EU leaders pressing Klaus to ratify Lisbon Treaty


EUROPEAN UNION leaders are cranking up the pressure on Czech president Vaclav Klaus to sign the Lisbon Treaty after his Polish counterpart finally ratified the document.

Poland’s president Lech Kaczynski signed the treaty on Saturday, leaving the Czech Republic as the only one of the EU’s 27 members which has yet to fully approve a charter that is intended to streamline the bloc’s decision-making and give it a long-term president and stronger foreign policy chief.

Mr Klaus fears the treaty will transfer too much power from national governments to Brussels.

He wants a special exemption for his country from possible claims for property that belonged to the three million Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after the second World War.

Mr Klaus also insists that he cannot sign the treaty until the Czech constitutional court rules on a last-ditch query on its legality filed by Mr Klaus’s eurosceptic allies. Both houses of the Czech parliament have already approved the treaty.

“The EU remains a union of nation states, a strict union, and let it remain so . . . Within a union of sovereign states we will achieve increasing successes,” Mr Kaczynski, another strong eurosceptic, said after signing the treaty in the presidential palace in Warsaw.

“Today the EU has 27 members, and I’m convinced that we haven’t finished yet – Croatia will definitely join us shortly, but it mustn’t be the last country to do so,” he said.

“There’s also Ukraine, Georgia, and in the future there’ll be others, too. The EU can’t say no to them.”

European leaders were quick to congratulate Mr Kaczynski and urge Mr Klaus to follow his lead as soon as possible.

“Today, the signature of president Kaczynski brings us one step closer . . . However, the Czech Republic still needs to complete the steps, with the signature by president Klaus,” said Fredrik Reinfeldt, prime minister of Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“Europe eagerly awaits this happening,” he added. “We do not need more delays.”

France’s foreign and European ministers said in a joint statement that Mr Kaczynski’s signature “marks a new step that brings us closer still to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, which we hope will be as quick as possible, before the end of the year as committed to by the 27 [members]”.

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi added: “The treaty has now been ratified by 26 member states, so we are very close to our goal.

“It must take effect by the end of the year for Europe to become stronger and more efficient.”

Czech prime minister Jan Fischer and senior EU officials have said they believe that the treaty will be ratified this year, despite Mr Klaus’ demand for a Czech opt-out on parts of the charter of fundamental rights, which will become binding once the treaty is passed.

Britain and Poland secured certain formal exemptions from the charter, but EU officials hoped Mr Klaus might settle for a less legally complicated “political declaration” on the matter by EU leaders, which could be attached to the treaty without altering its text.

Ireland was satisfied with such a solution to its own demands on issues including neutrality, abortion and taxation.

However, an aide to Mr Klaus said this would not satisfy the notoriously stubborn Czech leader, who has compared the workings of the EU to those of the Soviet Union.

“This [Irish way] seems to me as an absolutely impossible way forward,” said Mr Klaus’s aide Ladislav Jakl.

“The president will not be satisfied by any declaration, but only guarantees for every citizen. For him, this condition is fundamental, necessary, unbreachable.”