Klaus demands EU opt outs


The Czech president explained his terms today for signing the European Union's Lisbon reform treaty, demanding a Czech opt-out on a charter on human rights that is part of the treaty, a senior EU official said.

President Vaclav Klaus will be the last EU leader holding out against ratifying the treaty, intended to increase the EU's global clout, once the Polish president signs it into law.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek met Klaus one day after the Czech leader told the EU's Swedish presidency he would sign the treaty if it is cleared by the Czech Constitutional Court and a footnote is added on human rights.

"I understood that that his request is getting for the Czech Republic a similar arrangement (to) ... Poland and Great Britain in the ratification of the charter of fundamental rights," Mr Buzek told reporters.

The treaty gives binding force to an existing Charter of Fundamental Rights in all member states except Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs.

Britain did not want provisions such as a broadly defined right to strike, the subject of bitter labour conflicts in the 1980s, to be imposed on it from outside.

Poland wanted to ensure that the EU does not force it to change its laws on family and morality, such as on abortion.

EU diplomats familiar with the bloc's legal process said the Czech government, not Mr Klaus, could ask the EU's 27 leaders to approve a so-called "political declaration" at a summit this month which could be attached to the treaty.

This would be similar to the legal guarantees given to Ireland after it rejected the treaty in June 2008.

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said today he had no details on Mr Klaus's demands. Mr Klaus's office said the president would hold a news conference at 2pm (Irish time).