Czech court lifts last barrier to EU treaty

The Czech Constitutional Court threw out a complaint against the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty on Tuesday, removing the last obstacle to its ratification.

The ruling allows eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus to sign the treaty, which will give the EU its first long-term president and streamline decision-making in the bloc of 27 states and nearly half a billion people.

The Czech Republic is the only EU member state that has not yet ratified the pact, which needs the consent of all member states to come into force.

Klaus was banned by law from signing it until the court had ruled on a complaint by his allies in the Czech upper house of Parliament, the Senate, who argue the treaty would erode national sovereignty.

Klaus long argued against the Lisbon Treaty, saying it would turn the EU into a superstate with little democratic control.

But he said he would raise no further obstacles to the document after EU leaders agreed last week to give the Czechs an opt-out from a rights charter attached to the treaty. Klaus says the exemption is necessary to avoid property claims by Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II.

If Klaus signs the treaty within a couple of weeks, as expected, it will come into force in January, turning attention to who will be the EU’s first president.

EU leaders failed to agree at their summit last week in Brussels on who should take the job, which will have limited powers, and a special summit may be needed to reach a deal.

The chances of the once-favoured candidate, former British prime minister Tony Blair, seem doomed after he failed to win an endorsement from the European Socialists, his Labour Party’s allies.

No front-runner has emerged, but possible contenders include Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.—Reuters


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