Eurosceptic Czech senators put Lisbon Treaty on hold

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Seventeen Czech senators close to the country’s Eurosceptic president Václav Klaus yesterday (29 September) filed a second complaint against the Lisbon Treaty with the Constitutional Court in Prague, putting on hold its ratification.

This time, the right-wing senators are challenging the constitutionality of the Lisbon Treaty in its entirety, and not just selected parts, EURACTIV Czech Republic reported. 

It could take up to six months for the Constitutional Court to issue its verdict (see EURACTIV 18/09/09). This timing apparently suit the designs of Václav Klaus to delay ratification until new elections in the UK and the potential coming to power of the Tories, who said they will put the treaty to a referendum if it has not been ratified by then. 

Czech Minister for European Affairs Štefan Füle played down the new development, saying that such a step would help to end all doubts as to whether the Lisbon Treaty does or does not conform with the Czech constitution. 

Füle added that should the Constitutional Court give a positive verdict, then nothing further should delay the president’s signature. 

“If the Constitutional Court finds no contradiction between the Lisbon Treaty and the Czech constitution, then I cannot imagine that a president of a democratic country would ignore not only the opinion of the Czech government, which concluded the Treaty on behalf of the Czech Republic, but also the Constitutional Court and above all the will of the constitutional majority of the parliament members,” Füle told EURACTIV.cz in an interview. 

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer admitted that he senses “increasing nervousness from abroad,” adding: “We are trying to solve the situation in a standard way.” 

‘Tough measures’ against Klaus 

Asked by iHNed.cz if there was some way to force President Klaus to complete ratification, PM Fischer made it plain that tough measures, such as the government filing a complaint against the president for inactivity, were not on the agenda. 

“The government prefers negotiation and we will continue negotiating with Mr. President. That is all.” 

The Czech press quoted sources according to which the government had consulted legal specialists to investigate ways to force the president to complete ratification. Reportedly, Klaus had not signed an addendum to the treaty on the European Social Charter for four years. If the court upheld the complaint, Klaus would have to sign the Lisbon Treaty, too, the daily Hospodarske noviny wrote. 

One of the Senators who lodged the constitutional complaint, senator Ji?í Oberfalzer, told Czech press agency ?TK that if the Constitutional Court were to rule that the EU is heading towards some kind of “superstate”, then a potential future hand-over of national powers would contradict the Czech constitution and therefore the Lisbon Treaty could not be ratified. 

Czech President Václav Klaus should himself attack the Lisbon Treaty in the Constitutional Court, presidential adviser Ladislav Jakl told Czech TV, ?TK agency reported. 

Jakl said he did not think that Klaus should be the only person fighting for an independent, sovereign Czech Republic. He said he believes, together with Klaus, that "someone will find the force" and turn to the court. 

Jakl said the Lisbon Treaty was something to be afraid of because it will transfer the powers of the state to "EU bureaucrats". He added: "Democracy is at stake." 

The ongoing institutional uncertainty over the Lisbon Treaty began in earnest when Irish voters rejected the text by popular referendum in June 2008 (EURACTIV 13/06/08). However, when the Irish government committed to holding a second referendum in late 2009 after being granted a number of key concessions by EU leaders (EURACTIV 12/12/08), attention soon turned to the Czech Republic. 

While the Czech parliament ratified the treaty in February (EURACTIV 18/02/09), the Czech Senate repeatedly postponed its final vote, mainly due to the issue being linked to the controversial US missile defence shield (EURACTIV 25/02/09). 

Divisions in the Civic Democratic party (ODS) over the treaty were deep enough to influence the collapse of the Czech government, a cause of significant embarrassment for the country, which held the rotating EU presidency in the first half of the year. 

The Lisbon Treaty's opponents among Czech senators first turned to the Constitutional Court in 2008. Last November, the Court said it did not find the treaty inconsistent with the Czech constitutional order. 

On 6 May, the Czech upper house approved the Lisbon Treaty by large majority, clearing the path for the treaty's final ratification in the Czech Republic. But the text still requires the presidential seal of Václav Klaus. 

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