Sweden cautions Czechs over Lisbon 'opt outs'

AFP/The Local
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Sweden cautions Czechs over Lisbon 'opt outs'

The Swedish EU presidency has cautioned the Czechs that their demands for an extra "footnote" on the Lisbon treaty sends out "the wrong message at the wrong time".


Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Thursday became the sole European leader to hold out against the EU reform treaty and set new conditions for ratification, as Poland's Lech Kaczynski pledged to sign it this week.

But France, in an immediate reaction to the Czech leader's demand, said it would oppose any prerequisites and underlined that the Lisbon Treaty had been approved by the Czech parliament and senate.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, said Thursday that Klaus "wishes to add a footnote with two sentences" to the treaty.

"As far as I understand it, he's linking this to the (EU's) Charter of Fundamental Rights and then he wants the European Council to take a decision on this footnote," Reinfeldt told reporters.

Reinfeldt said he had spoken to Klaus and told him that he was sending out "the wrong message at the wrong time, that it is very late in the process."

Klaus's spokesman in Prague refused comment.

The Lisbon Treaty has to be approved by all 27 EU member states to come into force, possibly next year, and time is running out, with the commission's mandate due to expire at the end of the month.

The treaty aims to streamline the running of the EU, which has nearly doubled in size in the past five years as a swathe of ex-communist countries such as Poland have joined.

Polish President Kaczynski meanwhile will sign the treaty "on Saturday at noon," his chief of staff Waldyslaw Stasiak said. He had promised to sign if Irish voted to approve the treaty in a second referendum on October 2.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, European Parliament speaker Jerzy Buzek and Swedish premier Reinfeldt will attend the signing ceremony.

As the Czech president became the sole stumbling block to the treaty, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner struck a pugnacious note.

"We are not going to change the Lisbon Treaty," Kouchner told reporters.

"It was voted by the Czech parliament and the Czech senate under very precise terms that everybody accepted, the 27 countries" that are members of the European Union, he said.

Klaus, who is bellicose and unpredictable, refuses to fly the EU flag outside his official residence.

The Czech parliament has already approved the treaty and Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer, who this week held talks with other EU leaders, opposes Klaus's campaign against it.

"I believe 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," Fischer said Wednesday.

A group of 17 Czech senators have filed a complaint against the treaty with the country's Constitutional Court, which is expected to announce a date for its ruling within days.

According to Reinfeldt, Klaus's demand could resemble exemptions, or "opt-outs", granted to Poland and Britain in 2007 on the Charter of Fundamental Rights in their negotiations on the Lisbon Treaty.

The charter is part of the Lisbon Treaty, setting in stone fundamental human rights.

Poland received assurances from the EU that the Charter would not affect its legislation on homosexuals, while Britain was assured that European laws and courts would not prevail over its own judicial system.

"I remember we had lengthy discussions about this Charter of Fundamental Rights, because we had special conditions for Poland and for Britain," Reinfeldt said.

"I think that it's what he's (Klaus is) referring too," he added.

Any such footnote added to the Lisbon Treaty would require the approval of all members of the EU.


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