Monday

18th Mar 2019

Czech government blesses EU treaty

The Czech government has advised the country's Constitutional Court that the EU's Lisbon treaty does not violate the Czech Republic's own constitution, improving the climate for ratification in the most problematic EU state after the Irish No vote.

"Due to its [Lisbon's] ratification, no substantial change in the arrangement of the democratic legal order will occur," the text of a legal opinion submitted by the government to the court late last week states, Czech daily Lidove noviny reported.

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"The government says in its position that...on the basis of legal expert reports the Lisbon treaty complies with the Czech Republic's constitutional order," Europe minister Alexandr Vondra told the CTK news agency on Saturday (28 June).

The court is set to make its ruling on the question in September or October, allowing the Czech parliament to complete the ratification process before Prague takes over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January 2009.

Analysts expect the EU treaty to get through the 200-seat lower house. But the eurosceptic ODS party, many of whose members say Lisbon is dead after the Irish referendum, holds a 41-strong majority in the 81-seat upper house.

The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus - an outspoken enemy of Lisbon - must also sign the text to make it law. The largely honorary office of the Czech president would find it hard to block a parliamentary decision in practice, however.

With Ireland planning to present its first thoughts on how to deal with the No vote at the EU summit only in October, the new EU treaty is unlikely to enter into force before the June 2009 elections, even if it passes through the Czech system smoothly.

The situation is set to see Prague enjoy the full perks of its EU presidency, with prime minister Topolanek chairing EU and international summits instead of having to stand aside for the new permanent EU "president" as envisaged by the Lisbon text.

"Now we will get our presidencies," a senior Czech diplomat in Brussels wrote in an SMS to a Swedish counterpart the day the Irish referendum result came out on 13 June. Stockholm is to take over the EU chair after Prague in mid-2009.

Ratification map

France, Germany and the European Commission have called for ratification to continue despite the Irish No, pointing to a scenario in which Ireland stands isolated against 26 EU states and faces pressure for a re-vote, as occured with the 2001 Nice treaty referendum.

Sixteen EU countries have so far definitively ratified Lisbon. The Finnish, Polish and German parliaments have approved the text, but are awaiting their presidents' signatures. The Swedish, Dutch, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, and Cypriot legislatures will finish voting between July and the autumn.

The Czech Republic is not the only problem country left, with the Polish president's office questioning whether the treaty still legally exists and the German constitutional court considering a legal challenge.

Austrian leader Alfred Gusenbauer last week said he would also call a referendum if Lisbon is tweaked for a second Irish vote.

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