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Czech News in English » Opinion » Commentariat: Last man standing

Commentariat: Last man standing

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Last week a group of ODS senators filed a constitutional complaint concerning the EU Lisbon Treaty, enabling President Václav Klaus to delay signing the document until the Constitutional Court rules.

The senators, led by Jiří Oberfalzer who personally delivered the complaint to Brno last Tuesday, demand that the Constitutional Court examine whether the European Union operates as an international organisation or a superstate. If the court determines EU is a superstate the senators deem any shift of competences onto the EU, as another state, would be against the Constitution. In Hospodářské noviny Jiří Leschtina notes that the Constitutional Court already ruled last autumn, when only the most controversial parts of the document were analysed, that “even after the Lisbon Treaty ratification the EU will remain ‘an organisation of international and legal quality”. The court also ruled that the passages are not in discord with the Constitution.

This time, the treaty as a whole will be studied and the senators highlighted another controversial issue of the status of the European Court of Justice, which has a right of interpretation of laws and regulation of the EU. The senators would like to clarify whether the court might circumvent the Czech Constitutional Court. As Leschtina points out, “in case of an interference with the sovereignty of the Czech Republic, the Constitutional Court reserves the right to intervene”.

This raises the question of the purpose of the complaint, the result of which might be deduced from the previous ruling of the court. Leschtina offers an answer in the form of the quote of one of the complaining senators Tomáš Jirsa who told Respekt: “Yes, it is an obstruction. We don’t want the Lisbon Treaty to come to force.”

The Czech Republic is one of the three European countries that have not yet ratified the Treaty. Ireland held a second referendum last Friday and Poland decided to accept the Irish vote. In the Czech Republic both chambers of the parliament have endorsed the treaty but the president postponed its signing until the Constitutional Court rules.

The Constitutional Court decided to deal with the complaint immediately, addressing it ahead of all the complaints that were filed earlier. Still, it will take some three weeks for the judges to work out whether the formalities of the complaint meet the necessary requirements for it to be even considered. Chief Justice of the Consitutional Court Pavel Rychetský asked President Václav Klaus, as the signatory of the treaty for his statement and warned him that until the court rules he may not sign the treaty.

Klaus’ reluctance to sign might cost the Czech Republic a European Commissioner post as ODS leader Mirek Topolánek announced after meeting with European Commission President José Barroso. Political analyst Jiří Pehe in his blog on Aktuálně.cz notes that not only Klaus’ behaviour brings condemnation of the rest of the EU but is also questionable from the constitutional point of view. Two weeks ago media reported that British Tory leader David Cameron asked Klaus in a letter not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Klaus also argues that he is waiting for the decision of the Irish. Both these reasons go against Czech state’s sovereignty as they can be interpreted as interference with internal affairs.

Pehe suggests the parliament should adopt a resolution binding the president to sign the treaty immediately if the Constitutional Court does not find it in opposition with the Constitution. Otherwise the country should consider resigning from the EU.

Miroslav Korecký in Tý, on the other hand, says that if Klaus will last through the various attacks from the EU proponents without giving in and signing the treaty he “might even prevent the global warming in the end”.

• Who should have the final say in the Lisbon Treaty ratification?
• Is Klaus protecting democracy or undermining it?

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