EU Puts Pressure on Czech Republic Over Lisbon Treaty Signing

Daily News Article   —   Posted on October 7, 2009

Note:  This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Bruno Waterfield, Telegraph.co.uk) Brussels — In a meeting in Brussels the EU [European Union] is putting pressure on the Czech Republic over the refusal by the country’s president to sign the Lisbon Treaty.

Jan Fischer, the Czech prime minister, is in Brussels for meetings on the Lisbon Treaty with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and the Swedish EU Presidency.

Many EU governments fear that the Czechs could delay the Lisbon Treaty’s coming into force until British elections that expected to return a Conservative administration that has pledged a referendum on the text.

Vaclav Klaus, the Czech President, is blocking formal ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by refusing to sign it, despite its ratification by both houses of his country’s parliament.

Lech Kaczynski, Poland’s President, has promised to sign the text over the next few days following Ireland’s second referendum Yes vote last week.

The Lisbon Treaty, which resurrects proposals contained in the old EU Constitution, must be ratified by parliaments or popular votes in all 27 EU member states.

A document, known as an instrument of ratification, must then be signed by each country’s head of state and lodged in Rome, home of the EU’s original 1957 treaty.

President Klaus is openly hostile to the Lisbon Treaty and is delaying signature until a legal challenge in the Czech constitutional court is heard.

Mr Fischer, who is heading an unelected caretaker government, will discuss the situation but he has little influence or power over Mr Klaus.

The EU is desperate to complete the formal legalities of Lisbon Treaty ratification so it can press on with creating the new institutions of President, foreign minister and a European diplomatic service.

Publicly nothing can be done about filling these jobs and building a European External Action Service until and unless the Czech president puts pen to paper.

Diplomats and officials are also determined to eliminate any possibility that a new Tory [British Conservative Party] government might reverse the country’s ratification of the treaty if it remains unsigned elsewhere.

Some Conservatives [in England] have pinned their hopes on Mr Klaus delaying until election time so a Tory manifesto can include a commitment to hold a popular British vote [referendum] on the Lisbon Treaty.

But the realistic expectation, following pressure from the EU, is cave-in by Mr Klaus over the next month, with the treaty then on track to enter due into force at the start of next year.

The Czech president has personally warned Tory Eurosceptics not to “wait for my decision”.  “I am afraid that the British people should have been doing something really much earlier. There will never be another referendum [on the treaty] in Europe,” he said at the weekend.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk.

Questions

1. Define the following as used in the article:
-referendum (para. 3)
-ratify (ratification para. 4, ratified para. 6)
-parliament (para. 4)
-Eurosceptic (para. 15)

2. a) Who is blocking formal ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by refusing to sign it?
b) Why is he refusing to sign it despite its ratification by both houses of his country’s parliament?

3. How many of the EU member states must ratify the Lisbon Treaty and then submit an instrument of ratification signed by each country’s head of state for it to take effect?

4. Why is the EU eager to have the Lisbon Treaty’s ratification finalized?

5. What is expected to be the outcome of ratification of the Lisbon Treaty?

6. Only one of the 27 member states (Ireland) permitted its citizens to vote on whether or not to approve the Lisbon Treaty. The others were approved by the parliaments/governments of each country.
a) Do you think each state should have approved the Lisbon Treaty by referendum? Explain your answer.
b) Ask a parent the same question.


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Background

THE EUROPEAN UNION [EU] (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_union)
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic community of twenty-seven member states, located primarily in Europe. It was established in 1993…, adding new areas of policy to the existing European Community.  With almost 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share of the world’s nominal gross domestic product (US$16.8 trillion in 2007).

To join the EU, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council. These require a stable democracy which respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy capable of competition within the EU; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country’s fulfillment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council.

THE TREATY OF LISBON (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Lisbon)
The stated aim of the treaty is “to complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam [1997] and by the Treaty of Nice with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the [European] Union and to improving the coherence of its action.” All 27 EU states have to ratify the Treaty before it can come into effect.

Opponents of the Treaty of Lisbon … argue that it will centralize the European Union (EU), and weaken democracy by moving power away from national electorates.

Ireland has been the only member state to hold a referendum on the treaty. A first referendum held on 12 June 2008 rejected the treaty, a second referendum, held on 2 October 2009, approved it. … the number of [EU] Member States that have approved the Treaty by their Parliament [ratified – the elected officials passed it – the voters did not have the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted it or not] has risen to 26 of the total 27, and the number of Member States that have deposited their ratification with the Government of Italy, which is the final step needed in order for the Treaty of Lisbon to enter into force, to 24.  [Countries that have not yet sent in their ratification are Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic.] 

A FEW OF THE REASONS FOR OPPOSING THE LISBON TREATY: (read more at iwantareferendum.com/case2.aspx)
Cost: Britain is paying £10.5 billion a year into the EU – more than we spend on the police. We have to pay in roughly twice as much as we get back, while countries that are richer than Britain take more out than they put in.

High prices: The EU’s farm subsidies and trade barriers cost the average family of four £1,500 a year in higher prices and tax. The Constitution could make reform even more difficult by giving the European Parliament new powers over spending.

Fraud: The new treaty does nothing to sort out the EU’s chronic problems with fraud. According to its own figures, the EU loses £1 million every working day to fraud. Its budget has not been signed off by its own auditors for twelve years in a row.

Hurting poor countries:The EU’s protectionist trade barriers and farm subsidies cost the poorest countries in the world billions every year.

Waste:The EU now has 63,000 civil servants working full time churning out new laws. It spends £200 million a year just ferrying euro-MPs back and forth between its two parliament buildings in Strasbourg and Brussels every month.

Resources

Visit the website for the European Union at europa.eu.

For an Irish organization opposing the Lisbon Treaty, go to lisbonvote.com.

Read information on which states have ratified the Lisbon Treaty at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Lisbon#Ratification.

For a map of the EU, go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_union#Member_states.

Watch a video of Nigel Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) on why the United Kingdom should allow a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty to take place.