Treason? Politicians scrap over whether Klaus must sign Lisbon Treaty

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK

There was much rejoicing in Europe last week when Czech senators voted in favour of ratifying the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty, which aims to streamline the way the EU is run with 27 members. But many senators from the centre-right Civic Democratic Party voted against the treaty, and on Tuesday several of them met President Václav Klaus, who also opposes the document – and who must sign the treaty into law for ratification to be complete.

Three Civic Democratic senators went to see President Klaus on Tuesday and emerged afterwards to speak to waiting reporters. They told them they now had the required seventeen signatures necessary to send a new complaint over the Lisbon Treaty to the Constitutional Court. This they will do, they said, within two months.

President Klaus said shortly after the Senate voted in favour of ratification last week that he would not sign the treaty into law until the Court has ruled on any possible new legal challenge. So it seems very likely that the Czech Republic will not complete ratification any time soon.

The Constitutional Court already rejected one formal complaint last year. But that complaint addressed seven objections; Civic Democratic senators say they want the Court to examine the entire document, claiming it endangers Czech sovereignty and is therefore unconstitutional. That would take a very long time – the treaty contains 272 pages and weighs half a kilo.

Václav Klaus, photo: CTK
One of the senators - Jaroslav Kubera – was quoted in the newspaper Právo as saying “we’re in no hurry, and in private we’re saying to each other – let’s give the Irish a chance to reject it first. If this means we wait until after the summer holidays, who cares? At least it’ll make the boys in Brussels a bit nervous.”

As to whether President Klaus can withhold his signature indefinitely – that’s a question that’s exercising the minds of constitutional lawyers at the moment. The problem is the Constitution merely says ‘the President signs treaties that are ratified by parliament.’ It doesn’t say ‘the President must sign…’, or give a specific time limit.

One Social Democrat senator has said Mr Klaus could be tried for treason if he refuses to sign. There are perhaps not many who would agree with her, but certainly this issue of whether President Klaus has to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law is proving hugely divisive.