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Stop that treaty, Mr Klaus!

On 2 October, the Irish people voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, obviously such outcome was immediately welcomed in Brussels. The Prime Minister of Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has said “Today is a good day for Europe. (…) Europe has listened to - and acted on - the concerns of the Irish people.” However, the Irish people were not heard on the first referendum. The Irish democratic vote was not respect and they were forced to vote again. Brussels wants to hear what it does want to hear.

Following the result of the second Irish referendum, the EU leaders are, therefore, breathing a sigh of relief but not quite. Lech Kaczyński has signed Poland’s ratification instrument for the Treaty of Lisbon, on 10 October, but Czech Republic has not concluded yet their ratification process. Brussels has now shifted its attention from Ireland to Czech Republic as it is the only EU Member State which has not ratified the Lisbon Treaty. Fredrik Reinfeldt has said “The European Council is united in its wish to see the Treaty enter into force before the end of the year" but the Czech president is standing in their way.

Unsurprisingly, Brussels is now putting pressure on Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, to sign the act of ratification. The Lisbon Treaty entails a major transfer of sovereign powers to the EU, hence, even tough the Czech Parliament approved the Lisbon Treaty, Vaclav Klaus has not signed the ratification instrument as he believes the Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for his country.

Last month, a group of Czech senators, mainly from ODS, lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court challenging the conformity of the Lisbon Treaty with the Czech Republic’s Constitution. The senators argue that the Treaty will infringe Czech sovereignty by creating a supranational European state. Moreover, they also requested the Court to rule whether the Irish guarantees constitute a new international treaty which must be ratified by the Czech parliament.

Unsurprisingly, the EU leaders were not pleased with the news of a new complaint to the Czech Constitutional Court. Namely, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said “France wants the states which have not yet done so, to finish the ratification procedure as quickly as possible so that the Lisbon Treaty can be implemented before the end of the year, as the 27 promised (…)" and urged the EU presidency "to take all necessary initiatives so that the Lisbon Treaty quickly comes into force."

President Klaus cannot sign the treaty until the verdict of the Czech Constitutional Court. According to the EuropeanVoice Tomáš Langášek, the courts' general secretary has said “The judges unanimously held that the case should take priority, which means it is open for a speedy deliberation.” In fact, the Court is expected to decide quite soon whether to accept or reject the complaint.

In order to assess whether the Treaty can be ratified by Czech Republic before the end of this year, Fredrik Reinfeldt organised a meeting with Jan Fischer, the Czech Prime Minister, and José Manuel Barroso. After the meeting, Jan Fischer said "(…) The question of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic is not one of whether it will be a yes or a no, but rather of when the Treaty can be ratified (…)" but he believes “that everything is in place for the ratification of the Lisbon treaty to be fully completed in the Czech Republic by the end of this year.”

Fortunately, Mr Klaus is doing everything he can to delay the ratification of the Treaty. On 9 October, Fredrik Reinfeldt spoke with the Czech President over the phone in another attempt to persuade him to ratify the treaty. According to the Swedish Prime Minister "[...] In order to sign the treaty, Klaus asked for a footnote of two sentences concerning, as I understand, the charter of fundamental rights."

Vaclav Klaus is planning, therefore, to ask for an opt out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights at the upcoming European Council, on 29 October. Vaclav Klaus said that the Charter "(...) will make it possible to bypass Czech courts and to raise property claims, for example, of those displaced after World War II directly before the Court of Justice of the EU.” According to Ladislav Jakl, spokesman for Vaclav Klaus "The president will not be satisfied by any declaration, but only guarantees for every citizen.” Moreover, he said “the guarantees given to Ireland are not guarantees; they were a political declaration in a style such that the Irish wolf filled its stomach and the Lisbon goat remained whole."

 Vaclav Klaus does not want to sign ratification instrument for the Lisbon Treaty. In fact, it seems, he is trying to re-open the Treaty as a Czech opt out from the Charter would entail an amendment to the Treaty which would consequently have to be approved by all EU member states and the Treaty re-ratified.

Vaclav Klaus has put his foot down and has not yielded to Brussels pressure. According to the Sunday Times, German and French diplomats are calling for Mr Klaus impeachment. This is a terrible interference on the internal affairs of another Member State and why on earth should he be impeached, for defending his country interests? This is ludicrous.

Under pressure from Brussels, the Czech Cabinet held, yesterday (12 October), an emergency meeting to discuss Mr Klaus’s requests. Following the meeting, Jan Fischer said “The Government is in a position to negotiate the extra conditions revealed by our head of state. We are ready to go to the European Council to put it on the table.” Mr Fisher is no longer sure that the treaty will be ratified before the end of this year. He said “The Government would like to have clear and sound guarantees from the side of the head of state that this is actually the last step from his side and no other additional conditions will be added.”

