Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Polish president declines to sign EU treaty

  • Lech Kaczynski in Euro 2008 football colours: protecting the Irish result is protecting Polish interests (Photo: prezydent.pl)

The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, has indicated he will not sign the Lisbon treaty until Ireland decides what to do about its No vote, dealing a strong blow to EU attempts to revive the pact. German ratification also went on hold Monday (30 June), pending a Constitutional Court decision expected early next year.

"For now, the treaty question is pointless. It's hard to say how it will end. But to claim there is no union because there is no treaty is not serious," Mr Kaczynski said in an interview with Polish daily Dziennik published on Tuesday, when asked if he would help pressure Ireland by signing the text.

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"The principle of unanimity is binding here," he added, explaining that Poland must protect small EU countries' rights as it is not a major power itself. "If the principle of unanimity is broken once it will cease to exist forever. We are too weak to accept this kind of solution."

The remarks come after weeks of public speculation by presidential aides that Lisbon ceased to exist when Ireland voted No in June, despite calls by France, Germany and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk for the other 26 EU states to continue ratification to help force an Irish re-vote.

The Polish parliament passed the treaty in April, but Mr Kaczynski must now sign a Ratification Act to finalise the process.

The president told Dziennik his general approach to EU diplomacy is to give Poland more clout by protecting national interests. "My politics is a way to make sure the telephone number of the Polish president or prime minister is frequently used by Berlin, Paris, London or other capitals," he said.

German setback

The Lisbon treaty had already suffered a setback on Monday, when German president Horst Koehler refused to sign the document until the country's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe rules on two legal challenges by right-wing MP Peter Gauweiler and leftist party Die Linke.

"The president is respecting the request of the Constitutional Court," Mr Koehler's office said in a statement, putting German chancellor Angela Merkel in an awkward position after she personally urged EU states to ratify Lisbon as a response to the Irish crisis.

The German parliament wrapped up ratification in May but German daily Spiegel predicts the court will not give its verdict until early 2009. "The Bundespresident has given the wrong signal by not signing," Handelsblatt cited the Social Democratic Party spokesman, Axel Schafer, as saying.

Mr Gauweiler filed his challenge on 24 May with the help of law professor Karl-Albrecht Schachtschneider, in a repeat of his attack on the EU constitution in 2005. The pair says the Lisbon treaty's Article 48 weakens German people's rights by allowing the EU to change its rules without permission from national parliaments.

Die Linke's challenge, announced on 27 June, also argues that Lisbon undermines democracy and targets defence aspects of the pact. "This false, soulless and militaristic treaty will endanger the EU," the party's Diether Dehm said last week.

The Polish and German developments intensify a headache for the French EU presidency, which takes over the EU helm today (1 July) and which had wanted to focus on climate change, Mediterranean rim foreign policy and building up EU military capacity instead.

The Kouchner touch

French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner on Monday tried to put pressure on the Czech Republic to ratify Lisbon, with Prague also struggling with a constitutional court challenge and a eurosceptic majority in the parliament's upper house.

"What use is it to take, say, three more countries into the EU, if we're blocked and can't proceed with political integration?" Mr Kouchner asked in relation to the Czech Republic's pro-EU enlargement agenda, the FT reports. "They'll be persuaded in the end."

The comments are reminiscent of his threat that Ireland would suffer if it voted No, a few days before 53 percent of Irish people voted against the EU project.

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