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Europe

Czech president stops short of ratifying, senate approves

©

Video by Owen FAIRCLOUGH

Latest update : 2009-05-07

Senators in the Czech Republic, the current holder of the European Union presidency, on Wednesday approved the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty. President Vaclav Klaus said he would not sign the treaty as it was "dead for the moment".

AFP - The European Union's troubled Lisbon Treaty won the endorsement of Czech senators Wednesday, leaving an Irish referendum as the last big stumbling block to a major reform of the European Commission.
   
"The Czech Senate decided today after a discussion that had taken about a year and three months," Senate chairman Premysl Sobotka told reporters.
   
Senators in the Czech Republic, the current holder of the European Union presidency, approved the treaty designed to streamline decision-making in the EU with 54 votes against 20.
   
The future of the treaty, which must be ratified by all 27 EU members to take effect, now depends largely on Ireland, which will hold a second referendum by November, following its rejection by voters there last year.
   
The outcome of the Czech ratification depends on the country's eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce opponent of the treaty, who must add his signature to the text to complete the process.
   
Klaus said on Wednesday the senators had "turned their backs on the Czech Republic's interests" and added he was in no rush to ratify the treaty.
   
"The treaty is dead for the moment because one member state rejected it in a referendum. This is why a decision on the ratification of the treaty is not on the cards for me," he added.
   
Polish President Lech Kaczynski is also reluctant to sign the text despite its endorsement by the Polish parliament, saying he would wait for the Irish vote and then decide.
   
Sobotka said the Czech government and parliament could not "wield any influence whatsoever on the president. He is free to decide as he wishes."
   
Despite the unclear future, the treaty's supporters welcomed the senators 'vote.
   
"This is very good news. I am very happy at the approval today of the Treaty of Lisbon by the Czech senate, which completes the parliamentary process of ratification in the Czech Republic," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement.
   
Alexandr Vondra, Czech deputy prime minister for European affairs, said Wednesday was "an important day for the Czech Republic, for its position and influence in the EU and the world."
   
And foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg added the Czech Republic had "joined those countries that are determined to thoroughly follow the European path" with the vote.
   
The Czech Republic was the last member state to begin the ratification process before the lower house approved the treaty in February.
   
Klaus's allies in the ruling right-wing Civic Democrats (ODS) filed a constitutional lawsuit against the treaty and delayed the approval with lengthy speeches and postponements in parliament.
   
Germany's parliament meanwhile has approved the treaty but its ratification has also been stalled by a lawsuit brought before Germany's top court.

Date created : 2009-05-06

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