Court session on constitutionality of Lisbon treaty adjourned until Wednesday

Court session on constitutionality of Lisbon treaty, photo: CTK

All eyes were on the Czech Constitutional Court on Tuesday, where a verdict was expected on whether the EU’s Lisbon treaty is in line with the Czech constitution. If the court had rejected Lisbon, it could well have thrown the EU into disarray. The opposite verdict would have paved the way for the Czech Parliament to vote on ratification. As it happened, the ruling has been postponed until Wednesday.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
The keenly anticipated court session got underway at 9 on Tuesday morning, with statements made by a number of senior political figures. Among them was a representative of the Senate, who had sent the Treaty of Lisbon to the Constitutional Court earlier this year. The upper chamber, then dominated by the centre-right Civic Democrats, was concerned about the loss of the Czech Republic’s veto in Brussels and the document’s charter of fundamental rights.

But the most high profile participant in the court hearing was without doubt the Czech president, Václav Klaus. He is a fierce opponent of the Lisbon treaty and of the further integration of the EU in general.

Mr Klaus warned that, if approved, Lisbon could reduce Czech sovereignty. He said the document was at odds with both the spirit of the Czech constitution and what he called its “material core”.

However, the president was disappointed by the brevity of Tuesday’s hearing, which was adjourned less than three hours after it began. He said it was depressing that it had been so short.

Court session on constitutionality of Lisbon treaty,  photo: CTK
The indications are that the Constitutional Court will deliver a verdict on Wednesday. If it said Lisbon was not in line with the Czech constitution, that would represent a major blow to the European Union, as it would mean not one but two countries (Ireland being the other) would have rejected the reform treaty.

The opposite outcome would see the Czech Parliament vote on ratification either in the first three months of next year (as promised by the prime minister), or by the end of 2008 (as others have suggested is possible).

However, even if Parliament does ratify the Lisbon treaty, the country may not actually approve the document: President Klaus has indicated he will not sign it as long as Ireland has not ratified it.