Czech Court Lifts Last Barrier to EU’s Lisbon Treaty

By Jana Mlcochova | November 4, 2009

The Czech Constitutional Court threw out a complaint against the EU’s Lisbon Treaty on Tuesday, removing one of the final obstacles to its ratification.

The ruling allows euro-sceptic President Vaclav Klaus to sign the treaty, which will give the EU its first long-term president and streamline decision-making in the bloc of nearly half a billion people.

The Czech Republic is the only EU member that has not yet ratified the pact, which needs the consent of all of 27 states to come into force. [IJ Note: Later reports state that Klaus has in fact already signed the Treaty, shortly after the court’s decision was announced].

“I believe that no further unnecessary delays should prevent the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement, adding that he hoped the EU could move forward as quickly as possible on nominating a long-term president.

Klaus had been banned by law from signing the treaty until the court had ruled on a complaint by his allies in the Czech upper house of parliament, the Senate, who argued the treaty would erode national sovereignty.

The court rejected the arguments. “The judgment was unanimous; none of the judges filed a dissenting opinion to either the judgment or its reasoning,” the court said in a written verdict.

The treaty is aimed at giving the EU a bigger clout on the world scene and making it more flexible. This is intended to match the rise of emerging powers such as China.

The Czech parliament has approved the pact but Klaus long argued against it, saying it would turn the EU into a super state with little democratic control.

However, Klaus said he would raise no further obstacles to the document after EU leaders agreed last week to give the Czechs an opt-out from a rights charter attached to the treaty. Klaus says the exemption is necessary to avoid property claims by Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War Two.

“It is now time surely that the European Union moves on, not talking about the institutional arrangements for years ahead, but talking about the vital problems that all of us face — and that is creating jobs, creating growth, building a safer and more secure environment and building greater security for European people,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

His comments were echoed by European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek. “The final hurdle has been cleared for Klaus to sign and finalize ratification. The treaty should now enter into force by the end of the year,” he told Reuters after the court ruling.

“Due legal process has been accomplished, the Czechs have been assured of their opt-outs and we look forward now to the implementation of the treaty,” he said. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer welcomed the verdict and said he expected Klaus to sign now.

If Klaus signs the treaty within a couple of weeks, as expected, it will come into force by the end of the year, turning attention to who will be the EU’s first president.

EU leaders failed to agree at their summit last week in Brussels on who should take the job, whose powers are still somewhat unclear, and a special summit may be needed to reach a deal.

The chances of the once-favored candidate, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, seem doomed after he failed to win an endorsement from the European Socialists, his Labour Party’s allies.

No front-runner has emerged, but possible contenders include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

(Writing by Jan Lopatka, Editing by Andrew Roche/David Stamp)

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