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Czech leader resigned to treaty

By Rob Cameron
BBC News, Prague

Czech President, Vaclav Klaus
President Klaus compared the treaty to an unstoppable train

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has compared the Lisbon Treaty on EU reform to an unstoppable speeding train, suggesting he may have to sign it.

A staunch opponent to the treaty, he said even if it did come into force, it would not be "the end of history".

He was speaking in an interview with Saturday's Lidove Noviny newspaper.

His signature is now virtually the last hurdle before full ratification of the treaty, which is aimed at streamlining the 27-member EU's decision making.

"I do not consider the Lisbon Treaty to be a good thing for Europe, for the freedom of Europe, or for the Czech Republic," Lidove Noviny quoted Mr Klaus as saying.

"However, the train has already travelled so fast and so far that I guess it will not be possible to stop it or turn it around, however much we would wish to."

Decision time?

Although Mr Klaus has fought tooth and nail against the treaty, which he sees as endangering Czech sovereignty, there are increasing signs coming from Prague Castle that this battle may be lost.

The country's caretaker government is busy trying to deal with the president's latest demand for an opt-out from the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights - which will become law as soon as the treaty is ratified.

Mr Klaus has said the opt-out was essential to prevent Czech courts being circumvented, mentioning the prospect of ethnic Germans - 2.5m of whom were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war - trying to win back their property.

But on this point too Mr Klaus appeared to offer concessions, telling Lidove Noviny that a legal guarantee similar to that given to Ireland might be sufficient - in other words a solution that would not require ratification by all 27 EU members.

The Czech president cannot actually sign the treaty until his country's constitutional court rules on a legal challenge filed by a group of senators.

The court is due to meet on 27 October.

If the senators' complaint is rejected, it is decision time for Mr Klaus.



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