Czech Constitutional Court postpones decision on Lisbon treaty complaint

Pavel Rychetský, photo: CTK

European leaders on Tuesday were focussed on events at a courtroom in the Czech Republic’s second city Brno. The country’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, is meeting there over a complaint that the EU’s reforming Lisbon treaty is in conflict with national law. Chris Johnstone has been following events in the courtroom. We asked him why the complaint is so important.

“The complaint was lodged by a group of mostly right-leaning Senators in the Czech Upper House of Parliament who are close to the country’s Eurosceptic President Václav Klaus. They claim that the Lisbon treaty which seeks to reshape the way the 27-strong EU works and make it a bigger force in world affairs takes too much power from national governments. The Czech Republic is the only country not to have ratified the Lisbon treaty so far and this is the last legal obstacle to do that.”

Photo: European Commission
So will the Czech Republic sign if the court says it is okay.

“Well it is not quite so simple. The Czech President has made his own last minute demands for a legal exemption from part of the treaty so that Germans expelled from former Czechoslovakia after World War Two cannot reclaim their property. That still has to be thrashed out by European leaders at the summit coming up on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. But a court decision in favour of the treaty would mean that is President Klaus alone that is holding things up and would pump up the pressure on him and the Czech government to sort things out by the end of the year when the treaty should take effect.”

And how are things looking today?

Václav Klaus | Photo: Radio Prague International
“Well, the court has decided after several hours of discussion to postpone a final decision until next Tuesday, November 3. That means the Brussels summit takes places with this issue still not cleared up.

That decision followed the final comments from the group of right-wing Senators and lawyer representing President Klaus. The government’s Minister for European Affairs spoke in favour of the treaty.

Earlier, the senators presented their basic arguments that the Lisbon treaty infringes on the rights of independent states by, for example, widening the possibility for the EU to overrule national vetoes on certain areas. They said for instance that it aims to pave the way towards a common defence policy but say this is a basic task of national governments.

Pavel Rychetský,  photo: CTK
At the start of proceedings they tried to get the chairman of the court Pavel Rychetský excluded from the proceedings. They said he was compromised because he had met with the local German ambassador who was basically fishing for information about how quickly the court would take to decide. That complaint was quickly thrown out. They also introduced supplementary objections to add to their original complaint. President Klaus’ lawyer however called for the court to grasp the basic issue of whether the Czech Republic will be a sovereign state if the Lisbon treaty is passed and also questioned whether the EU would continue to be just an international organisation.”