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Czech Constitutional Court Approves the Lisbon Treaty

The last two days the Czech Constitutional Court has been reviewing the Lisbon Treaty. The Court’s aim was to assess whether the Treaty is consistent with the Czech constitutional order.  As it is commonly known the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has encountered serious delay in the Czech Republic. While the Chamber of Deputies (the Lower House of the Parliament) has voted in favor of the document, the Senate seems to cause serious problem. It was the Senate (the Upper Chambers of the Czech Parliament), dominated by eurosceptics from the ruling Civic Democrats (ODS), which asked the Court to check the Treaty’s compatibility with the Czech constitution back in April this year. The legislators argued the Treaty limits the country’s sovereignty. Regrettably, the Czech Republic is the last EU member state that has not taken any official position on the reforming Treaty.

The opponents of the Treaty find great support in the Czech President. As an outspoken critic of the European Union, he is reported to have said during his visit to Ireland that „There has been a radical shift from integration to unification, from intergovernmentalism to supranationalism. The European Constitution, now called the Lisbon Treaty, is something which accelerates the shift […] that freedom and democracy will not be enhanced by ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. On the contrary.”

The Court commenced its public hearing on Tuesday, November 25, 2008. Judge-Rapporteur Dr. Vojen Güttler opened the hearing by reading the objections to the Lisbon Treaty raised by a group of Senators and the President. President Vaclav Klaus was of the many attendees of this hearing. His presence was requested by the judges of the Court. In his speech, he reiterated his extremely negative position to the Lisbon Treaty. As he stated during the public hearing “the international position as well as the internal situation of our state will change if this treaty becomes effective. The weight of our country in decision-making in the European Union will also be weakened […] The democratically constituted bodies of our state will be stripped of the rights to decide on a number of spheres of public life and these rights will be transferred to the hands of union bodies that do not fall within sufficient democratic control. Moreover, European Union bodies will be allowed to further extend their powers over matters concerning the life of our country and its citizens according to their own discretion and without our consent.“

Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra defended, on behalf of the Czech Government, the Lisbon treaty which he said would in no way restrict the state sovereignty nor is not in contradiction with the Czech constitutional order. As he declared before the Court “…if the proportion of its pros and cons are considered, the Lisbon treaty is an outcome acceptable to the Czech Republic.“ After the major speeches, the Court’s session adjourned until Wednesday. 

Today, on the second day of public hearing, the Court ruled unanimously that the European Union’s reform Treaty is in conformity with the Czech constitutional law, allowing the Parliament to proceed with the process of ratification. The Chairman of the Court Dr. Pavel Rychetsky declared “The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and Treaty on establishing the European Community and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are not in conflict with the constitutional order.“. It is worth mentioning that none of the judges raised any significantly different position on either the ruling or its reasoning. Such outcome is rather exceptional in politically disputed and complicated cases.

The Court’s decision an important milestone in this process, but it does not guarantee automatic approval in both Houses of Parliament. Based on numerous speeches by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek the ratification is unlikely to be completed before the end of 2008.

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