Saturday

27th Aug 2016

Czechs warned on commissioner as new treaty challenge filed

The Czech Republic will not be able to appoint a new commissioner if it continues to block the Lisbon Treaty, said Czech politician Mirek Topolanek following a meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

"I think the message from today's meeting is very clear: If the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified because of President Klaus' refusal to sign, the European Commission will be reduced," said Mr Topolanek, who heads the Civic Democrats (ODS) , a centre-right political group aligned with the eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus.

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  • Czech senators brought a new challenge on the Lisbon Treaty to the constitutional court (Photo: European Commission Audiovisual Library)

"Undoubtedly, the opinion of 26 member states would be that it is reduced by a Czech commissioner," he added.

Both houses of parliament in the Czech Republic have approved the EU's new rules but final ratification needs the signature of President Klaus, who has been delaying the move.

If the Lisbon Treaty does not enter into force, the EU's current rules will stay in place. These say that the next commission will have fewer commissioners than member states. Any reduction has to be decided by all 27 national governments unanimously.

But Mr Topolanek, who characterised the encounter as a "warning" from Brussels, indicated that even if Prague brazens out any opposition and appoints a commissioner, the European Parliament is unlikely to play along.

"The European parliament will no doubt not approve the Czech commissioner," he said.

MEPs assess each commissioner in individual hearings and then vote on the commission as a whole before its takes office.

Fresh challenge

The meeting took place just ahead of a fresh challenge to the Lisbon Treaty before the constitutional court by Czech senators.

The court should say whether the EU under the Lisbon Treaty would remain an international organisation or become a "super-state," ODS senator Jiri Oberfalzer, one of the senators who submitted the complaint on Tuesday afternoon, told the Czech press agency.

Czech senators had previously filed a narrower case about certain aspects of the treaty, but the court last year ruled that the articles were not in breach of the country's constitution.

Mr Klaus has been refusing to sign the treaty in anticipation of the new legal challenge.

The new legal move is likely to heighten fears in Brussels that a lengthy court deliberation could see Mr Klaus hold off signing until Spring next year, when a general election is due to be held in Britain.

The Conservatives, the likely winners of the upcoming vote, have promised to hold a referendum on the treaty if it is not yet in force across the Union.

The dynamics of the EU's Lisbon debate will change on Saturday when the result of Ireland's second referendum on the treaty comes out. A No vote will kill off the treaty but a Yes is likely to result in huge pressure on Mr Klaus to sign as quickly as possible.

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened unspecified "consequences" if Prague kept the EU in an institutional "no man's land."

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