Senate risks not approving Lisbon treaty in time

Petr Holub
27. 5. 2008 17:00
Minister Cyril Svoboda warns of the possibility
Minister Cyril Svoboda
Minister Cyril Svoboda | Foto: Ondřej Besperát

Prague - The Czech Republic will assume EU presidency as of next January. It's possible that it will also be one of the few EU member countries that will not have approved the Treaty of Lisbon at that point.

The so-called Reform Treaty should create the basic tenets of all European laws and regulations, including internal market, international and agricultural policy and human rights.

Postponement can mean unpredictable delay

The Czech parliament suspended voting on the treaty in late April, when the ODS-dominated Senate voted to send the treaty to the Constitutional Court for approval of the document's congruence with the Czech constitution.

"The main problem is that the Constitutional Court may not make a decision on the complaint of the ODS senators before September," said Minister without portfolio Cyril Svoboda (KDU-ČSL), chairman of the Government Legislative Council, in an interview with Aktuálně.cz.

No one can actually stop the judges from giving a verdict even later than that. There are certain legal timeframes involved that are mandatory.

Once the court makes a decision, both chambers of parliament must approve the treaty for ratification.

Elections are another impediment

Svoboda warns that Senate elections, which are planned for the end of October, may be another source of delay. Many of the Senators will concentrate on re-election in that month. It will take the upper house until the end of November to select new committee members and leaders and to finally resume work.

"Concerning the treaty, there are only two countries which Brussels would consider problematic. These are the Czech Republic, and Ireland, which will hold a referendum," claims Svoboda.

As of early May, 13 EU member countries have already ratified the treaty. Czech Republic's neighboring Poland, Slovakia, Austria, along with Hungary are on the list.

Unpredictable verdict

It is not clear at all, which way the Constitutional Court will decide. If they deem the treaty constitutional, according Czech legislature, the rest of the work is up to the senate.

If the verdict is negative, the Czech legislative system may need to be changed.

The coalition's challenge

"The Christian Democrats think that the treaty has to be ratified no matter what," says Svoboda. It's not clear, though, whether the other members of the coalition will support them.

The Czech parliament would have a tough time explaining a negative outcome in Brussels. Prime Minister Topolánek did sign the Treaty of Lisbon, back in December, and Czech comments were incorporated int it.

"The coalition should prepare in advance their responses to the different potential rulings of the Constitutional Court. Any hesitation may be catastrophic," cautions Svoboda.

If the Czech Republic ends up being the only EU member not to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon by January 1, when it was supposed to come into force, the Czech presidency over the EU may end up being a fiasco.


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Zdroj: ČTK
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