Wednesday 10 December 2008

Lisbon Treaty: Czech mates

The Parliament of the Czech Republic has voted to postpone the ratification debate on the EU Treaty of Lisbon until 3 February 2009.

EurActiv in the article ‘Czechs postpone Lisbon Treaty vote’ cites Prime Minister Mirek Topolaneks difficulties in keeping his largely eurosceptic ODS (Civic Democrat) party together after a divisive leadership contest and the exit of founder Vaclav Klaus, currently President of the Republic:

Jean Quatremer of the excellent Coulisses de Bruxelles blog quotes Prime Minister Topolanek holding the Lisbon Treaty hostage to a “truce” to be negotiated with the opposition pro-EU Social Democrats for the duration of the six month Czech EU Council Presidency starting on 1 January 2009. The blog post ‘Lisbonne: nouveau pas de deux tchĂ©que’ can be found here:


Regardless of the combined reasons, which are purely domestic, we can be assured that the Czech Prime Minister and the Czech Parliament are the only ones among their peers in 27 member states to have made a deliberate decision to disregard the target date of 1 January 2009 set in unison by the member states’ governments for the Lisbon Treaty to enter into force.

The Czech Republic may be as competent as any other member state drawn by lot to chair the Council, but Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek for domestic reasons and President Vaclav Klaus by his disregard for his European partners have set the tone for the Czech Council Presidency and laid the foundations for their country’s reputation in Europe.

I sometimes wonder at the class of hero the anti-EU has to adulate, given the dearth of uplifting choices.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Very well said.

    I think the day they're taking over I'll write a EU-presidency-protest-post and will not link any of their websites throughout the presidency. I hope at least Sweden will finalize the process before they're taking over afterwards.

  2. I just noticed that Sweden has deposited already. So at least they're done now.

  3. They have waited the end of the year, planning this trick out of fear that the Irish voted yes.
    Now that their accursed Presidency is safe, why waiting anymore? Just to give the wonderful show of a continent held to ransom by its President, I suppose.

    On the Berlaymont side, I've read that Barroso is supporting the Irish diktat of keeping one commissioner per state. Next time we hear about commissioners with fictional portfolios, we will know who to blame.

    We have got two states that are bullying a continent, not the other way round.
    At this point, I grow more and more convinced that breaking the Union is the only way out.
    Best regards,

  4. European Union Law blog and Igor,

    Thank you for your comments. Still a week ago or so, I believed that the Czech Parliament would ratify the Lisbon Treaty speedily having had the questions of the Senate cleared by the Constitutional Court.

    Then came President Klaus reaffirming his contempt for the European Parliament and the snippets of information that the Lower House would postpone ratification.

    As you say, Igor, the rest of the EU is held at ransom, but the member states have themselves designed the 'liberum veto' which invites obstruction.

    A democratic system functions on the basis of majorities (simple or qualified), but it makes progress possible.

    Correction: I was a bit hasty when writing the post, so I forgot to mention the agreement on US radar bases to be stationed on Czech soil. In other words, there are other reasons in addition to the purely domestic ones.

  5. Igor,

    The Czechs did not need to postpone the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty to be able to bask in the glory of a Council Presidency, because the Irish electors regaled them with the Presidency.

    The irony is that the Czech Presidency begins to look more ignominous than glorious each day, even before it has started.

    European Union Law Blog,

    You have always been a stickler for the final deposition of the ratification instruments.

    Three weeks ahead of the agreed target date, we seem to have the following situation:

    Germany's Parliament has approved, but the Constitutional Court is taking its time.

    Poland's Parliament has approved, but President Kaczynski continues to obstruct.

    The Czech Lower House has deliberately postponed approval until long after the agreed target date and the Senate is expected to debate the same issue soon. Even after possible parliamentary approval we don't know what President Klaus is going to do.

    The Irish mess will or won't be sorted out by a second referendum. The outcome is anybody's guess.

    The rest of the European Union is held to ransom.

    These are the consequences of unanimity rules. The obstructionists rejoice and profit, with Polish history the prime example of the 'liberum veto'.

  6. Well before the Irish referendum there were rumours about Czechs delaying ratification to safeguard the precious Presidency. Surely a rumour is no evidence, but...

    Hopefully the Eu will not disappear from the map, as happened to Poland, but the liberum veto is condemning it to irrelevance. And its member states with it.

  7. The treaties governing the European Union have always been approved on the basis of unanimous ratification and the Treaty of Lisbon is no exception. Any other route would be preposterous. Member States might otherwise be bound by rules to which they had not consented.

    Within the set rules to which they have consented, decisions may be taken by QMV i.e. they may be outvoted, but subject to a well-tried system of checks and balances and the possibility of ultimate arbitration by the ECJ.

    The Treaty of Lisbon is slowly wending its way towards the necessary unanimous ratification. The hiccups on the route will be of no relevance unless they scupper the entire undertaking, which I doubt.

    Domestic political antics, whether in Prague or Dublin, have little bearing on the multi-lateral activities taking place in Brussels. Either the Czechs provide adequate chairmen (about 15ministers and plus or minus 300 civil servants)or they do not.

    Like Presidencies before them, the Czechs are a proud people and they will do their job, aided by a strong bureaucratic apparatus which has seen presidencies come and presidencies go for the past 50years.

  8. Anonymous,

    A more effective and legitimate union would be founded on its citizens, so in my humble opinion it is far from preposterous to point out the consequences of the layers of unanimity rules.

    Like Igor said, the liberum veto is condemning the EU to irrelevance. And its member states with it.

    So 'antics' in member states' capitals have severe repercussions for the European Union as a whole.

    What we know for sure is that the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has been delayed.

    Regardless of what you choose to believe, we ko not know if the Lisbon Treaty is going to enter into force.

    You are convinced that the Council can continue to arrange deck chairs in relative peace and quiet irrespective of where the vessel is heading or if the crew members are incapacitated. A comforting thought.

  9. It seems ever more likely that the Elector Princes are giving in to the Continental Bully.
    One commissioner per member state will be the price for a referendum rerun.
    Any comparison to previous Danish/British/Irish/Polish opt-outs is misgiven. These opt-out don't prevent the others to move on. It's the Luxembourg Compromise that is brought back...

  10. Igor,

    I agree with the general drift of what you say.

    The opt-outs have generally left the fringe members outside policy areas and with no voice or a reduced voice in these matters.

    Giving in to Ireland on the number of Commission members affects them all, although there have been misgivings in both bigger and smaller member states.

    Still, it is perhaps a bit harsh to compare with de Gaulle's boycott of the European Economic Community, although he remains a prime example of what a 'Europe of nations' boils down to, even at a time when there were only six member states.

    With 27 member states (and more lining up) it is glaringly obvious that the European Union needs a different set of rules: effective and democratic.


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