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3. 10. 2009 8:22

Czechs urge EU to be patient

Irish Times; JAMIE SMYTH in Brussels

The Czech government has moved to reassure its EU partners that it is committed to ratifying the Lisbon Treaty in spite of the continuing opposition of its Eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus.

However it has also warned the Union not to exert any public pressure on the country to ratify the treaty as this could prove “counterproductive”.

“Unlike in Ireland where the question is Yes or No, in the Czech Republic it is simply a matter of when,” Stefan Fule, Czech European affairs minister told EU ambassadors in Prague at a private briefing yesterday to coincide with the Irish vote.

“Any direct pressure on the institutions involved in the last stage of the ratification process [constitutional court or president] could be unconstructive and indeed counterproductive,” he added.

He said it was the government’s intention to complete the ratification process so the Lisbon Treaty could enter into force by the end of the year.

“I assure you on behalf of the government, that we have no second thoughts about the faith of the treaty,” said Mr Fule, who asked EU states to be patient and not get involved in the internal Czech debate on the treaty.

A group of Czech senators close to Mr Klaus this week lodged a new legal challenge against the treaty to the Czech constitutional court.

This has prompted Mr Klaus to say he will not sign the treaty to complete ratification until the final judgment of the court is delivered. Mr Klaus hopes the court will delay ratification until a Conservative government is elected in Britain.

Tory leader David Cameron has promised a referendum on the treaty if it is not in force if he wins the next election, which is scheduled for next spring.

Mr Klaus told Czech television yesterday he would be “pleased” if the Irish voted against the treaty yesterday. He said even if the Irish voted Yes, he would wait until the Czech constitutional court made its ruling before signing.

The court has said it will conduct an urgent review of the latest appeal, which alleges the treaty would turn the EU into a “superstate”.

It remains unclear though whether this will take a matter of weeks or months.

Mr Fule told ambassadors that the court had indicated that within three weeks, it would make public the date of its deliberation on the petition.

“I am confident that the guardian of constitutionality will come to a speedy decision, thus paving the way for the president’s signature,” said Mr Fule, according to briefing notes of the meeting obtained by The Irish Times.

The Czech government is acutely aware of the potential damage to its reputation in Europe caused by the delay in ratifying the treaty. However the current government is only an interim administration staffed with civil servants rather than politicians, which further complicates the issue.

Mr Fule told ambassadors that the Czech government viewed ratification of the treaty as a matter of credibility, responsibility and national interest.

“Rest assured that we are well aware of our responsibilities and more importantly we are prepared to honour them, as it was always the case in the past,” he said.

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