EU leaders ink Czech Lisbon Treaty guarantees

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European leaders struck a deal yesterday (29 October) on guarantees to be offered to the Czech Republic on the Lisbon Treaty, paving the way for completing ratification of the most comprehensive reform of the EU institutions in recent history. EURACTIV Czech Republic contributed to this article.

The Lisbon Treaty will be enriched by a new Protocol, coming in addition to Protocol 30, which already provides guarantee clauses for Poland and the UK on the application of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

The move addresses requests persistently made by Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus, whose signature represents the last hurdle before the definitive adoption of the treaty.

However, the other 26 member states rejected demands for legal changes to be made to the text, which would have implied a fresh round of ratifications and the possible death of the treaty. 

“I of course do not like these opt-outs from the Charter of Fundamental Rights. I think we would all have been better off if all countries had accepted the charter. But we have to recognise that countries are different,” said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso at the end of the first day of the EU summit in Brussels. 

The guarantees offered to Prague are meant to satisfy requests made by Klaus to protect Czech citizens from potential property claims by Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War Two under the Benes Decrees. 

Klaus should now sign the Lisbon Treaty without further delay. However, this will not happen before the Czech Constitutional Court has deliberated on the compatibility of the Lisbon Treaty with the Czech Constitution. These deliberations are expected to take place at its next meeting on 3 November. 

A representative of Klaus took part in the negotiations which led to the agreement. However, the behaviour of President Klaus remains a concern for many. “Agreements are meant to be applied,” Barroso felt forced to underline after the deal. Surprises are unlikely at this stage, but Klaus’ personality leaves room for legitimate uncertainties. 

The protocol will not be modified immediately, but “at a later stage, when Lisbon is in place” made clear Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, currently president of the European Union. According to Czech sources, the expected solution is to include the new declaration in the text of Croatia’s EU accession treaty. Croatia is expected to complete negotiations to join the Union in 2010, after a Slovenian veto over a border dispute caused delays (EURACTIV 30/09/09).

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer praised the good communications between his cabinet and President Klaus, as well as the negotiating skills of the Swedish Presidency.

Asked about Klaus’ position, Fischer said the president had “no problems with the text”. He insisted that if the Constitutional Court gives a positive ruling over the last challenge by a group of senators over the compatibility of the Lisbon Treaty with the Czech constitution, nothing would hinder the “fast completion of the ratification”.

Jiri Weigel, head of the president’s office, said that Klaus had only one condition and this condition had been met. The president “has no intentions of putting forward new conditions,” he added.

Journalist present commented that following these decarations, the Lisbon Treaty looks set to come in force by 1st January 2010, as EU leaders had wished.

After the resounding Irish 'yes' to the Lisbon Treaty in this month's referendum (EURACTIV 03/10/09), only the Czech Republic has not fully completed their ratification procedures. 

Polish President Lech Kaczy?ski signed his country's ratification in 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 next meeting of the Court is scheduled on 3 November. 

Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus has thus far refused to sign the treaty into law, and has grounds to avoid doing so until the Constitutional Court has deliberated. 

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