Eurosceptic Czech senators employ new tactic in efforts to block Lisbon treaty

The Czech Republic is one of the few countries in the EU not to have ratified the Lisbon treaty. Though both houses of parliament have approved ratification, the president is currently refusing to put his signature to it. Meanwhile, a group of Eurosceptic senators are also employing delaying tactics: they are going to send a freshly announced petition to the Czech Constitutional Court, ahead of a challenge to the document itself.

The Czech Parliament’s ratification of the EU’s Lisbon treaty was completed by a vote in the Czech Senate in May. However, almost immediately a group of Eurosceptic senators (most from the right of centre Civic Democrats) said they would ask the Czech Constitutional Court to decide whether the EU’s reform document was in line with Czech law.

It took the court five months to consider a similar appeal last year, when it found that seven of the treaty’s articles did in fact comply with the Czech constitution.

Now, however, the anti-Lisbon senators have announced a new tactic. Next week they are going to ask the Constitutional Court to weigh up another matter, ahead of any consideration of the document itself.

It is ferociously complicated. Essentially, in order to help push ratification through Parliament, a special “mandate” was approved, pledging that the Czech government would never transfer any powers to Brussels without the agreement of Parliament.

Though that was a sop to anti-EU legislators in both houses, the Eurosceptic senators are now using it to try to put a brake on the ratification process. They say it should have been approved by a constitutional majority, meaning at least 60 percent of all deputies.

Senator Jiří Oberfalzer says the group will ask the Constitutional Court to define the minimum powers required for the Czech Republic to be a sovereign state. He says the court should have the final say in the interpretation of EU legislation ensuing from Lisbon. For that to be possible, the law on the Constitutional Court itself would have to be changed – and until that happens, Lisbon ratification should remain on ice, says Mr Oberfalzer.

All this is bad news for those hoping to see the Czech Republic ratify a document signed by the then Czech prime minister in December 2007. But it will no doubt be welcomed by President Václav Klaus, a firm opponent of further European integration.

He has already made it clear he will not put his signature to ratification until the Constitutional Court rules on the second planned legal challenge from the group of Senators.

Even if such a ruling backs Lisbon, Mr Klaus says he will not sign unless the treaty has been approved by the Irish, who are holding a second referendum on the matter in October.