Slovakia to hold EU Treaty vote amid opposition protest

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Slovakia’s parliament is scheduled to vote on the Treaty of Lisbon on Thursday (February 7) after ratification was postponed for the second time last week in the wake of opposition protests over a media bill introduced by the ruling coalition. EURACTIV Slovakia reports.

Opposition parties have said that they will not approve the new treaty unless the government withdraws or substantially amends the controversial draft. But an opposition bid to postpone the vote indefinitely failed after it was tentatively rearranged for 7 February. 

Slovakia is aiming to become the fourth member state to ratify the new EU Treaty agreed upon by European leaders in Lisbon last December by following Hungary, Slovenia and Malta in approving the text this week (see EURACTIV 30/01/08). 

Its constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the House for the treaty to be approved, meaning that the 85-strong governing coalition cannot ratify the treaty without the support of at least five members of the opposition. 

The government ran into difficulties regarding the scheduling of the vote after the opposition linked the issue to the media bill. SDKU-DS (Christian Democrat) Vice-Chair Iveta Radicova claimed that the government’s proposed Press Act does not respect the clauses protecting freedom of speech and access to verifiable information contained in the Treaty of Lisbon. 

Despite these objections, two of the three centre-right opposition parties clearly back the treaty itself and insist they do not wish to undermine its ratification. They have indicated they will approve the text once the government has redrafted the media bill. 

Prime Minister Robert Fico attacked what he termed the opposition’s “blackmailing” of the government, while Foreign Minister Jan Kubis warned that the postponements had already “seriously harmed” the country’s reputation abroad. 

The dispute arose after the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) strongly criticised the draft media bill. In a letter addressed to Mr Kubis, the OSCE warned the proposed legislation would “severely restrict” press freedom. Culture Minister Marek Mandaric has defended the bill, describing it is “standard European legislation”. 

Speaking during last week’s plenary session in Brussels, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering called upon Slovakia to “act responsibly”. Meanwhile, Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda (PES) criticised the opposition’s linking of the vote on the Lisbon Treaty to an internal political dispute. 

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