Czech Senate approves Lisbon but Klaus holding out over putting signature to ratification

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

The Czech Senate approved the Lisbon treaty in a vote on Wednesday afternoon, some two months after the document was ratified by the lower house of Parliament. The Czech Republic is one of the last countries in Europe to vote on the reform document, and its ratification is far from complete, with eurosceptic president Vaclav Klaus still having to sign the document.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Wednesday’s session of the Czech Senate saw hours of debate but the actual vote on the EU’s Lisbon treaty went quickly. Senators first followed the same approach as the lower house and approved a modified mandate for the government, making sure no extra powers can be handed to the EU without Parliament’s consent. This was a condition set by the largest party in Parliament, the Civic Democrats, for their support of the document.

The outgoing prime minister, Mirek Topolánek, then urged Senators to vote for the ratification; he pointed out that with the Lisbon treaty in force, it would be harder to pursue Czech interests in the EU. Its rejection by the Czechs would, however, make that impossible. Referring to the fact that his government fell in a no-confidence vote in the middle of the Czech EU presidency, he said the country could not afford another embarrassment on the European stage.

Alexandr Vondra,  photo: CTK
The supporters of the Lisbon treaty needed 48 votes for ratification in the 81-seat Senate. In the end, 54 Senators supported the motion. The deputy prime minister for European affairs, Alexandr Vondra, said he considered the outcome of the vote rewarding for the outgoing government.

But the ratification does not end there; the treaty has to be signed by the president, Václav Klaus. And Mr Klaus, known around the EU as a fierce opponent of the document, was quick to make clear that the ratification process is far from over. Just an hour after the vote, President Václav appeared live on TV, saying that for him, the document is dead because it was rejected by a referendum in Ireland. Until then, he said, he had no intention to determine whether or not he will sign it.

He also welcomed the plan of several eurosceptic senators who intend to once again petition the Czech Constitutional Court to review if the Lisbon treaty is in line with Czech law. Last year, it took the court five months to rule that seven of the treaty’s articles did comply with the Czech constitution.

Mr Vondra and other senators said they believed that the president simply cannot ignore the fact that the treaty has been ratified in Parliament, and will eventually sign it as well.