Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 16:32 UK

Czechs 'to back treaty this year'

Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Prague (3 Oct 2009)
President Klaus is almost the last hope for Eurosceptics

The Czech PM, Jan Fischer, has told EU leaders he fully expects his country to ratify the EU's Lisbon Treaty by the end of this year.

The Czech Constitutional Court is studying a complaint against the treaty and the Eurosceptic Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, has not yet signed it.

Lisbon cannot take effect unless all 27 EU countries ratify it. All but the Czech Republic and Poland have done so.

The UK Conservatives want to put it to a referendum if elected next spring.

Race against time

The treaty aims to streamline EU decision-making and boost the EU's role globally.

Jose Manuel Barroso: "The commitment of the Czech government is very important"

Politicians across Europe want Lisbon ratified swiftly so as to get the new structures within it up and running, and to eliminate the possibility that any new British government might reverse the UK's ratification of the treaty, the BBC's Jonny Dymond reports from Brussels.

The Czech Republic's Europe Minister, Stefan Fule, told the BBC he thought the Czech ratification could come in "weeks rather than months".

He said it was not a question of "if the treaty was signed, but when".

Gavin Hewitt
Gavin Hewitt, BBC News, Prague

If some Tories were hoping that the Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus would delay signing the Lisbon Treaty until they were in power next year, today was not encouraging.

Czech ministers were out to reassure Brussels that ratification of the treaty would not extend beyond the end of the year.

Prime Minister Fischer held talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso by videophone on Wednesday. He had been due to fly to Brussels, but his plane was grounded with a technical problem.

Mr Fischer said "everything is in place" for ratification of the treaty. Under the EU's original plan, Lisbon was supposed to take effect in January this year.

The Czech government "has created all the conditions for the treaty to be ratified by the end of the year", Mr Fischer said.

"I am also deeply convinced that the president of the republic [Klaus] will be ready to complete the ratification by authorising it with his signature, after the verdict and the decision of the constitutional court of the Czech Republic becomes available."

Mr Barroso welcomed Mr Fischer's assurance, saying "this commitment of the Czech government is very clear".

Creates new post of EU president (President of European Council)
New post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs
More decisions by majority vote, rather than unanimity
Ratified by all member states except Czech Republic and Poland
Only Ireland held a referendum on it
Took a decade of negotiations
Was intended to take effect in January 2009

The Czech parliament has already approved the treaty, but a group of senators allied to President Klaus have launched a new legal complaint.

Poland is expected to complete ratification in a few days' time.

On Saturday voters in the Republic of Ireland backed the treaty overwhelmingly in a second referendum, nullifying the Irish "No" vote of June 2008.

EU governments see the treaty as fundamental to the 27-nation bloc's future success. Without it, they argue, the EU's decision-making processes will remain slow and cumbersome, because they date back to when the EU consisted of only 15 nations.

Opponents see Lisbon as part of a federalist agenda that threatens national sovereignty.

Print Sponsor

Financial TimesVoyage of discovery - 3 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Hope for Tories over Lisbon Treaty as Czech Republic stalls over the controversial legislation - 4 hrs ago
New York Times Czechs Offer Mixed Signals on E.U. Reform Treaty - 30 hrs ago
Reuters Africa Czech PM reassures EU over treaty - 37 hrs ago
Irish Times Czechs to 'back EU treaty this year' - 38 hrs ago
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