Tuesday

15th Jun 2021

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.

Catalan MEPs lose immunity, slam 'political persecution'

Catalan separatist MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí lost their parliamentary immunity - a result they have hailed as a "political victory" for bringing the conflict between Catalonia and Spain closer to the heart of Europe.

12-month Future EU Conference is 'impossible', expert warns

The debate about the much-delayed Conference on the Future of Europe so far has been locked in endless institutional infighting over who should lead the event - lowering the expectations about what can be achieved in the coming months.

Future of Europe: Nearly half of citizens want reforms

European Parliament president David Sassoli called for the Conference on the Future of Europe "to start as soon as possible". Meanwhile, nearly half of EU citizens would like to see reforms to the bloc.

EU parliament snubs anti-corruption researchers

Transparency International carried out three separate studies on integrity, of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council (representing member states). The European Parliament refused to cooperate.

Cyprus: a heavy caseload for new EU prosecutors office

The new European Public Prosecutor's office will become operational in March. It is tasked to carry out criminal fraud investigations of the EU budget. But of the 140 required European delegated prosecutors, only nine have so far set up office.

News in Brief

  1. BBC and others boycott Belarus press circus
  2. Report: EU and US to unveil aircraft subsidy truce
  3. Putin refuses to guarantee Navalny will survive jail
  4. Erdoğan agrees to pull out mercenaries from Libya
  5. EU starts sale of first bonds for Covid-19 recovery fund
  6. Germans told not to 'storm pharmacies' for Covid pass
  7. Indonesia warns Covid-19 wave may not peak until July
  8. WTO chief: 'drop trade barriers on Covid-19 treatments'

MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute

The Belgian and Bulgarian prosecutors who were appointed had also not been the experts' first choice. Belgian prosecutor Jean-Michel Verelst has challenged the council's decision at the European Court of Justice.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. China officially joins Russia as a danger to Nato
  2. German Greens face reality check amid CDU gains
  3. EU Parliament wants Europe to take lead on sea-rescues
  4. MEPs urged to end gas-funding, fix cross-border projects rules
  5. Biden in Brussels - what's in the 'in-tray'?
  6. Yemen foreign minister to EU: to stop the war, talk to Iran
  7. Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit
  8. Former French PM to work for Russian oil firm

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us