish No

In his personal view, it was "a matter of basic solidarity with the people of Ireland" to pause the ratification procedure after the No-vote and to wait for a new Yes, Mr Sefzig added.

"Sweden didn't interrupt [the procedure], but we did. It's just my personal view, and I know that our government will put pressure on members of both chambers to ratify the treaty," he said.

To the former Czech MEP, it was an undemocratic approach to "put Ireland in the corner" after the negative referendum, unlike France and the Netherlands, who also voted against the previous version of the Lisbon treaty in 2005. Back then, the process was stalled and the treaty was re-negotiated by all member states.

"The weight of the Irish referendum is not [being put] on the same scale as the votes in France and the Netherlands," he explained.

Meanwhile, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told MEPs on Tuesday that he was "rather optimistic" the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic would happen "soon."

"I am absolutely sure we will ratify. But I am not a member of the parliament and which day or which week of February exactly it will happen, I cannot tell you," he said.

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