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20th Mar 2023

Sarkozy warns Czech president on EU treaty

  • "It will be necessary to draw the consequences", said French President Nicolas Sarkozy (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned the Czech Republic that it will have to face "consequences" if it continues to delay final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty following a Yes vote in a referendum in Ireland next month.

Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday (17 September), Mr Sarkozy was careful to praise Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer as a "man of great quality" before taking a clear sideswipe at the country's president, Vaclav Klaus, who has indicated he will postpone as long as possible putting his signature under the treaty - the final step of ratification.

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"I stated clearly that if the Irish say Yes, there is no question that we will accept to stay in a no man's land with a Europe that does not have the institutions to cope with the crisis."

"It will be necessary to draw the consequences - but those will be the subject of another meeting," said the president.

Mr Sarkozy, who was not asked about the issue, volunteered the warning at the end of a press conference, using it as a parting shot before closing the session.

His words come as Brussels frets that even if the Irish say Yes to the treaty in a vote on 2 October, the EU will not directly be put out of its institutional uncertainty because of foot-dragging by President Klaus.

Although the Czech houses of parliament have ratified the treaty, Mr Klaus has indicated he could delay signature until the beginning of next year.

In such a case, he would likely be the last obstacle to the treaty coming into force across the European Union as Polish President Lech Kaczynski, another reluctant signatory, earlier this week said he would complete ratification shortly after a Yes vote in Ireland.

"It is certainly a fact that several government leaders perceive the ratification process in the Czech Republic with a degree of nervousness," said Mr Fischer after the Brussels meeting, in which some of the large member states made it clear that Czech "national interests" would be damaged by any delay.

The commission

The shape of the next commission, as the most pressing institutional question that needs to be dealt with, is dependent on whether the Lisbon Treaty comes into place or the current Nice Treaty rules continue to apply.

"If there's a Yes [in Ireland] and still there are uncertainties in the Czech Republic, then we'll have to figure out if there's any possibility to get a date, an answer. If it's just postponed on and on, then we'll have to form a Nice commission, even if Lisbon is ratified by everybody else," Swedish Europe minister Cecilia Malmstrom told EUobserver earlier this week.

With its mandate running out at the end of October, there is concern that the commission could spend several weeks in a caretaker state at a time when it should be an active player in important decisions on climate change and the economy.

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