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Europe

Eurosceptic Czech president Vaclav Klaus signs Lisbon Treaty

Video by Rebecca BOWRING

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-04

The Czech Republic's eurosceptic president, Vaclav Klaus, has become the 27th and final EU head of state to sign the Lisbon Treaty, paving the way for its ratification on December 1.

At last, the Lisbon Treaty counts all 27 signatures necessary to bring it to life. Czech President Vaclav Klaus added his name on Tuesday, hours after his country’s constitutional court ruled that the document did not conflict with the Czech constitution.

The bitterly contested Lisbon Treaty, which calls for the naming of an EU president and top foreign policy representative in a bid to further unite Europe, had been held back by two referendums in the Irish Republic, legal challenges in other countries and delaying tactics by European politicians who oppose closer integration. Klaus’ initial refusal to sign was the final stumbling block.

Last Friday, the eurosceptic Czech leader obtained an opt-out clause from the treaty’s civil rights charter, to ensure that it would not allow ethnic Germans forced out of the former Czechoslovakia after World War II to reclaim their property. He then finally accepted to sign the treaty if given the go-ahead by his country’s top court.

His signing took place without much formal ado, in contrast with most of his European counterparts.

“He even grumbled that the Czech Republic had ceased to be a sovereign state as he signed it,” reports Alexis Rosenzweig, FRANCE 24’s Prague correspondent.

According to European legal texts, the treaty should be formally ratified by the end of 2009. Sweden, the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, said it would come into force on December 1.

Brussels heaves a sigh of relief

The announcement was greeted with relief in Brussels. The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said he was “extremely pleased” with the Czech constitutional court’s ruling, and stressed that the signature of Vaclav Klaus “lifted the final obstacle” towards European reform.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, who holds the EU presidency, told reporters that he was “very satisified that we finally have the ratification process coming to an end.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed an “important and historic step for all of Europe”. In the UK, opposition Conservatives led by David Cameron have subsequently dropped plans to call for a referendum on the treaty if it wasn’t signed by all 27 leaders, giving Brown’s pro-Europe government good reason to feel relieved.

No sooner had the ink from the Czech signature finished drying that the frantic race for the nomination of the first European president officially began. Sweden said it would call a summit within the month to discuss the appointments. According to a diplomatic source, the likely front-runner will be Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy.
 

Date created : 2009-11-03

  • CZECH REPUBLIC

    Court rules Lisbon Treaty constitutional, clears the way for ratification

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  • LISBON TREATY

    EU leaders agree to Czech opt-out clause, clearing major treaty hurdle

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