Monday 12 October 2009

Vaclav Klaus demands the imaginary and the impossible

EurActiv has some additional information about the latest condition by Czech President Vaclav Klaus to sign the ratification instrument for the EU Treaty of Lisbon, in “Klaus links EU treaty signature to WWII claims” (12 October 2009).

According to the story, Klaus's aide Ladislav Jakl said on Sunday the president demanded a binding guarantee and a political declaration by the EU, insisting that an easier way forward would not be sufficient.



If Klaus demands an instant treaty change, at this late hour, it is impossible. It would require a new round of ratifications, it would deprive Czech citizens of the rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and it would force the EU member states to nominate a new Commission under the Nice Treaty rules, as well as continue with the unreformed institutions.



Klaus’ fears are imaginary, as the Czech government has told him.

This is further proof of his lack of good faith.


New demands?

Klaus has been inventing objections, as the need arises. At no time has Klaus convinced anyone that he would stop producing new obstacles.


Abuse of powers

At this moment, I do not know the Czech government’s intentions today or later, but there are no indications that Klaus wants to solve the Czech constitutional crisis (or the EU’s institutional crisis) amicably.

This has become a test for the Czech parliamentary democracy.

If the President is unable to fulfil his constitutional duties, the only practicable solution seems to be to depose him, before he causes his country more damage. It takes a resolution by Parliament, and the powers would be taken over by the Prime Minister.

Article 66 of the Czech Constitution states:

If the office of the Presidency becomes vacant and before a new President of the Republic has been elected or has taken the oath of office, likewise if the President of the Republic is, for serious reasons, incapable of performing his duties. and if the Assembly of Deputies and the Senate adopt a resolution to this effect, the performance of the presidential duties under Article 63, paragraph 1, letters a), b), c), d), e), h), i), j) and Article 63, paragraph 2 shall devolve upon the Prime Minister. In any period in which the Prime Minister is performing the above-specified presidential duties, the performance of the duties under Article 62, letters a), b), c), d), e), k) and l) shall devolve upon the Chairperson of the Assembly of Deputies; if the office of the Presidency becomes vacant during a period in which the Assembly of Deputies is dissolved, the performance of these functions shall devolve upon the Chairperson of the Senate.


The reasons are serious enough, and so is Klaus’ abuse of power.

Ralf Grahn


  1. If you find a constitutional way to unseat Mr. Klaus I am all for it. Article 66, though, is clearly not what we are looking for: That man is perfectly capable to perform his duties, but unfortunately he is obviously not willing to do so. This is definitely not what Art. 66 has in mind. I mean, the guy isn't unconscious or deluded or whatever. Also take a look at Art. 65 III: "Criminal prosecution for criminal acts committed while discharging the office of the President of the Republic is rendered
    impossible forever." So, he could shoot Topolanek in the chest and get away with it, couldn't he?

  2. Max,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment, which is based on the literal meaning of 'incapable'.

    However, I think that you have to take the President's position in the constitutional framework into account.

    He is elected by the parliament, which is directly elected by the people.

    There is no clause, as far as I know, which allows the President to go against the Parliament in order to neglect his duties.

    If the the President incapacitates himself, deliberately refusing to fulfil his duties, and by causing the standing, reputation and interests of his country damage, he has made himself incapable of performing his duties.

    As to the seriousness of the reasons, I have little doubt, since his actions have caused an internal constitutional crisis and an external (EU) institutional crisis, based on repeated actions, including totally imaginary reasons.

    Impeachment for high treason seems to be a more remote possibility.

    I suppose you are right about the murder - he could get away with it, but I suspect that he would be deposed, somehow.

  3. Rolf,

    I am by no means an expert in czech constitutional law, I don't even speak czech. But to infer from Mr. Klaus's behavior his incapacity to perform his duties strikes me as an extremely bold assertion. Art. 66 is, as far as I can see, about what to do in a case of vacancy in the presidency. One might hope that position was vacant, but sadly it isn't.
    Actually, it seems to be Art. 65 II that tells us what to do if the president goes for a coup d'etat, doesn't it? The Senate has to indict him and the Constitutional Court has to convict him for high treason, and out he goes. Simple as that.
    As to the president's position in the constitutional framework, let me draw a parallel to the German constitutional situation: The German president is elected by delegates of the Parliaments of the federal and Laender level as well. That doesn't mean, though, that he has by all means to comply with the rulings of the parliament: Art. 82 I says, that federal laws come into effect if the president has signed and promulgated it. According to German constitutional doctrine and the precedents of the Bundesverfassungsgericht Art. 82 I gives him the right to withhold his signature if he finds obvious constitutional flaws in the law. If we had a pigheaded eurosceptic as our president we certainly couldn't just go and kick him out of Bellevue castle for incapacity.

  4. Max,

    Your arguments are serious enough, but the context is such that Czech parliamentary democracy has to assert itself, or be defeated.

    You can hardly say that Klaus' populist and unfounded assertions with regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights fulfil the criteria of obvious constitutional flaws in the Lisbon approval, when the Constitutional Court has ruled that the Charter is compatible with the Constitution(?)

    A robust constitutional system is more important than the literal meaning of the Constitution.

    But the latest news tells us that the Czech government is going to raise Klaus' demands at the next European Council.

  5. Ralf, President Klaus is not the only president to refuse to sign legislation passed by a national parliament into law. eg several US and French Presidents have done such. But only on national issues, never (so far as I can research) on international treaties.

    Whatever the doubtfulness of his claims, could he not be accommodated by other EU leaders? They did somewhat similar for the Irish - when many of their misgivings were about "ghosts" (fears that had no foundation in fact).

    He doubts the impartiality of his own nation's courts (who would have to rule on any Sudetenland claims). But, then, many Irish doubted their own government.

  6. French Derek,

    I am not aware of any veto powers over parliament acts for the Czech President, suspensive or otherwise.

    Reassuring a general public, unsettled by false claims, is one thing.

    Pandering to the illusions of someone representing the highest state organs - who knows better - a different kettle of fish.

    Klaus' aide has categorically excluded assurances of the Irish type as too 'easy'.

    It does not sound as if the guy wanted a settlement, but gridlock.

    Basically there are the following alternatives:

    One person is given 'carte blanche' to sabotage the Lisbon Treaty.

    The Czech constitutional system proves that it is robust enough to solve the crisis.

    Failing that, the EU is prepared to rewrite the treaty so that the ratifying states continue and the non-ratifying ones are left behind.

    There have to be limits to 'liberum veto' abuse.

  7. The Czech Prime Minister and Cabinet have now agreed to present the problems, first raised by President Klaus, to the meeting on 29th October of the neutered leaders of the former EU nations.

    The problem(s) therefore presently appears to be neither imaginary, nor indeed impossible.

    Democrats across Europe are quietly, but hopefully, supporting President Klaus in his now very lonely battle against tyranny (as defined by Karl Popper, I again hasten to add!).

  8. Mr Cole,

    The problems caused by President Klaus are in no way imaginary.

    If you study the statements made by the aide to the President, Klaus probably intends for them to be impossible to solve.


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