Czech cabinet hoping to push through "two-way transfer of power" in EU constitution negotiations

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Mirek Topolanek's Civic Democrat-led government has been one of the biggest critics of the proposed European Constitution treaty. The government claims that smaller countries like the Czech Republic will lose decision-making power under the treaty's new voting system. Since Prague's chances of pushing through an amendment are minimal, the Czech cabinet has now come up with a proposal that would give member states the right to veto certain decisions made in Brussels.

Jiri Sedivy, photo: CTK
Instead of an attempt to change the proposed voting system, the Czech government now hopes to push through an entirely new clause in EU constitution negotiations that would give state governments the right to overrule certain EU regulations. This, the Czech cabinet says, would protect states from European legislation that they feel threatens their sovereignty. Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Jiri Sedivy:

"We see the definition of shared competences and the definition of competences in the draft constitutional treaty as a very positive step forward and a basis for further debate but we would like to see fewer ambiguities in that area, especially in the shared competences. We would also like to suggest that the possible further transfer of powers in the area of shared competences should not only be a one-way process, which means from the level of nation states to the level of the European Union. We would like to open the possibility, according to the subsidiary principle, to initiate a transfer of the exercise of a certain competence back to the member state level if and when the exercise of competence at the union level proves to be ineffective."

Although the Czech government has been reluctant to reveal in what areas the two-way transfer of power should be implemented, it has in the past expressed reservations about Brussels' control over the justice system. The cabinet opposes plans, for example, for the cross-border sharing of evidence in criminal proceedings.

Photo: European Commission
It also criticises a clause that gives police units on foreign territory full rights. Prague has also expressed the need to veto some joint EU laws in the areas of consumer protection, the environment, and social policy. Jiri Sedivy is confident that the proposed two-way transfer of power will be included in the final version of a new draft EU Constitution treaty.

"I see quite high chances for that as this is actually already in a way implicitly hinted at in the text of the draft constitutional treaty, especially in the article related to the area of shared competences. We have support from several countries but we are not going to speak about who likes the proposal or who doesn't because we are just in the middle of the final round of consultations with the German presidency so we don't want to explore on that any more."