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Czech MPs postpone EU treaty debate

Latest update : 2008-12-10

Czech lawmakers have put off a debate on whether to ratify the EU Lisbon Treaty by two months just weeks before the country takes on the EU presidency. The Czech Republic is the last to decide on the controversial reform charter.

AFP - The Czech Republic, the last EU member state to decide on the Lisbon Treaty, on Tuesday pushed back for nearly two months a decision on whether to ratify the reform charter.
  
Weeks before the country takes over the EU presidency, Czech lawmakers overwhelming voted to suspend debate on the Lisbon Treaty until February 3.
  
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek declared his Civic Democrat (ODS) party was not yet ready to vote on the treaty and appealed for more time because of political wrangling.
  
He argued for time to finish negotiations with opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) leader Jiri Paroubek on a political truce during Prague's six months as EU president, beginning January 1.
  
"The vote on the Lisbon Treaty is linked to a deal, it would be premature to vote," Topolanek said. "This break does not signify a definitive decision that we will not ratify the Lisbon Treaty."
  
Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in a June referendum forced the charter to be put on hold indefinitely as it must be ratified by all 27 EU member states before coming in to force.
  
But the other 25 EU nations have all completed the ratification and the pressure will increase on Ireland to hold a second referendum if Prague does ratify the treaty.
  
The Irish government could announce a decision on a referendum before an EU summit in Brussels starting on Thursday.
  
A poll this week suggested Irish voters, who rejected the treaty by a 53 percent majority, might back the text in a second referendum if the country is allowed to keep its commissioner in Brussels.
  
EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said Tuesday he backed a move to satisfy Ireland's main objection.
  
That would allow all 27 members of the bloc to keep a prestigious post of commissioner in the EU's executive body, instead of cutting the number by a third.
  
"The treaty allows for that kind of situation, so if this is a very important condition for Ireland I personally would support it," Barroso said in Brussels.
  
The Czech Republic's eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, is totally opposed to the Lisbon Treaty, but his powers are limited, and it might be difficult for him to veto the treaty if it is approved by parliament.
  
Last month Klaus said he might only sign the treaty into law once Ireland has approved it.
  
The Czech Constitutional Court ruled in November that the charter was in line with the constitution, paving the way for ratification by parliament.
  
The pro-Lisbon camp of the lower house groups the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD), the Christian Democrats and the Green Party.
  
The Communist Party and a right-wing liberal party form the opposing camp.
  

Date created : 2008-12-09

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