German leader Angela Merkel pushes for Lisbon treaty ratification during Prague visit

Angela Merkel and Mirek Topolánek, photo: CTK

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek told German leader Angela Merkel during her visit to Prague on Monday that the Czech Republic could ratify the Lisbon treaty by the end of the year: before the beginning of the country’s EU presidency. But the odds are now against Mr Topolánek, for whom the Lisbon treaty is just one of many battles.

Angela Merkel,  photo: CTK
Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Czech is not as good as it once was, her host, Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek had no trouble understanding what she had to say during her brief visit to Prague on Monday. Chancellor Merkel came to discuss the imminent Czech presidency of the European Union, and she had one clear message for Mr Topolánek: the Czech Republic is one of the few EU member states not to have ratified the Lisbon treaty, aimed at reforming the running of the 27-member bloc.

“We of course also talked about the fact that the Czech Republic will have the EU presidency in the next six months; I am looking forward to working with Mirek Topolánek and his government, as we have some important questions to deal with: for example the issue of the Croatian accession, the foreign relations of the European Union, and a common energy policy that should give Europe energy security. I hope that by this time, we will be able to say that the Lisbon treaty has already been ratified by the Czech Republic.”

Prime Minister Topolánek said the Lisbon treaty was a “painful compromise”, but he made it clear that by the time Czechs take over the EU, the Lisbon treaty should be out of the way.

“I assured the chancellor that the ratification process is not artificially obstructed in any way and that the process will be revived in both chambers of Parliament following the verdict of the Constitutional Court. I suppose that the ratification could be through by the end of the year.”

Angela Merkel and Mirek Topolánek,  photo: CTK
The Lisbon treaty is now being reviewed by the Constitutional Court to see whether it complies with Czech law. A verdict is expected in late November, and insiders say that anything but a positive ruling would come as a huge surprise. But it may not be Mr Topolánek who in the end oversees the ratification process, or even lead the country during the presidency. After the shattering defeat the Civic Democrats suffered in the recent regional elections, some critics within his party are already calling for his head. Pushing the Lisbon treaty through the Czech Parliament, without the support of his predominantly Euro-sceptic party, might be out of his reach. But Mr Topolánek believes he has already paid the price.

“Most of my colleagues who led their countries through the EU presidency ended up paying a high price by losing the next elections – Wolfgang Schüssel of Austria, for example, or Slovenia’s Janez Janša. Fortunately, this has already happened to me prior to the presidency, so I prepaid the price and I don’t have to worry about that.”