The Czech President, Václav Klaus, is causing considerable irritation among his fellow heads of state and government in the European Union by not signing the Treaty of Lisbon. The Czech Republic is the only one of the 27 EU states yet to ratify the Treaty, which all member-states signed on December 13, 2007. Both chambers of the country’s parliament have approved the Treaty, and the constitutional court has ruled it does not violate the constitution. Mr. Klaus nevertheless has raised objections at this very late stage. He demands exemptions from the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is a part of the Treaty, and new provisions to protect the Czech Republic against claims arising from the expulsion of Carpathian Germans after the Second World War. He seeks to bolster his case by pointing out that Poland and the United Kingdom specifically obtained exemptions from the Treaty (although this happened before the ratification process began). Mr. Klaus’s demands, if conceded, would require a repetition of the ratification process in all 27 EU states. As the process has taken eight years and is still incomplete, that is something no member-government wants.
Not surprisingly, even the Czech parliament is growing restive and there is talk of impeachment if Mr. Klaus does not heed the constitutional court’s ruling. One solution would be for the other 26 states to issue a declaration accepting his demands; Irish concerns were thus accommodated after Ireland rejected the Treaty in June 2008. The Treaty, which contains some genuine improvements, including a substantial foreign policy role, over previous EU arrangements, has been criticised for being an EU constitution smuggled in by the back door after the French and Dutch voters rejected it; the EU’s reaction to the Irish rejection was close to casuistry; and the Treaty has not allayed the remoteness the people of the member-states feel from its institutions. Mr. Klaus, however, may only be trying to keep his own political career afloat. He cannot be President again after his term expires in 2013, and his Civic Democratic Party is cool towards him. So he may be attempting to cast himself as a Eurosceptic on a pan-European stage, unmindful of the damage he does. It is important to ensure that this political adventurer is not allowed that opportunity.