The Czech prime minister has met today (13 October) Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, to discuss Czech ratification of the treaty. Jose Manuel Barroso has urged Vaclav Klaus to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. He said "We certainly hope that no artificial obstacles are raised at this time.” According to Mr Barroso it would be “absurd” and “surreal” to reopen the Lisbon Treaty.

There would be an overall transfer of more political power to the EU through the creation of a permanent President of the European Council and the High Representative on Foreign and Security policy, meaning an EU foreign affairs minister. A European External Action Service would be also created if the Treaty enters into force. All these posts would diminish the ability of Member States to conduct their own foreign policy.

The Swedish EU presidency was planning to reach an agreement on the nominations to all EU top posts as well as on the composition of the new Commission, at the 29-30 October European summit. Swedish Europe minister, Cecilia Malmstrom, has said "Our aim is - if everything goes smoothly and the Lisbon treaty is adopted - that at the October council ...we can decide on all the institutional issues.” However, Fredrik Reinfeldt said he could not start “consultations” on the new EU top positions until there was more clarity when Czech Republic Constitutional Court will rule on the compatibility of the Lisbon treaty with the Czech Constitution. The EU leaders were, therefore, hoping for the Constitutional Court to reject the claim before the EU summit so they could nominate their candidates for the presidency of the European council as well as the EU foreign minister. In fact, the Court will give its verdict on 27 October. However, they were not expecting Mr Klaus request as regards the Charter of Fundamental Rights which will delay things further. It seems that the EU summit will be dominated by negotiations on Mr Klaus’s demands and there will be no decision on the nomination of the EU President and the EU Foreign Minister. Czech Republic has spoiled the plans of those who were eager to nominate a president of the European Council and a new high representative for foreign and security policy at the October summit – well done, Mr Klaus!

The Czech government is presently working on a solution as regards the guarantees requested by Václav Klaus so that he will agree to sign the Lisbon Treaty ratification law. An ad hoc working group was created to deal with the issue. Mr Fischer has said "There are several options. We have to choose the option that would not involve re-ratification." It seems that the plan would be to present a “political declaration” by the European Council on Mr Klaus’s request “specifying that it will be inserted into a protocol at the next opportunity (…)» In other words, the plan would be to do what was done for Ireland. It remains to be seen what will happen at the EU summit. The EU leaders want the Treaty to enter into force by the end of this year therefore it is very likely they will come up with another deceitful solution to push the treaty through.

Presently, the Commission comprises one national from each Member State. A Protocol attached to the Nice Treaty requires that when the EU will be made of 27 Member States the Commission will have fewer commissioners than the number of Member States but the number is not specified. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the Commission will be composed of one commissioner per Member State. However, from 2014, it will be composed of a number of commissioners equivalent of two thirds of the number of Member States. The European Council acting unanimously might amend the number of commissioners.

The European Commission’s mandate ends on 31 October, under the existing rules, from November 2009, there would be fewer Commissioners than the number of Member States. The mandate of Javier Solana also expires this month. On 29-30 October, the EU leaders will decide whether to extend the term of the current Commission and for how long it will be prolonged or to appoint the new Commission on the basis of the Nice Treaty. The EU Treaty does not include provisions for extending the European Commission’s mandate hence it seems that the only legal option it is to appoint the next Commission on the basis of the Nice Treaty.

According to Mirek Topolanek the leader of the Civic Democrat (ODS) party “If the Lisbon Treaty is not ratified because of President Klaus' refusal to sign, the European Commission will be reduced" and in that case Prague will lose its commissioner. In order to put pressure too, Germany has said that if the Lisbon Treaty does not enter into force, it will push for a small European Commission. Sweden has indicated that it could be possible for the member state which does not get a commissioner to get the post of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy. However, Barroso has threatened that "If there is no Lisbon Treaty, there is no guarantee for the Czech Republic or any other country to have a commissioner.”

Obviously, the negotiations over the allocation of the Commission’s portfolios are directly related to the appointment of the EU new posts.

It is important to recall that under the existing Treaties, the Council and the European Commission president select the persons to propose for appointment as members of the Commission on the basis of the Member State’s proposals whereas under the Lisbon Treaty, Member States would be solely entitled to make suggestions. Such provision will limit even more the influence of the Member States whilst it would have been much easier and more democratic for each Member State to appoint one Commissioner.

Under the Lisbon Treaty the Union would have a President which will replace the six monthly presidency of the European Council. The President will be a permanent figure with more influence and symbolism. The President will chair the European Council in order to ensure continuity in EU initiatives. The European Council president would also represent the EU externally. Hence, a long-term president of the European Council will provide the Union with a single face which gives the idea of United States of Europe. The president would be a very powerful position to the expense of Member States. However, it is not clear yet what would be his/her exact tasks and responsibilities.

