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21. 6. 2007 14:49

Statement by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on the session of the European Council

The Czech Government, and I personally, attach paramount importance to the forthcoming deliberations of the European Council in Brussels. The main item on the agenda will be a search for agreement regarding a reform of EU institutions. Consensus needs to be achieved quickly if the European Union is to be able to solve specific problems which worry citizens, and avoid losing itself in debates the sense of which people do not comprehend.

I believe that the Summit will lead to an agreement, to which we are prepared to contribute in a constructive way. My optimism stems from the fact that in recent months, the debate in which we, too, have been actively participating has markedly progressed. Discussions about European Constitution have ceased, and the view (which we have been holding since the beginning) has prevailed that in reforming European institutions, the standard method of amending existing treaties should be applied. This should help us to avoid problematic issues and introduce the minimally necessary institutional changes making further EU enlargement possible still before the elections to the European Parliament. We want to be active, constructive, but at the same time consistent.

In Brussels we will also pursue our national objective, namely to uphold the principle of the so-called two-way flexibility. This is a mechanism which allows for the return of authority from Brussels to individual member state in case it proves to be more effective. This possibility is already being taken into account, and our aim is to achieve a specification of the conditions under which it could be done.

We are also prepared to support a series of other proposals presented by other countries. They include the Dutch “orange card”, which involves reinforcement of the role of national parliaments. In specific terms, its adoption would mean that a certain “blocking minority” of national parliaments would have the possibility effectively to influence the adoption of European legislation.

We also support the Polish initiative for a change of the voting practice in EU bodies. The voting system proposed by Poland is better for countries such as the Czech Republic than that defined in the European Constitution, which reduced our “voting weight” by one-third. Backing the Polish proposal however is not our national priority. The Czech coalition government has not given me the mandate to veto agreement should the Polish proposal not be accepted.

We are ready to use our right of veto in two cases. Firstly, if someone tried to re-open discussions about a document which would include constitutional and quasi-state elements, and as such would not be a treaty amended in a standard manner. And secondly, if it appeared during the deliberations that individual states are to be granted exclusive, permanent exceptions (so-called opt-outs) from EU policies. Our opinion is that the possibility of obtaining permanent exceptions should either be opened to all or denied everybody.

I do not even contemplate the possibility that the negotiations might fail. Personally I will do everything in my power to prevent a situation leading to Poland’s isolation and threatening that the right of veto will be used. As a result of the negotiations, and the danger of failure of an institutional reform, the position of the member countries has shifted to such a degree that our standpoint currently is in fact a mainstream one.

In the course of the German presidency of the European Union, a number of our requirements have been directly incorporated into the wording of the conclusions adopted by the European Council. They include in particular the requirement that instead of a constitution, an institutional reform conducted in the standard manner of amending existing treaties be discussed. Quasi-state symbolism has disappeared from the text as well.

The Czech Republic fully supports the intention of the German presidency to complete the institutional reform by the end of 2008, that means still before the elections to European Parliament in 2009. We are leaving for Brussels with the aim to contribute to a consensus, and I believe that our position in the main stream of current European thinking gives us a wide manoeuvring space for achieving it.

Mirek Topolánek
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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