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TV broadcast slowed down decision on Lisbon Treaty

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If the Tuesday lower house debate had not been broadcasted live on television, the Lisbon Treaty would have been ratified that day. Politicians said the live broadcast was the only reason they failed to reach an agreement on the treaty on Tuesday. The Czech Republic remains the only EU country that has not yet ratified the treaty. [The lower house finally approved the treaty Wednesday, but the Senate will not be voting on the issue until April.]

“We saw some good acting, some bad acting, but all of the actors were aiming to address their voters. I’m absolutely sure we would have been done a while ago if it wasn’t for the live television broadcast,” Regional Development Minister Cyril Svoboda (KDU-ČSL) said after several hours of debates without a conclusion.

What is it that happened in the lower house on Tuesday? In the afternoon, it looked like there was a constitutional majority of deputies ready to vote in favour of the treaty. But the voting on this key EU document did not take place as deputies failed to vote within the time frame they had set up.

No decision was made despite the Social Democrats, KDU-ČSL and the Greens being in favour of the treaty ratification. The Communist party is against it, and ODS deputies are divided. And that’s what affected the end of the discussion. Only the two parties that are against the treaty, the ODS and the KSČM, took turns at the speaker’s desk.

ODS rebel Vlastimil Tlustý came up with a speech in the last ten minutes the lawmakers could have used to make a decision on Tuesday. He overestimated his abilities, however, when he started losing his voice towards the end. But the lower house chief Miloslav Vlček (ČSSD) still had to end the meeting. The debate was scheduled to continue the next day at 9am.

The government was hoping no other postponements would take place and the Lisbon Treaty would get ratified on Wednesday. “Everyone has something to say; one day is not critical,” said deputy PM for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra (ODS).

The Education Minister Ondřej Liška (the Greens), on the other hand, seemed angry. “The comedy entitled The Lisbon Treaty Ratification the Czech Way continues,” Liška said in reaction to the Tuesday debate. He also believes that deputies’ desire to gain time on television was behind their long speeches.

The Communists made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the treaty ratification voting. This was a surprising move even for the ČSSD leader Jiří Paroubek. “I didn’t expect any further objections from KSČM and ODS deputies. I think they would be hopeless,” said Paroubek. He said the lower house could pass the treaty on Wednesday [which it did]. “Our hands will be free to deal with other issues, especially the financial crisis,” the ČSSD chair said.

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