Klaus calls Lisbon Treaty ratification "probably unstoppable"

Just last week President Václav Klaus was not budging in his opposition to the Lisbon Treaty. The mountain of pressure he is under from virtually all corners found him at the weekend allowing for the first time that Lisbon was at this stage probably unstoppable. - It now appears that if he does get his country an exemption from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, he may eventually sign the treaty, allowing its ratification across the European Union.

Speaking to the daily Lidové Noviny at the weekend, President Klaus called ratification “a train that could neither be stopped nor turned around as much as he may like it to.” It may well be the case that pressure from all sides has now reached a tipping point: after all, Mr Klaus truly is the last man standing in this case, the sole person blocking ratification of the EU’s reform treaty. 26 out of 27 have signed on, and the Czech Republic is the only country left. In the weekend interview, Mr Klaus stressed that while he does not think Lisbon a good thing for Europe, or for the Czech Republic, or for freedom in general, things had probably gone too far by this point to stop them. As it stands it appears he will sign, but, of course, he is still holding out for guarantees exempting the Czech Republic from the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. He was seeking these to ensure property claims issues could not be reopened, claims dating back to the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II.

With regards to having those conditions met, the Czech government is to begin negotiating the issue with EU officials. At the weekend, Germany’s EU Commissioner Guther Verhoegen said that EU countries now had to look seriously at the issue to see if and how the condition could be met. There is a chance that the opt-out to the Lisbon treaty will not need to be re-negotiated among all member states. Mr Klaus too indicated that such a deal, similar to the guarantees given to Ireland ahead of its second referendum, would suffice.

There are still a lot of “ifs” remaining for the treaty to be ratified by the end of the year, as the Czech government has pledged. For one, the Czech Constitutional Court still has to rule that the document is in line with Czech constitutional law – that decision is expected to come soon, and in all likelihood to uphold the document. Another potential complication that came to light at the weekend is that if the Czech Republic is to be granted an exemption, neighbouring Slovakia, which has a shared history, will want the same. These, however, are not seen as major hurdles: the main one, as we stated earlier, if and when the president signs. Should he refuse to do so at that point, the government has reportedly prepared another course of action: asking the Constitutional Court to strip the president of his right to ratify international treaties, and transfer these powers onto the prime minister. Again, the president seems to be reconciling himself with the fact that the game is more or less up - even conceding that ratification will not be the end of the world. That isn’t a lot for EU reformers to take to the bank, but some slight light at the end of a long tunnel.