A great deal of pomp and ceremony was on display at Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery on Thursday as leaders of the European Union’s 27 member countries signed the landmark Lisbon Treaty. The treaty replaces the EU Constitution, which was rejected by Dutch and French voters in 2005, and will fundamentally alter the way the EU is run. Lisbon now needs to be ratified by all 27 members, including of course the Czech Republic. But will the path to ratification be smooth?
The treaty, which is 287 pages long, is a bid to streamline the EU’s decision making and make it a slimmer, more effective body. In brief, it creates a new European Council president, ushers in a new foreign policy chief to increase the EU’s profile abroad, reduces the number of EU Commissioners from 27 to 18, removes national vetoes in around 50 policy areas, redistributes voting weights between member states and removes all references to “EU statehood” such as a flag or an anthem.
Now it just needs to be ratified. Its predecessor, the EU Constitution, came a cropper when it was put to a referendum and the people of the Netherlands and France rather inconveniently said no. This time around, therefore, it will merely be ratified in parliament by all of the 27 EU countries except Ireland, which has to have a referendum on these things.
In the Czech Republic, however, the ratification process might be far from smooth. Just as prime minister Mirek Topolanek was putting his signature to the document in Lisbon, critics accused his party – the right-of-centre Civic Democrats – of trying to devise ways to delay ratification. The Civic Democrats propose sending the document to the Constitutional Court in Brno to decide whether it’s compatible with the Czech Constitution. This could take a very long time.
But what would be the point if it’s only delaying the inevitable? Well, according to reports in the media, their strategy is to delay it and win time and wait for the treaty’s ratification to fail in another EU state so it won’t be the Czechs’ fault when the whole thing collapses.
“The government’s strategy is clear,” Civic Democrat senator told Lidove Noviny. “Delay it and wait for someone else to do the job for us,” he says. Whether that strategy will succeed is another matter.