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.


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.


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?


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


  1. I suspected he'd do something like this...

  2. Insideur,

    Yes, I remember reading it.

  3. Can the Czech parliament not forward a motion of no confidence in their president? He is clearly abusing his position.

  4. Simon,

    You are absolutely correct about Klaus' abuse of his position.

    Both the internal and the external aspects of this tragicomedy show the need for robust institutions.

    I have seen few suggestions about how the Czech government or parliament could put an end to Klaus' neglect of his duties. Their Constitution probably has no clear remedies on offer and no time-limits on his acts.

    This is why I see this as a serious constitutional crisis.

    Klaus is also in breach of good practice in international relations, with regard to the EU member states and the European Union itself.

    The European Union also lacks robust procedures. Requiring unanimous ratification offers each member state, or even one institution within it, a stranglehold on treaty reform.

    That one person can produce gridlock is an illustration of the problem.

    The question is, for how long are the member states going to victimise themselves in this manner?

  5. He does seem to abuse his position - or at least he uses all unclear provisions in the Czech Constitution to delay ratification.

    What about his statement regarding the property which belonged to ethnic Germans expelled after WW2?

    Could that be solved with a bilateral agreement between Germany and the Czech Republic?

    Do you think the Charter could actually be applied in this area somehow? (I always thought it would only apply to EU law anyway...?)

  6. Kosmopolito,

    My first guesses are that there is always someone who imputes some more or less horrific consequence to each EU treaty, and it is always hard to prove that ghosts don't exist.

    Before I have looked at it more closely, my picture of the limited scope of the EU Charter is that it does not open new avenues for dispossessed Germans.

    You are right: It applies to EU institutions and member states when applying EU law.

    I haven't checked, but I suppose that Germany as a state has agreed to the WW2 borders etc.

    But in principle private parties are a different matter, although I don't see how the Charter could give them any new possibilities.


Due deluge of spam comments no more comments are accepted.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.