The EU ambassadors have already started discussions on how to implement the Lisbon treaty and they are discussing the exact role of the new post of president of the European Council. It has been said that the EU President job description will depend on the person who would fulfil the post. In the meantime, Barroso has said "The job of the president is to deliver the results of a European Council," therefore should be "Someone who will fight to reach agreement in the European Council."

Although the formal negotiations for the new top positions have not started yet there is one name in everybody’s mouth - Tony Blair. Tony Blair is the strongest candidates to take the job of permanent EU president. According to Siim Kallas "Tony Blair would make an excellent president. He has the proven track record and sufficient gravitas on the world stage for such a post. (…) I cannot think of a better candidate although, of course, this is a matter for member state governments to decide.” Other potential candidates include Felipe Gonzalez, Jean-Claude Juncker, Paavo Lipponen, Herman Van Rompuy and Jan Peter Balkenende. Tony Blair has Nicolas Sarkozy support but several Member states are not willing to back Blair as the UK is not part of the eurozone or Schengen area. The Benelux countries have recently presented a document on the implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon, which reads “The President of the European Council must have the stature of a head of state or government. He must be someone who has demonstrated his commitment to the European project and has developed a global vision of the Union’s policies, who listens to the member states and the institutions, and who is sensitive to the institutional balance that corresponds to the Community method.” The Benelux countries are therefore opposing to Tony Blair nomination.

Unsurprisingly, in an undemocratic and unaccountable EU, the citizens of the EU member states will have no say as the president of the European Council will be an unelected position. The EU president will be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority voting, for a term of two and a half years, renewable once. As Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said “It would be outrageous if the British people voted out a Labour Government only to find Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson setting themselves up in power in Brussels."

The Lisbon Treaty also creates the post of High representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, which merges the positions of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Commissioner for External Relations. He/she will represent the Union for matters relating to the common foreign and security policy together with the president of the European Council. The delineation of tasks still has to be clarified.

The EU foreign affairs minister will have a right of initiative in foreign and security policy matters as he will share with each Member State the power to submit proposals regarding the CFSP. He will represent the EU in matters relating to common foreign and security policy. He/she will express the Union position in international organizations. He/she can speak on behalf of the Union in the United Nations Security Council.

The foreign affairs minister will be both the Council’s representative for the common foreign and security policy and one of the Commission’s vice-presidents. Being a vice president of the Commission will be responsible within the Commission for responsibilities given to it in external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. The CFSP is an intergovernmental matter in this way a Commission member will be too involved in the Council’s work. He will serve supranational and intergovernmental matters. Therefore, this person will have too much power.

The Lisbon Treaty transforms the Union in an international actor in its own right. It seems, the Heads of State and Government will not represent anymore their country in the international stage as they will be represented by the Union.

The High representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority and with the agreement of the President of the Commission. France and Germany have already shown interest in the post.

Moreover, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be in charged of the European external action service with delegations in different countries, and will ensure that the Union has a stronger voice on the international arena. The European External Action Service will be composed by a combination of national diplomatic services of the Member States and officials from the Council General Secretariat and of the Commission. The organisation and functioning of the Service will be established by a Council decision on a proposal from the High Representative, after consulting the European Parliament and obtaining the consent of the Commission. Hence, it will be decided by QMV. Questions regarding institutional arrangements, competences (Commission/Council secretariat) and financing remain to be answer. The provision concerning the European external action service is imprecise.

According to the Benelux countries “(…) the EEAS will need a legal status providing it with functional legal personality so that it has sufficient autonomy. This legal personality should also give it the capacity to act as necessary to carry out the tasks included in its mandate.” Moreover, they believe that the EEAS should be funded from the EU budget.

The Members of the European Parliament Constitutional Affairs Committee are calling for the EEAS to be incorporated into the Commission's administrative structure. They do not want the EEAS to be responsible to the Council, and funded by, national governments. According to Elmar Brok "The EAS should be administratively and budget-wise within the Commission, formally a part of the Commission.”

The Member States would no longer represent themselves but the Union on the international stage. What will happen to the UK diplomatic representation? Who will defend the interests of the Commonwealth, if the powers of the Foreign Secretaries would be transfer to the High representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy?

It is not known whether the treaty would be in force before the UK general election. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that David Cameron commits to hold a post-ratification referendum.

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ABOUT BILL CASH MP

Bill Cash has been the Conservative Member of Parliament for Stone since 1997 and an MP since 1984.

He is currently the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee and the founder member of the European Foundation...

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