The Czech president, Václav Klaus, may have surprised everyone with his new condition for signing the Lisbon treaty, but here in the Czech Republic the argument that the treaty may undermine the country’s post-war Beneš decrees is not altogether new. Such rhetoric was used by several Eurosceptic parties in the run-up to this summer’s elections to the European Parliament. Many pundits agree that President Klaus has brought up a sensitive subject by suggesting Lisbon could open the door to German property claims. Earlier today, I spoke to political analyst Jiří Pehe to ask whether he believed Mr Klaus’s fears about Lisbon may be founded:
“Well I would say that 90 percent of all legal studies on the subject of what Mr Klaus sees as a possible misuse of the Lisbon treaty show that the possibility is really non-existent. That means that basically all legal experts say that the European Charter of Basic Rights, which Mr Klaus wants to suspend in the Czech case, cannot be used retroactively, and therefore cannot be used for property claims by Sudeten Germans.”
“Well I think that Václav Klaus is a political chess player, and by that I mean that he basically himself, I think, doesn’t believe that there is any real danger from Sudeten Germans. On the other hand, he knows very well that the Sudeten German question is a very emotional question in Czech society. And all he needed to accomplish was to divide Czech society, and also to divide the Czech political scene. This is simply because he knew that there was a danger some political parties frustrated by his stances could take the case to the Constitutional Court or perhaps even impeach him, and what he needed to accomplish with this particular amendment, with this opt-out for the Czech Republic, was to divide the Czech political establishment, which he managed to do very well.”
So, you don’t believe that when President Václav Klaus talks about the threat that Lisbon poses to Czech national sovereignty he is really referring to the Beneš Decrees. You believe this is all just a pretext?
“Yes, I think that Mr Klaus has made so many different statements on the Lisbon treaty, and has used so many different reasons in justifying his opposition, that one really cannot believe that he believes that the Lisbon treaty really threatens Czech sovereignty in any significant way, or that we would lose something by accepting the Lisbon treaty. I believe that Mr Klaus is just playing a political game which is difficult to understand.
“I only hope that he is not holding all of Europe and most of the Czech Republic hostage to his own views only because he wants to be visible and he wants to play the role of a politician who is begged by all of Europe and many Czechs to fulfil his constitutional duties.”
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