Czech Parliament opens debate on Lisbon Treaty

Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

The Czech Parliament on Wednesday opened debate on the Lisbon Treaty signed in December of 2007 by the EU’s 27 member states. The treaty replaces the controversial EU Constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005, and is expected to fundamentally alter the way the EU is run. Although Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek officially signed the document in Portugal last year, it is no secret that his Civic Democratic Party is far from happy with it. I asked political analyst Petr Just whether he anticipated problems in the course of its ratification.

Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
“It is obvious that the process of ratification by the Czech Parliament will be influenced by the fact that the strongest political party in government – the Civic Democratic Party – has adopted a cautious stand with regard to the treaty. It does not fully support it and we must take into account the fact that for example in the Senate the Civic Democrats have a majority which would enable them to stop or block its ratification. We know that the Civic Democrats want to ask the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic to asses whether the Lisbon Treaty is in accordance with the Czech legal system so it is obvious that even if the treaty is eventually ratified it would go through a revision process by the Constitutional Court.”

There is speculation that the Civic Democrats are trying to delay the treaty’s ratification so that when the Czech Republic takes up the EU presidency at the beginning of 2009 the EU would still be working according to the old rules – do you believe there is any truth in that?

“That is very rational thinking. Because if the treaty is not ratified by all member states by that time then it will be the Civic Democrats who will be chairing EU summits and high-level meetings. On the other hand, if the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect before the Czech presidency then all summits and top-level meetings would be chaired by the EU president and EU foreign minister. So it is rational and natural that the Civic Democrats are in no hurry to see the new treaty ratified.”

Could that hurt the Czech Republic’s image?

“It could. I have heard that some EU politicians are eager to speed up the treaty’s ratification in order to curb the influence of President Klaus during the Czech Republic’s EU presidency, because they are afraid that his Euro-skeptic position could somehow block the EUs decision-making processes. So the interests of the Civic Democratic Party and those of the European Union are in conflict here.”