Klaus signals he will not sign Lisbon Treaty


CZECH PRESIDENT Vaclav Klaus has signalled he will not sign the Lisbon treaty unless it is ratified by Ireland, even if his country's top court rules it is line with Czech law.

Mr Klaus made the comments ahead of a critical decision expected today from the Czech constitutional court on whether the treaty should be ratified by Czech politicians.

"Only afterwards it would be the presidential signature's turn. I have no reason to be another European to urge Ireland to do something. Simply, no change can occur without Ireland changing its position," said Mr Klaus yesterday in an interview where he also warned that the treaty would result in a "fatal restriction of the national sovereignty".

The comments came as French officials said they were working closely with the Government to fix a timetable for a new referendum on the treaty in Ireland in late 2009.

After a meeting between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris yesterday, a senior French official told reporters: "We hope that the Lisbon Treaty does not get delayed too much and we are therefore working with the Irish for a timetable [for a new vote] that will be fixed towards the end of 2009."

Mr Sarkozy said France and Germany were united on the need to get the Lisbon Treaty ratified in all 27 EU member states.

French officials believe the financial crisis could change Irish voters' opinion towards the treaty.

"All of a sudden Europe has become popular . . . We are stronger together," said the official, who noted that an EU declaration on issues of concern to Irish voters may help change their mind. "It will reassure them that the Lisbon Treaty has nothing to do with abortion, does not call into question their neutrality and does not raise any problems concerning tax," said the official, who did not want to be named.

The Government has so far refused to confirm whether it will put the Lisbon Treaty to a second vote but speculation is mounting in Brussels that Taoiseach Brian Cowen will tell EU leaders at a summit next month that October 2009 is a possible date.

Most senior EU officials and member states want the Government to act before a possible change of government in Britain, which could bring to power a eurosceptic Conservative government that may scrap the treaty altogether. There is also growing concern to get a commitment from Mr Cowen to hold another vote on Lisbon during the French presidency of the EU before the Czech Republic takes over the rotating presidency in January 2009.

The activities of the deeply eurosceptic Mr Klaus, and the controversy caused on his recent state visit to Ireland, have alarmed supporters of Lisbon, who fear the Czech president may plunge his country into a constitutional crisis to delay or defeat the treaty.

Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek has said his government would ratify the treaty early in the new year if the court rules it is line with the Czech constitution.

However it remains legally unclear if the presidential signature of Mr Klaus is required to complete the ratification process.