Czech president happy with guarantees on EU treaty

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Czech President Václav Klaus is satisfied with a proposal by the European Union’s Swedish EU Presidency addressing his demands to modify the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, his office said today (23 October).

Klaus, a staunch Eurosceptic, is the only EU leader who has not yet completed ratification of the treaty, aimed at streamlining decision-making in the 27-member bloc.

He shocked the EU and the Czech government earlier this month when he demanded an opt-out clause to shield the Czech Republic from property claims from ethnic Germans expelled from the country after World War Two.

The government has been negotiating his demands with Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and aims to secure approval for the opt-out at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels next week.

“The president […] received the Swedish Presidency’s proposal which is a response to his request related to the Lisbon Treaty ratification in the Czech Republic,” Klaus’s office said in a statement.

“This proposal corresponds to what the president has envisioned and it is possible to work with it further.”

Klaus’s office did not say what the proposal was. The treaty is meant to reform a decision-making process made cumbersome since the EU’s numbers rose from 15 member to 27 and half a billion people when it expanded into ex-communist Europe earlier this decade.

Czech Minister for European Affairs Stefan Fuele told a parliamentary committee the Czechs were seeking the addition of the Czech Republic to the list of countries that have an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, attached to the treaty. The list includes Britain and Poland.

Ratification by the Czech Republic also depends on a review by the country’s Constitutional Court, which is widely expected to approve it next week.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

After the resounding Irish 'yes' to the Lisbon Treaty in this month's referendum (EURACTIV 03/10/09), only the Czech Republic is yet to fully complete its ratification procedure. Polish President Lech Kaczy?ski signed his country's ratification on 10 October. 

The Czech Constitutional Court still has to pronounce itself over a motion by a group of senators which questioned the conformity of the Lisbon Treaty with the country's constitution. The date for the constitutional hearing has been set for 27 October, just before the 29-30 October EU summit in Brussels. Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus said he wil not sign the treaty into law while the Constitutional Court is deliberating, but it remains unclear how long he could procastrinate after the court ruling.

Klaus also laid down a further obstacle last week, demanding that the EU grants guarantees to the Czechs that the Lisbon Treaty will not open the door to property claims by Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after WWII (EURACTIV 12/10/09). 

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said that an ad-hoc group was working "very hard" on a text that would formalise those additional conditions.

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