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27th Feb 2020

Slovakia may seek Czech-style opt-out on Lisbon

  • The Slovak flag seen though a droplet of water (Photo: formulaphoto)

Slovakia may also seek an opt-out from part of the Lisbon Treaty if the Czech Republic gets an exemption designed to prevent ethnic Germans expelled after World War II from claiming back their property.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico explained the decision on Czech national TV on Sunday (18 October).

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"We will not leave Slovakia in a situation of uncertainty if we feel that one of the seceding countries of former Czechoslovakia has negotiated an exception," he said. "For us the Benes Decrees are such an important part of the rule of law, that we cannot allow for Slovakia to be left in any kind of legal uncertainty."

Slovak foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak reinforced the message in a separate TV appearance.

"Anything which is to be arranged for the Czech Republic has to be approved by everybody, which means by us as well. We would not agree to something that would leave us at a disavantage," he said.

The Benes Decrees are a set of laws enacted by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile between 1939 and 1945 which led to the deportation of 2.6 million ethnic Germans after the war. The country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in a peaceful process in 1993.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus last week made his signature of the Lisbon Treaty conditional on his country securing an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a section of the pact which he says could be used by German plaintiffs to challenge the expulsions.

The multiplication of last-minute amendments to Lisbon is a headache for EU leaders who had hoped to use an upcoming summit in late October to decide on appointments for a new set of senior posts in Brussels.

It has also raised questions of whether an amended text will have to be re-ratified by the 27 EU states.

Mr Klaus in an interview with Czech daily Lidove Noviny on Saturday lowered the stakes on re-ratification by saying he would be happy with an Irish-type legal guarantee.

Ireland's guarantees, that Lisbon will not affect taxation or abortion law, did not require re-ratification because they have no legal force until they are added to the next EU treaty, due when Croatia or Iceland joins the union.

"The train has already travelled so fast and so far that I guess it will not be possible to stop it or turn it around, however much we would wish to," Mr Klaus said, referring to the Lisbon Treaty's entry into life.

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