Prague - The Czech Republic may ratify the Lisbon Treaty by the end of this year, PM Mirek Topolánek told German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday in Prague.
"I have assured the chancellor that the ratification process will not be artificially obstructed," said the Czech premier after the meeting.
The Czech Republic is the only EU country whose top officials openly expressed relief when the treaty, signed last year in Lisbon and designed to reform the EU's institutions, was put to ice earlier this year after Irish voters rejected it in a referendum.
In Germany, the parliament has approved the treaty and it is now being scrutinized by the constitutional court. In Sweden, parliament ratification scheduled for November is expected to be a mere formality. Only the Czech Republic's position is still somewhat hazy.
Topolánek and Merkel hold significantly different opinions on the treaty, which was signed last year in Lisbon. Merkel is a major supporter of the reform project and came to Prague to lobby for its ratification by the Czech Republic. She believes that the treaty would help Europe cope with the financial crisis. Topolánek yesterday repeated his reservations.
"For me this is a difficult compromise, a trade-off for our membership to a certain civilization circle," said the Czech premier.
Merkel believes that neither the Czech reservations to the treaty nor Saturday's debacle of Topolánek's Civic Democrats in regional elections will undermine the Czech EU presidency in the first half of 2009. "I got the impression that Czechs are looking forward to the presidency," said the chancellor.
Merkel visited Prague also to discuss the agenda that the Czech Republic will have on the table during its presidency. Besides the stalled ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, it will be especially a package of climate protection measures.
If EU leaders fail to approve the package, including reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and the introduction of a new trading scheme for carbon credits, it will be for the Czech Republic to manage further negotiations.
After the meeting with Topolánek, Merkel went to meet Czech President Václav Klaus. This staunch opponent of environmental regulation previously said he was surprised that Merkel, a prominent politician with a degree in physics and chemistry, could believe in the global warming theory.