Civic Institute’s Roman Joch – Irish ratification remains key obstacle to Lisbon

Roman Joch

Wednesday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court that the European Union's Lisbon Treaty does not violate the Czech constitution has been welcomed and scorned from the two sides of the Lisbon debate. So what next for Czech ratification and the treaty itself? Radio Prague spoke to Roman Joch, director of the conservative think-tank the Civic Institute.

Roman Joch
“The Czech Constitution declared that certain aspects of the Lisbon Treaty definitely are not unconstitutional according to the Czech constitution, but it has opened an option that Czech politicians, senators for example, could ask further questions on other aspects of the Lisbon Treaty. However I believe that the majority of Czech MPs and senators, together with the government, will now be keen on ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Republic is not the last country that has not ratified. Germany is waiting for the decision of their constitutional court. I think the Czech Republic will ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The real key, however, is whether Ireland will change its opinion. If Ireland doesn’t change the opinion of Irish voters, then the Lisbon Treaty is dead anyway.”

Do you want the Lisbon Treaty to come into effect?

“Considering all pros and cons, I would be in favour of the Lisbon Treaty.”

That’s a surprising assessment for a conservative think-tank which is perhaps closer to President Klaus on this subject.

“Our think-tank, the Civic Institute, is conservative, but not necessarily eurosceptic. Our position is that a small country in the centre of Europe is better off working with other European countries, to have a common European policy, towards Russian for example, or towards our energy security. So we don’t have the luxury of being an island off the coast of Europe, to be completely sovereign about our destiny. Whether we are in the EU or outside, the rest of the European countries would influence us anyway. So our assessment is that it is more prudent to be inside the tent, and try to influence European policy as much as possible. So we are not strictly eurosceptic.”

Many people have pointed out the irony of the Czechs being in charge of the EU presidency from January 1st and therefore in charge of efforts of revive the Lisbon Treaty, yet the country will not have yet ratified that treaty when it takes over.

“Well, Germany hasn’t it yet, so I don’t see that problem. The EU is an institution which exists. It is a rotating presidency, so it’s our turn, regardless of whether the Lisbon Treaty by us or not. I much emphasise once again – even if we ratify the Lisbon Treaty, that will not mean the Lisbon Treaty will be functioning, because we must still wait for Ireland. The Lisbon Treaty must really be ratified by all for it to be ratified by all.”