Saturday

31st Oct 2020

EU treaty closer to ratification after Czech deal agreed

The EU came a step closer to full ratification of the Lisbon Treaty after it managed to agree to a sensitive demand by the Czech Republic on the new institutional rules without upsetting other member states.

"The European Council has been able to take a decision and agree on what has been asked for by the Czech Republic," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, currently heading the EU, at the end of the first day of a two-day summit in Brussels on Thursday (29 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Fredrik Reinfeldt: Under the glare of cameras as he seeks an institutional deal (Photo: Swedish presidency)

The proposal was "accepted by neighbouring countries," said Mr Reinfeldt who added, "the road to ratification stands open."

The institutional debate, which elbowed other issues such as climate change from the negotiating table, centred around a recent surprise move by Czech President Vaclav Klaus to make obtaining an opt-out from a rights charter a condition for his signature of the Lisbon Treaty.

Mr Klaus said the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a part of the treaty, would expose the country to property claims by the 2.5 million ethnic Germans and their descendants who were expelled from the then Czechoslovakia after World War II under the so-called Benes Decrees.

His mentioning of the emotive issue and linkage with the rights charter raised alarm bells in Hungary and Slovakia particularly. Ethnic Hungarians were also expelled while Slovakia feared an imbalance in legal protection between it and the Czech Republic. The two countries separated peacefully from one another in 1993 but Slovakia was also covered by the Benes Decrees at the time.

After intense discussions between all of these countries, and plenty of back and forth diplomacy by the Swedes, the Czechs received an opt out similar to one already obtained by Poland and the UK, and no mention is to be made of the Benes Decrees or anything to do with the past.

The Slovaks got a declaration that simply confirmed that the Charter is "addressed ...to the member states only when they are implementing Union law." The solution pleased both Bratislava and Budapest, who both sold it as a victory at home for different reasons. The opt-out will be ratified after the Lisbon Treaty has gone into place and probably as part of a future EU accession treaty.

The Czech president, the instigator of the political headache, is apparently also happy with the deal.

"Vaclav Klaus was content with the text. He has been informed about all modifications ...and does not have a problem with it," Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said after the meeting.

Mr Klaus, an ardent eurosceptic who dislikes the Lisbon Treaty, has been holding out against signing it, a move that would complete ratification and allow it to enter into force across the European Union. But his sheer unpredictability, typified by his 11th-hour charter demand, had made some in Brussels fear he would continue to dig in his heels anyway.

His signature cannot take place before Tuesday when the Czech Constitutional Court is due to rule on the treaty's compatibility with national law. But the court is widely expected to approve the treaty.

If Mr Klaus signs the treaty in November, it could come into force on 1 December.

With the last hurdle to ratification apparently out of the way, the discussions on what implementing the treaty will mean can begin in earnest. The most prominent of these issues is the new posts it creates, including a president of the European Council and a new foreign minister.

"These very interesting discussions await," said Mr Reinfeldt.

EU commission on defensive over 'revolving doors'

The European Commission rubber-stamped over 99 percent requests by officials to take on jobs in the private sector, posing ethical questions in light of known examples where conflicts of interests appear to be clear cut.

Investigation

Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Under EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, transparency was supposed to be a "guiding principle". Instead, the European Commission is asking Kafkaesque questions in response to an access to documents request, and failing to meet its legal deadline.

Future of Europe: EU Council urged to propose a chair

Since the German presidency promised the Conference on the Future of Europe would start under their leadership, the European Commission and MEPs hope the event will be launched soon. But there is one issue: who will chair the conference?

Nine-in-ten EU regions face revenue plunge, report finds

The decrease of revenues in 2020 of subnational authorities in France, Germany and Italy alone is estimated to be €30bn for the three countries, a new report by the European Committee of the Regions says.

EU Parliament sticks to demands in budget tussle

The parliament wants €38.5bn extra for key programmes, which is less than their previous request of around €100bn. Negotiations continue on Thursday, but the budget and recovery could still get stuck on the rule-of-law issue.

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Rightwing MEPs bend to Saudi will after Khashoggi death

Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed two years ago on 2 October. Since then, mainly centre-right, conservative and far-right MEPs have voted down any moves to restrict, limit or ban the sales of weapons to the Saudi regime.

EU parliament vows not to cave in to budget pressure

The parliament's majorty dismisses the German EU presidency's proposal on the rule of law conditionality, which has emerged as the main political obstacle to agree on the next long-term EU budget.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us