Tuesday 23 June 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: Spectre of Vaclav Klaus

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of Vaclav Klaus.

The Czech Republic has a problem, which has become a European embarrassment. His name is Vaclav Klaus, and he was elected for a second term as President in 2008 by the Czech Parliament. According to the Wikipedia article on Vaclav Klaus, his term ends on 6 March 2013.

Klaus defies overwhelming scientific and political opinion on global warming, and he wants to dismantle the European Union.

The Treaty of Lisbon has been agreed by 27 member state governments and approved by 26 national parliaments including the Czech one, but Klaus stubbornly refuses to sign the ratification instrument. His arguments are rubbish, but he has signalled that in reality he waits for a British referendum to sink the Lisbon Treaty.

The consequences of multiple unanimity rules and ratification by all member states are clearly visible, but the member states have to think about damage limitation and the future of European integration.

The first question goes to the Czech government, because the Czech President and the Czech Constitution are Czech-made problems: What can the Czech government and parliament do and what will they do to break the deadlock in order to secure the timely formal ratification?

If the Czech constitutional and political machinery is unable or unwilling to conclude the ratification procedure, their European embarrassment becomes a serious European problem.

Option 1: Do nothing

The EU member states can conclude that the European Union they have built is beyond reform. Even if they reach timid unanimous agreements on treaty reform, sheer numbers in an enlarged union will practically guarantee that there is perverse opposition in at least one member state, probably more. The Treaty of Nice would remain the crowning achievement of European integration. Politically, the enlargement process could be halted in perpetuity, but it would not improve the existing EU.

Option 2: New union

Old stumbling blocks: In a week we are going to know if the German Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has ruled that the Lisbon Treaty is compatible with the Constitution. In less than four months Ireland has voted for the amending treaty having received assurances from all member states. Soon after that it will be clear if the Polish President Lech Kaczynski has completed formal ratification.

New hurdles: We will also know the results of the general election in the United Kingdom and the colour of its new government. The British parliament will probably have started the debate on the Tory government’s referendum bill.

If the rest of the member states are not content to continue on the basis of the Nice Treaty, they have to consider other options.

The only realistic alternative seems to be a new union, leaving the rejectionists behind. There are least two different scenarios.

The new European Union could be formed quickly by the member states, which approve the Lisbon Treaty without the requirement for ratification by all. This closer union could then convene a convention to prepare further reform towards a more effective and democratic union.

A second scenario would be to start by calling a new convention, but it would be encumbered by the rejectionists and in the end they would not agree on and ratify a true reform treaty anyway. In practice, this alternative would be a waste of time, as shown by the tortuous reform road since the Nice Treaty.


If the core member states of the European Union stand up to Vaclav Klaus and the other rejectionists, he has (unintentionally) set in motion a process leading to a more effective and democratic European Union, without the Czech Republic and Britian, perhaps a few more.

The next months will tell if the European leaders have the resolve to separate the wheat from the chaff, or if they opt for immobility.

For the rejectionists, the proposed path should come as a blessing. They would be able to negotiate the looser relationship they want, but they would not harm the rest of Europe.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Klaus defies overwhelming scientific and political opion on global warming.

    Where do you get the overwhelming evidence from. I know of several thousands of scientists that disagree with the so called evidence.
    As this man says:-
    ‘Global warming’ has become the
    grand political narrative of the age, replacing Marxism as a dominant force for controlling
    liberty and human choices. --
    Prof. P. Stott.
    Manager of Understanding and
    Attributing Climate Change at the
    Hadley Centre for Climate Change
    at the UK Met Office.

  2. Rayatcov,

    If the 'communis opinio' of scientists and politicians is as massive as indicated by your witness, you have no problems finding the evidence, with the climate deal coming up.

    But this is a nice illustration of why unanimity and 'liberum veto' are not viable in a political union such as the EU.

  3. It is clear that the euro-nationalists are not interested in Vaclev Klaus’ views on climate change, except as a stick with which to beat for opposing EU federalism. They regard his dissent as a treason which is not to be tolerated.

    The game is very nearly over for the Euro federalists now. If the UK or Ireland pull out on democracy grounds (or are thrown out for dissent) then it becomes clear to the rest that the rump EU would be a de facto dictatorship. It then becomes very unlikely that any nation would be willing to follow the federalist die-hards in Berlin, Paris or Brussels into a union where it is abundantly clear to all in advance that dissent is not tolerated, that democracy has been reduced to a questions for which only one answer is acceptable.

    We are witnessing the return in of the old disease of the lust for power at any cost in a new institutional guise in Brussels.

    “4. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

    Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world.”

    (Umberto Eco, ’14 ways of looking at a blackshirt’)

  4. Freeborn John,

    The United Kingdom has been a proponent of ineffective intergovernmental cooperation at least since the establishment of the OEEC and the Council of Europe.

    Intergovernmental cooperation is basically rooted in unanimity, leading to lowest common denominator solutions.

    Britain's role in the European Union has been to stand on the brake rather than develop the EU towards European level democracy, based on the citizens.

    De Gaulle was right about Britain being unsuited for the then EEC and Euratom (because it was like himself ideologically).

    Should Britain exit the European Union, the chances for an effective and democratic union would improve, although it is quite an exaggeration to call the governments in Berlin, Paris or elsewhere federalist diehards.

    Representative democracy at European level is far from fascism or any other totalitarian ideology.

    After sixty years of British involvement in European integration I think it would be better for the European Union if the UK seceded.

    If Britain, in a democratic manner, leaves the EU, it would then be able to shape its own destiny without doing harm to the EU.

    Scientific truth has to be tested continuously, but governments have to act according to established facts. Do you really believe that the United Nations should scrap the views of the scientific community in favour of any crank you happen to prefer as a "dissident".

  5. Fair play to Klaus for being the only political leader in Europe to respect our no vote.

  6. Future Taoiseach,

    I would think that President Vaclav Klaus has an obligation to respect the qualified majorities of both houses of the Czech Parliament, and why not reflect on the will of 25 additional national parliaments and 27 governments?

    Ireland now has a better deal (Commission) and a clearer deal (guarantees). Hopefully Irish voters take account of that, too, in addition to the overwhelming European interest to reform the EU.


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