Swedes approve Lisbon Treaty as Czechs, Irish squabble

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The Swedish Parliament's approval of the EU Reform Treaty yesterday (20 November) has further increased the pressure on the EU's two odd men out, the Czech Republic and Ireland, to come up with a rescue plan for the text.

Just days before the Czech court is set to give its opinion on the treaty, 243 Swedish MPs voted in favour and 39 against the text, with 12 abstentions, raising the number of EU countries that ratified it to 23. The parliaments of Germany and Poland have already given their approval, but ratification is not yet complete as the country's presidents have not yet signed the text.

Addressing the Swedish parliament, the country's EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström said Sweden was "one of the countries that would lose the most influence" if Lisbon did not come into force. 

Andrew Duff, the Liberals' spokesman on constitutional affairs in the European Parlaiment, argued along the same lines, saying that "small and 'neutral' countries need a strong and reformed European Union in which to live and towards which to contribute". 

The Swedish vote sends a "clear signal" to Ireland that a future within the EU is without alternative, he added. Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen is expected to tell EU leaders at their next summit on 11-12 December whether Dublin will hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty before the European elections next June. A recent poll revealed a slim majority of the Irish in favour of the next, but observers doubt that a rerun will be held before autumn 2009 (EurActiv 19/11/08). 

Meanwhile, the Czech Parliament is awaiting a ruling of the country's high court set for 25 November on whether the new treat is in line with the country's constitution. If the verdict is positive, deputies will discuss the text soon. 

In a thinly-veiled attack on Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Duff said it was "fortunate that Sweden does not have an eccentric, eurosceptic head of state to impede the completion of the ratification process". 

Klaus had declared the treaty dead after the Irish 'no' in June (EurActiv 13/06/08) and had recently sparked diplomatic outrage in Ireland when he met the leader of the anti-treaty Libertas movement (EurActiv 13/11/08), which Dublin criticised as an "inappropriate intervention" into a domestic debate. 

The more EU-friendly Czech Prime Mirek Topolanek said yesterday that Prague had two choices: ratify the text or become dependent on Moscow. "We criticise a number of EU policies, but it is better to be in it than to stand outside," he stated. 

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