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EU treaty vote threat in Slovakia

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Slovakia's opposition has renewed threats to block ratification of the EU reform treaty over the government's passing of a controversial media law.

Critics of the media bill say it undermines editorial freedom because it orders newspapers to print responses from anyone mentioned in news stories.

PM Robert Fico's coalition passed the bill comfortably by 81 votes to 62.

But he lacks the three-fifths majority needed to pass the EU treaty, which has to be approved by all 27 member states.

Restrictions

Mikulas Dzurinda, leader of Slovakia's centre-right opposition, the Democratic and Christian Union, said the government had ignored their protests over the media law.

The former prime minister said: "Under these circumstances, our deputies will not take part in the vote on the Lisbon treaty."

Europe's democracy watchdog, the OSCE, also says the media law severely restricts freedom of the press and wants the parliament to withdraw it.

Mr Fico's government controls 85 deputies in the 150-seat parliament, which is a comfortable majority to approve laws but not enough to ratify the EU treaty.

Austria's parliament was expected to ratify the new treaty later on Wednesday, despite protests in Vienna and calls for a referendum on the issue.

Only Ireland is holding a referendum on the document. Hungary's parliament was first to endorse it. Malta, Slovenia, Romania and France followed suit.

Designed to streamline decision-making in the EU, the treaty will come into effect next year if passed by every member.

It replaces a more ambitious constitution that was dropped after being rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.




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