Towards "an Ever Closer Union"

Fredag, 5. December 2008     0 kommentti(a)
Tiia Lehtonen
forskare - forskningsprogrammet Europeiska unionen

The Czech Republic is currently preparing to take over the six-month rotating EU Presidency from France, starting on January 1st. With a view to the recent problems in the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty for Ireland – that an average Euro-citizen wish to be solved as soon as possible – the Czechs step to the stage at a critical point, bringing with them extra flavour of scepticism being their predominant attitude towards the EU.

The good news is that the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic, which was asked to examine the Lisbon Treaty’s compatibility with the Czech constitution, has now given a green light to ratification. It is still to be seen what Ireland will propose at the EU Summit to solve its ratification crisis in Brussels next week. This has already been postponed once at the October Summit when Ireland was originally expected to reveal its roadmap and show its commitment. Even today it is rather unlikely that any concrete acts would take place earlier than during the second part of the Czechs’ Presidency. Although not stated explicitly, it is nevertheless likely that a second referendum will be held in Ireland some time in 2009. Before agreeing to hold another vote, additional declarations or protocols would need to be added to the Treaty to reassure Irish voters on issues around taxation, abortion and national defence. Given the fact that it is the EU Presidency that should actually lead talks with a reluctant country in order to find a solution and respond to these sensitive concerns, it is not easy to imagine as eurosceptic country as Czech contributing in any relevant way to a mutual conflict-resolution with Ireland. The European Union is still proceeding according to the lowest common denominator and euroscepticism is doing surprisingly well.

The Czech Republic differs from Ireland with regard to the EU orientation as adopted by its political leaders. Whereas in Dublin the political elite appears rather united, in Prague it remains divided on various EU issues. President Václav Klaus is well-known for his nonconformist standpoint, while the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra are more pro-European having supported the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. It was recently declared by President Klaus in a radio interview that if the Czech Parliament adopts the Treaty he might consider signing it but not before Ireland does likewise.

A eurosceptic will find friends in Prague; during his official state visit to Ireland in mid-November President Klaus enjoyed a private dinner with another anti-EU-personality, Declan Ganley, a not-at-all-that-poor-businessman from County Galway. Mr Ganley is still satisfied having re-interpreted the Lisbon Treaty to his Irish countrymen from his very personal perspective reflecting his very personal interests prior to the referendum in June 2008. His organization Libertas possesses a great sense of provocation and can be seen as a major influence on the campaign that lead to the “No” outcome. For understandable reasons, the dinner was soon deemed by the Irish politicians as an inappropriate intervention in the internal situation in Ireland at an extremely sensitive time. President Klaus was kind enough to respond his Irish colleagues by calling Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin a “hypocrite” over the issue.

Fair enough. It must be stated that there are rising concerns over the impact of the coming Czech EU Presidency on the overall atmosphere within the Union. Particularly President Klaus’ position on the EU has reinforced fears among the rest of the European political leaders. It remains to be seen as to whether ‘a new Pan-European political force’ will be formed in cooperation with Messrs Ganley and Klaus to oppose the further EU integration and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. A joint task to form a coalition to contest the upcoming European Parliamentary elections is already on their agenda.

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