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26th Feb 2024

Czech parliament should vote on Lisbon guarantees, Klaus says

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said the Czech parliament should ratify any fresh legal clauses attached to the Lisbon treaty to help Ireland clinch a Yes vote in its second referendum.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on 18-19 June are set to agree on legal guarantees for Ireland in the areas of taxation, neutrality and social affairs.

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The extra bells and whistles are designed to help Ireland hold a second referendum on the text in autumn, after an initial No vote last summer. But it is not yet clear how the guarantees will be enshrined in EU law.

The eurosceptic Czech president – a staunch opponent of the treaty – has said that the guarantees would constitute a mini-treaty in themselves. Under Czech law, any fresh international treaty must be ratified by parliament and signed by the president.

"Any conclusion in another form would contradict Article 49 of the [Czech] constitution and I could not accept such a proceeding," Mr Klaus wrote to Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer in a letter released on Wednesday (17 June).

Mr Fischer rejected the request, saying a government agreement would be enough.

"[The guarantees] are not an international treaty of a political nature ...but an international treaty of a governmental type which does not require the powers of the head of state to be concluded," he wrote on the government website.

Mr Fischer assured that the Czech government had consulted experts on the issue in great detail, Czech news agency CTK reports.

The Czech Republic is one of the four remaining countries, together with Ireland, Poland and Germany, where ratification of the Lisbon treaty has not yet been completed.

The Czech parliament has approved the document, but Mr Klaus has still to sign it.

One EU diplomat said that even if the Irish vote Yes in autumn "we would still have a big problem with president Klaus. He has indicated he would like to prolong the ratification."

According to the contact, Mr Klaus could be waiting for a change of government in the UK, where the main opposition party, the Conservatives, have promised a UK referendum if Lisbon has not been universally ratified when they come into power.

The ruling Labour party suffered severe losses in the European elections, prompting talk of a snap general election.

This purported Klaus strategy could fail if the Irish vote Yes however, as some Tory politicians have indicated a British referendum in such a case would be unlikely.

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