Friday, 9 October 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: Czech constitutional crisis

More than two years after the beginning of the negotiations on the EU Lisbon Treaty, President Vaclav Klaus has suddenly repudiated the Czech government and parliament, by demanding an exemption from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.



Klaus’ 10 October 2009 statement refers to only one concrete fear – property which belonged to ethnic Germans expelled after WW2 – but his reference to Britain and Poland indicates that he desires a total opt-out from the Charter.

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British and Polish opt-out

The United Kingdom and Poland negotiated an opt-out from the EU Charter. It is enshrined in Protocol (No 30) attached to the Lisbon Treaty, and these are treaty level provisions.

By this disgraceful act, these countries manifested their lack of commitment to the fundamental rights of EU citizens.

The indignities committed during and after the Second World War have seemingly now started to haunt President to such an extent that he wants to scrap the whole Charter with regard to Czech nationals.

A change in this respect would require treaty level change and approval by all member states, including ratification.

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Czech constitutional crisis

The Czech Republic is already in a state of political crisis, with a caretaker government.

President Klaus has been elected by the parliament. His refusal to sign the ratification instrument has been a simmering constitutional crisis, which is now in the hands of the Czech Constitutional Court.

An acute constitutional crisis sprung from President Klaus’ sudden, but unspecified new demands yesterday. Today he has given them more exact contents, which widely overshoot the cause he mentions.

In short, President Klaus rejects the Lisbon Treaty as negotiated by the EU member states, including the Czech government. He repudiates the Lisbon Treaty, as approved by the Czech parliament.

The government and the parliament have seemingly been unaware of President Klaus’ designs. The Czech constitutional system is now in a state of deep crisis.

What are the government and the parliament going to do, at a time when the whole European Union impatiently waits to get the Lisbon Treaty into force and the EU institutions up and running?

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EU member states

The EU member states, guided by the Swedish Presidency of the EU Council, are now in the unenviable position to try to find out what the Czech Republic wants.

Although President Klaus holds the pen for the signature, which should be a formality, he has but expressed an opinion.

The EU member states expect that the government communicates the views and the intended actions of the Czech Republic.

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet.


Ralf Grahn