Thursday 15 October 2009

EU Lisbon Treaty: Czech or European solution?

On this blog, we have expressed some doubts about the robustness of the Czech constitutional system, in plain crisis. In the European Voice, Adam Drda adds his observations on how president Vaclav Klaus is stoking up irrational fears and pulling the Czech political scene apart.


Czech Commissioner

According to Czech Happenings, the Parliament has heard the candidates put forward by the political parties to become the Czech member of the EU Commission.


With the Commission’s term of office ending 31 October 2009, the Czech constitutional crisis concerns all EU member states. We do not know if every member state will get a Commissioner under the Lisbon Treaty, or if a reduced Commission must be appointed according to the Treaty of Nice.


“Unconstitutional behaviour”

Czech News reports on a short demonstration, ended by the police, against the “unconstitutional behaviour” of president Vaclav Klaus.

Jiri Priban, an expert in EU law, is quoted as saying that Klaus obviously exceeds his competences.


Klaus portrait

In The Guardian, Europe editor Ian Traynor paints a portrait of president Vaclav Klaus, on a quest to stop Europe in its tracks.


Spurious claims

Andrew Duff MEP, in an op-ed piece in The Financial Times, discusses the substance of the fears Klaus has expressed about the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights: spurious.


Irish Commissioner

The Irish Times notes the uncertainty caused by president Klaus’ posturing, but encourages the government to nominate a strong Irish figure for the EU Commission.


Posturing Klaus

The FT Brussels blog 14 October 2009 linked to an editorial, which picked Klaus’ posturing apart in no uncertain terms.


Trying times

These are trying times for Czech intellectuals, who see beyond the borders of their country. The Between Brussels and Gazprom blog offers two insights into the dilemma: “Vaclav and Goliath” and “Czechs are not Klaus”.


Moscow nights

The 15 October 2009 press survey of Czech Happenings highlights president Klaus enjoying his visit to Moscow, one of the few capitals where he is welcome.


Two fateful weeks

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has a tough job, ahead of the European Council on 29 to 30 October 2009. In two weeks the Czech constitutional system should be able to put its house in order.

If the Czech Republic fails, it forces the member states of the European Union to take responsibility for the European project, with the remaining forces.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Fair-minded people can all agree that Klaus is a loose cannon. EU treaties must be amended to include an Art. 7 EU type to deal with this kind of ratification blackmailing. Anyway, keep up the good work.

  2. LCP,

    Thank you for your comment. If you mean Article 7 of the Treaty of European Union, as in the consolidated Lisbon Treaty, it is an interesting proposition:

    A breach of good faith or loyal cooperation would be treated in the same light as a serious breach of the founding values, which might lead to a suspension of membership rights.

    It is worth discussion, as a milder form of sanction than 'consilium abeundi' (advice to leave), as well as outright expulsion and continuing on the basis of ratifying states, all of which have to be studied within a short while, if the Czech Republic fails to sort out its problems internally (and with a view to the probable next government in the UK).

    I hope that you would like to initiate discussion on various alternatives on a suitable forum.

  3. After reading Martin Ehl's piece (to which you link) I suspect Klaus holds a near-winning hand. If Martin's piece is to be believed (and why not) Klaus maneuvered the government crisis earlier this year and could be lining himself up for a new (Putin-style?) political future.

    This would leave problems for both the EU on EU membership and the Czech Republic on the nature of their constitution.

    As for the UK, whilst Cameron and his supporters might be delighted with this outcome, they would face similar problems. The Lisbon Treaty has been democratically agreed by the UK government and, as such, is binding on any future government. What standing would a post-facto referendum have in such a situation?

  4. French Derek,

    The Czech constitutional system is not in good shape, as you point out.

    They have a political crisis, since the Topolanek government was toppled last spring, they have a constitutional crisis because they were not able to arrange early elections, and they have a new constitutional crisis, which seems to be a move by Klaus to turn the parliamentary democracy into something of a presidential one.

    PM Jan Fischer appears to have Czech interests at heart, but Klaus has not left him much room to reach a deal; the government still lacks information about the exact demands of Klaus, although a short while ago there was a news item on internal negotiations starting.

    If the government is powerless and Klaus' demands impossible to meet (which many suspect is his purpose), the rest depends on the parliament and the Constitutional Court.

    If the Court could either declare that Klaus has to sign, or find that his signature is not needed, much would be won.

    By the way, what do you think about the comment by LCP above?

    A Lisbon referendum would, in my humble opinion, be a lunacy in Britain.

    The Tory case, right now, rests on one virulent opponent, who acts against all parliamentary and international principles.

    In addition, wrecking the Lisbon Treaty would aggravate relations with the rest of Europe no end.

    A Lisbon referendum after the treaty's entry into force is idiocy, because it would continue to be in force.

    The only responsible way for Britain to act, if it wants to be led by its anti-EU opinion, is to make a decision to secede, with or without a referendum.

    If I understand parliamentary sovereignty correctly - which seems to be the fundamental principle in Britain, but without effect in the Czech Republic, according to Tory reasoning - Parliament is not bound by a previous Parliament.

  5. Ralf Grahn,

    I think LCP may have referred to Article 7 in the US Constitution, which determines the conditions for the coming into force of that same Constitution. Rather than the unanimity requirement used in the EU, the US Constitution required just 9 ratifications (out of the then 13 States) to come into effect. Having seen the increasingly farcical process that has marred the current round of reforms in the EU, I have gradually become convinced that we need to move away from the unworkable unanimity requirement. A new ratification protocol should accompany future treaties, that a qualified majority (i.e. ratification in something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the member states) is needed for the treaty to come into effect, and that countries choosing not to ratify remain in a lower category of membership.
    A multi-speed EU is not ideal, but we have to be realistic. The current way of doing things will increasingly hold up any progress we want to achieve, it puts the EU in an undeservedly bad light in terms of public opinion, and hands its most cynical detractors the ammunition they need to do their obstructive/destructive work.

  6. Vic van Rumpt,

    Thank you for the (possible) clarification.

    I have repeatedly underlined the wisdom of the founders of the US Constitution with regard to entry into force by nine ratifications, but I did not realise that LCP had the USA in mind.

    Despite the reality of a multi-speed EU, partly from opt-outs and partly because of catch-up in progress, a lower category of membership poses a number of problems.

    It would be almost impossible to achieve sensible decision-making and representation and application, if some countries were bound by an earlier generation of treaties.

    If we accept that the EU is governed by the latest treaty, which enters into force after a certain proportion of ratifications (within a certain time-limit), among the ratifying states, it would probably have to mean that the non-ratifying states are seen as having seceded in principle, which would start the process of negotiating the new relationship (EEA or bilateral).

    The best thing President Klaus has done for Europe is his clear demonstration of the effects of unanimity rules (liberum veto).

    It remains to be seen, if the lessons will be learned.


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