The European Council has accepted the demands of Czech President Vaclav Klaus to include an opt-out from the application of the Charter of fundamental rights of the European Union. The opt-out will be included at a later stage in the Treaty of Lisbon.
Now we are waiting for the decision of the Czech Constitutional Court that may come on November, 3rd.
There is mounting pressure on the Czech President Vaclav Klaus to sign ratification papers for the Treaty of Lisbon. Klaus has argued that he cannot sign now due to the new pending appeal at the Czech Constitutional Court.
Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita says (via Euractiv) that the Czech Republic could receive an influential post in the new European Commission in exchange for President Klaus’s signature. Poland itself is expected to finalize ratification shortly.
In any case it seems unlikely that the ratification process will end before November, 1st.
Tomorrow the people in Ireland shall decide the faith of the Treaty of Lisbon.
But it does not end there. Seventeen Czech senators have filed a second complaint against the Lisbon Treaty with the Constitutional Court in Prague. They say that the Irish guarantees have a character of additional clauses to the Lisbon treaty and the guarantees of keeping a commissioner for Ireland in particular is a clear amendment to the Lisbon treaty.
At the same time Mirek Topolanek, a former Czech PM said after a meeting with Jose Manuel Barroso that “if the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified because of President Klaus’ refusal to sign, the European Commission will be reduced”, leaving the Czech Republic without a commissioner.
This may well be true. But we still need a unanimous decision by the Council under the Treaty of Nice to stipulate rules for a “rotation system based on the principle of equality”.
Given the new procedure before the Czech Constitutional Court it may be reasonable to start negotiations now.
The United States have decided not to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says a U.S. decision to shelve plans for a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland “is a positive step.”
This may well be true. Experts have long ago warned that missile defense is a highly political exercise with many technical challenges.
This leaves, however, the question about the US involvement in Eastern Europe open. Not long ago a group of intellectuals and former political leaders from Eastern Europe warned that Russia’s creeping intimidation and influence-peddling could over time lead to a de facto neutralization of the region.
We know that the US currently considers Russia an important partner, but also serious threat for US interests. We also know that there are expert calls for intensified US consultations with Russia as yet another European state.
This leaves the European Union in a precarious position of diverging interests and bilateral agreements. Yet some experts say that a focused and engaged neighbourhood policy is the most important tool for protecting EU interests. This resonates with the claim that the US will confront Moscow over its attempts to create a ‘sphere of influence’ in Eastern Europe.
The Czech Republic has notified the Council of the EU of the unilateral imposition of a visa regime for Czech citizens by Canada. An interesting observation in the notification is that “the visa reciprocity is considered to be a very sensitive issue even on the top political level”.
The Czech Senate has approved the Treaty of Lisbon with 54 approving and 20 against. Now the Czech President Vaclav Klaus must sign the ratification law; but this is unlikely to happen before some clarity over Ireland (Polish President Kaczynski has also delayed signing the ratification papers).
This is indeed good news, for the Czech Senate was a real obstacle to the ratification process; however, this is not the end of the saga.
The Czech government lost a confidence vote in the lower house of the Czech parliament. Now the Czech President Klaus should start consultations to nominate a new government. This may be quite difficult, since the lower house is split between rivaling parties.
EurActiv reminds us that this is not a precedent – the government of a country presiding the Council has fallen twice before – in 1993 in Denmark and in 1996 in Italy. From a legal point of view there is nothing to worry about. However, today the European Union needs really strong leadership, and the Czech government in resignation may not be able to provide that leadership.
I am personally most worried about the possible implications on the Czech ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon.