Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Czech Republic to table Klaus demand at EU summit

The Czech government on Monday indicated it intends to put an 11th-hour demand by Czech President Vaclav Klaus concerning the Lisbon Treaty on the table of an EU summit at the end of this month.

"After thoroughly assessing all internal and foreign political aspects, the government declares its readiness to negotiate with its European partners about a possible solution to the current situation," Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said following an emergency meeting to discuss the situation, reports the Czech Happenings news service.

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  • Jan Fischer (r) will meet Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on Tuesday (Photo: European Commission)

Mr Fischer made it clear that the discussions should take place at the 29-30 October summit and that he would try and ensure it would be Mr Klaus' last demand.

The move represents something of a victory for Mr Klaus, who on Friday caused a political ruckus in Brussels by suddenly demanding that Prague be awarded an opt-out from the fundamental rights charter contained in the Lisbon Treaty.

His demand came atop his months-long refusal to sign the treaty, which has been ratified by Czech parliament.

It has put Mr Fischer, currently presiding over a caretaker government, in an awkward position.

The Czech prime minister had previously sought to reassure other member states that there would not be a further delay in final ratification of the treaty if the court declares it compatible with the Czech constitution.

"The government states with regret that the president's demand was not known when negotiations on the Lisbon treaty were held, nor was it raised during the ratification process in parliament," the prime minister said after the meeting.

Mr Klaus made the surprise move on the Charter of Fundamental Rights because he said he was concerned that it could be used by ethnic Germans to seek compensation for property taken at the end of World War Two after they were expelled from Czechoslovakia.

But a Czech opt-out has raised fears that the ratification process could be re-opened in all member states.

Guessing game

Mr Klaus appears to have rejected the easier path of negotiating guarantees on interpretation of the charter, in a syle similar to the guarantees secured by the Irish government on an interpretation of the treaty in politically sensitive areas.

Ladislav Jakl, the Czech president's spokesperson told the Irish Times that "this [Irish way] seems to me as an absolutely impossible way forward".

"The president will not be satisfied by any declaration, but only guarantees for every citizen. For him, this condition is fundamental, necessary, unbreachable."

The eurosceptic Mr Klaus, a vocal opponent of the EU treaty, has kept Brussels guessing as to his next actions for several months now.

His signature is needed to complete ratification of the treaty in the central European country. It would also lead to the treaty's implementation across the 27 member states.

The treaty is currently being examined for a second time by the Czech constitutional court, but there is no guarantee that Mr Klaus will put pen to paper if the judges, as after the first examination, give it the green light.

Other member states are impatient. The mandate of the current European Commission as well as the EU foreign policy chief expire at the end of this month.

Several decisions on a new commission and other appointments can only be taken once other capitals have a clearer idea of Mr Klaus' timetable and demands.

Prime Minister Fischer will travel to Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the delicate situation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

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