Monday, October 12, 2009

Czech President: I won't sign Lisbon

The Czech PM, Jan Fischer, appears to have backed down in his struggle with President Vaclav Klaus over ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. President Klaus has refused to sign the Treaty since it was ratified by both houses of the Czech Parliament last May. Asked during a walkabout on Sunday not to put his name to the treaty, Mr Klaus replied: “Don’t worry, I won’t.” The Treaty must be ratified in all EU member states in order to come into force. After a crisis Cabinet meeting yesterday, Jan Fischer, the Czech Prime Minister, avoided a direct confrontation with Mr Klaus, bowing to his demand (last Friday) to reopen negotiations with the EU on an eleventh-hour opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.Klaus argues that the Charter could be used by ethnic-Germans to regain their property lost in the expulsions following the Benes Decrees after World War Two, which expelled 2.6 million ethnic-Germans from former Czechoslovakia:

"After a crisis Cabinet meeting yesterday, Jan Fischer, the Czech Prime Minister, avoided a direct confrontation with Mr Klaus, bowing to his demand to reopen negotiations with the EU on an eleventh-hour opt-out. However, he called on the unpredictable President to guarantee his signature if EU leaders agreed to his conditions and if the Czech Constitutional Court raised no new objections.Mr Klaus is demanding an opt-out for the Czech Republic that would prevent German families expelled after the Second World War from lodging property claims at the European Court of Justice.He raised the stakes on Friday, putting a dampener on EU celebrations over the Irish referendum decision to back the treaty. The President argued that the charter could whip up an avalanche of property claims from German families expelled from Czech territory after the war".

The Irish option of ‘guarantees’ outside of the Treaty appears insufficient for Klaus:

"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”.

Bulgaria and France have today reacted angrily to the delay:

"Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said here Monday after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that a refusal by the Czech Republic’s leader to ratify the EU Lisbon Treaty would not be tolerated, AFP informed.
“It must not be allowed, it must not be tolerated. President Sarkozy is of the same opinion,” Borisov said when asked about the Czechs being the last holdout in ratifying the European Union’s reform treaty.
According to the office of the French president, during their talks Sarkozy noted that the 27-nation bloc had targeted for the Lisbon Treaty to take effect by the end of this year.
“Therefore, we cannot imagine that a member state would be responsible for trampling on its commitment,” it said.
The Czech Republic also runs the risk of not having a commissioner on the next European Commission, the EU executive arm, it added".

EU leaders are anxious to secure Czech ratification to prevent an incoming Tory Government in the UK reversing British ratification and putting Lisbon to a referendum, where polls indicate the Treaty would almost certainly be rejected. The UK General Election must take place by June 2010 at the latest. Conservative Party leader David Cameron has promised a referendum if elected prior to the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty by ratification in every member state. However, asked what his course of action would be if it is already in force by that date, he has only stated he would “not let matters rest there”.

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