Czech president’s position on Lisbon hard for Brussels to comprehend, says Czech Radio correspondent

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

If the Czech Constitutional Court finds that the EU’s Lisbon treaty is in line with Czech law, the country’s president, Václav Klaus, would have to sign ratification, bringing the document into effect for the whole of Europe. But on Friday Mr Klaus made international headlines when he said he would only do so on one condition: that a special guarantee is included, preventing any possible property claims from ethnic Germans expelled from Bohemia and Moravia after WWII. So, how is the rest of the EU reacting to this latest move on the part of the Eurosceptic Czech president? That’s a question Radio Prague put to Czech Radio’s correspondent in Brussels, Ondřej Houska.

“The situation in the Czech Republic is clearly a major issue here in Brussels right now. The EU has been discussing the reform of its institutions for some eight years right now, and everybody would like to see the end of the process.

Photo: European Commission
“You can say yes to the Lisbon treaty, you can say no to it. But nobody understands how it is possible that the legitimately elected Czech Parliament ratifies the treaty, and one person – the president – refuses to sign it.

“So no one understands the stance of the Czech Republic and I think that the worst that can happen to an EU member state is that you are seen as an unreliable partner, and that’s what the Czech Republic is right now.”

So would you say that the perception of Václav Klaus as a troublemaker in Brussels has extended to the whole country?

“Of course. The image of the Czech Republic has worsened considerably this year. It was the fall of the government in the middle of the Czech EU presidency – that’s not something you could expect would strengthen the position and the role of a member state inside the EU.”

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Do people understand the motivation of Václav Klaus? Do your colleagues from European media ask you about what he wants?

“No, no-one really understands what’s going on in the Czech Republic and the conditions our president is pushing for. I think that they realize this is Mr Klaus establishing his power domestically.”

So what’s the plan of action? What do EU officials suggest is done concerning the ratification of the treaty in the Czech Republic? Is it just sit and wait whether Mr Klaus sings it?

“According to some comments by high-profile diplomats, I think that right now, everybody’s waiting for the Czech government and its stance towards the move of Mr Klaus. Everybody’s waiting for the decision of Prime Minister, Jan Fischer. Tomorrow, the prime minister will come here to Brussels to discuss the process with the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. I really think that Brussels cannot do much.

“Perhaps before the EU summit at the end of October, we can expect some kind proposal. But now, everybody has to wait to see how the Czech government will react to the president because it’s also hard to understand here in Brussels how it is possible that the cabinet is on the defensive vis-à-vis President Klaus. Theoretically, the government should have played a more assertive role in foreign policy.”