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22nd Jan 2022

Czech President tussles with Danny the Red on Lisbon

A meeting between Czech President Vaclav Klaus and a top-level delegation of MEPs descended into verbal fisticuffs on Friday (5 December) after the co-leader of the Greens in the parliament attacked Mr Klaus for his opposition to the Lisbon treaty and his relations with Irish No campaigner Declan Ganley.

"I don't care about your opinions on [the Lisbon treaty]. I want to know what you will do if both the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approve it," Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit asked, according to a transcript of the meeting - designed to debate the upcoming Czech EU presidency - published by Mr Klaus.

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"Will you respect the will of the people's representatives? You will have to sign it."

The German Green also called on the Czech president to explain the level of his relations with Declan Ganley, the founder of the Ireland's Libertas group, which emerged before the June vote to fight the treaty.

"A man in your position is not supposed to meet him," he said, citing "unclear" and "problematic" funding of Mr Ganley's political activities.

Mr Klaus responded by saying that nobody had talked to him in such a way in the six years since he was elected president, calling the conversation "unprecedented."

"You are not on the Paris barricades here," he said, referring to the Green leader's past life as a 1968 Paris protester. "I thought that these practices had ended for us 19 years ago. I see I was wrong. I would not dare to ask how the Greens' activities are funded," Mr Klaus said.

Others in the parliamentary delegation then entered the fray, with Irish MEP Brian Crowley telling Mr Klaus he was offending Ireland.

"By meeting [Mr] Ganley, you insulted the Irish people. That man has failed to [disclose] the funding of his campaign. It is an insult to meet someone without a mandate. I just want to inform you how the Irish feel," Mr Crowley said.

Mr Klaus responded that the biggest insult to the Irish is the refusal to accept their vote in the referendum.

"I met someone representing a majority view in Ireland, while you, Mr Crowley, represent a minority opinion. That is the tangible result of the referendum," he said, which only won him further criticism from the MEPs.

"You will not tell me what the Irish think. As an Irishman, I know it best," Mr Crowley insisted.

Bumpy road to treaty ratification

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic's ruling conservative Civic Democrats (ODS) have agreed to open the door to Lisbon treaty ratification, as long as the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) accept US plans for placing part of its missile defence shield on Czech soil.

At their party congress on Sunday (7 December), the Civic Democrats "strongly recommended" that their legislators first approve the US-Czech agreement on the American plan and then allow for a vote on the Lisbon Treaty by deputies and senators.

The Chamber of Deputies is expected to debate the Lisbon treaty at an extraordinary session on Tuesday (9 December) - a move initiated by the Social Democrats.

According to the ANSA news agency, the Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, confirmed that the vote on the Lisbon treaty and the US radar should be linked. "If the Social Democrats reject the shield, we will reject Lisbon," he said on Sunday.

Asked when parliament will vote on the Lisbon Treaty, he said it was "hard to say," but added that it would be "for sure" during the Czech EU presidency term.

The Czech Republic takes over the EU's rotating presidency from the French in January, and will be at the helm of the 27-country bloc until June.

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