LISBON TREATY

Eurosceptic Czech president under pressure after Irish 'Yes' vote

As top EU leaders congratulate the Irish people on Saturday for backing the Lisbon Treaty, there is renewed speculation as to whether eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus (pictured) will sign it, having so far declined do to so.

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AFP - Ireland's endorsement is not the end of the road for the EU's Lisbon Treaty, with European leaders immediately turning their attention Saturday to the Czech Republic and its eurosceptic president.

EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso was buoyed by the Irish Yes vote but was quick to call on the Czechs to complete the process there "as soon as possible."

However, Czech President Vaclav Klaus told journalists in Warsaw, after the Irish vote, that his country's ratification of the treaty, was "not on the cards."

"You keep speculating about the future. It's not on the cards, and it's not on the cards for me to answer such questions," said Klaus, who once described the treaty as threatening Czech sovereignty.

The reforming treaty must be formally ratified by all 27 EU nations before it can come into force.

While the Irish were the only ones to put the matter to a plebiscite, the Czech Republic and Poland are yet to formally back the text which is aimed at streamlining the institutions of the expanded EU.

"It's a great day for Ireland, it's a great day for Europe," Barroso told reporters in Brussels as results came through showing that two thirds of Irish voters had backed the treaty in Friday's vote.

"I hope that necessary procedures for entry into force can be completed as quickly as possible in the Czech Republic and Poland," he added, in practically the same breath.


Klaus is now the biggest remaining hurdle for the treaty, as his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski has indicated publicly that he would sign up once the Irish voted Yes.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he hopes his country will ratify the treaty "very quickly" lest Warsaw be seen to be slowing the process down.

The Czech parliament has already approved the Lisbon Treaty, which will create new posts of EU president and foreign policy supremo, as well as cutting the number of national vetoes available on European lawmaking.

Klaus has said he will not sign off on the text until his nation's Constitutional Court has pronounced on its validity.

The court is currently reviewing a complaint against the treaty filed by a group of Klaus-friendly Czech senators and expects to announce a date for the final ruling within three weeks.

"I have every reason to believe the Czech Republic will complete it's ratification procedures," said Barroso.

"It is a matter of time," he added.

EU leaders and the pro-Lisbon camp are hoping the Czechs sign off on the treaty sooner rather than later as British opposition leader David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum there if the treaty is not fully ratified by the time he comes to power.

Cameron pledged Saturday to "keep fighting" against the Lisbon Treaty despite the Irish vote.

"As long as that treaty is being discussed or debated anywhere in Europe, we'll keep fighting for that referendum," he told British broadcasters.

Cameron's Conservative Party is widely expected to win the next general election which must be held by June.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, in a statement, hailed the Irish result, while backing Barroso's call to the Czechs to get the job done.

"It is now important to get the treaty in place. The European Council is united in its wish to see the treaty enter into force before the end of the year," said Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Poland will sign the treaty "shortly," Reinfeldt stated, adding that he would meet Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer along with Barroso in Brussels on Wednesday.

"We will then discuss the situation and see what actions can be taken to move the situation forward."

Barroso admitted Saturday that he had not held talks with Klaus since the Czechs handed over the EU presidency to the Swedes at the end of June.
 

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