Slovenia and Malta ratify EU treaty
Slovenia and Malta have approved the new EU Lisbon treaty by a large majority, but in Slovakia the treaty vote has become tangled up in a dispute over a separate law.
Early Tuesday evening (29 January), the two-million strong Slovenia, currently chairing the 27-strong union became the second member state to ratify the new EU treaty in its national parliament, following Hungary which adopted it in late December.
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Out of 90 MPs, 74 voted for the treaty and only 6 members of a small right-wing Slovene National Party voted against after previously tabling a proposal for a referendum on the issue, rejected by other parliamentarians.
In his speech to the parliament ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Janez Jansa openly suggested that MPs were voting on the same content as was in the original European Constitution, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.
He said that thanks to the new Lisbon treaty, the constitution's ratification by 17 other member states was not in vain, Slovenian media reported.
Mr Jansa also said he expected at least 20 of the 27 EU member states to ratify the treaty by the end of June and others to do so by the end of the year, stressing that one of Slovenia's jobs as EU presidency country was to "carefully monitor ratification procedures."
A little while later on Tuesday, Malta became the third country to give the go-ahead to the document, with its parliament voting unanimously to approve a motion of ratification put by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
Both government and opposition parties supported the treaty, partly due to it giving the tiny Mediterranean island of less than half a million inhabitants an extra seat in the European Parliament.
"I find it particularly symbolic that each of the first three countries to approve the new Treaty are member states that joined the European Union in 2004," European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said in reaction to votes.
He added, "This shows that enlargement is an inspiration and impetus for the future development of European integration."
Slovakia's parliamentary battle
Meanwhile, in Slovakia, a vote on ratification is scheduled for early today (30 January), following a heated confrontation between the ruling coalition parties, led by centre-left Prime Minister Robert Fico and the centre-right opposition on Tuesday.
Slovakia previously ratified the European Constitution by a huge majority. At the time, the centre-right parties were in government and most of them - apart from the Christian Democrats - also support the Lisbon Treaty.
However, centre-right MPs are planning to leave the chamber during the ratification vote in protest of a press bill introduced by the government and due to be adopted at first reading as part of the same parliamentary session.
The bill has received strong criticism from both national media experts and the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for being too restrictive but the ruling coalition has enough votes in Slovakia's House to push it through.
However, for ratification of the EU treaty, the government is short of five votes as its approval requires support by two thirds of parliamentarians. If it goes ahead with the vote today, the treaty vote could fall short of the majority needed.
Refusing to comment directly on the internal struggles in Slovakia, Mr Barroso reacted that he hoped the country would ratify the Lisbon Treaty, "preferably the sooner the better, of course."