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NEWS | Wednesday, 28 October 2009

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Lisbon treaty faces legal challenge in Czech court

Celebrations over the Irish ‘Yes’ may prove a tad premature, as the Czech Republic’s Constitutional Court yesterday began hearing what could well prove to be the last legal challenge mounted against the EU’s controversial Lisbon Treaty.
The Czech court has begun considering a case brought by 17 Eurosceptic senators, who argue that the treaty would pave the way to the creation of a Federalist superstate, undermining Czech sovereignty in the process.
The treaty, which aims to streamline the way the European Union is run, must be approved by all 27 member countries before it can become law.
The Czech Republic is the only country which has yet to ratify the treaty.
The 15-member Czech Constitutional Court panel has convened in the city of Brno. Since then, the court has received several additional petitions in the past few days, and some observers believe that the judges may need more than one day to decide.
The court challenge is one of two hurdles to be cleared before Czech President Vaclav Klaus will sign the Lisbon Treaty.
A similar case has already been dismissed, but the president - a Eurosceptic who strongly opposes the treaty - still has to sign it to complete ratification.
He has said he will not do that unless provided with solid guarantees about property rights in the Czech Republic, a subject which will be addressed by a summit later this week in Brussels.
The EU is keen to get on with the task of implementing far-reaching reforms, including the appointment of a new, permanent EU president, but is being frustrated by the lack of Czech ratification.
The Czech parliament has already approved the treaty.
On another level, the Lisbon Treaty is also under threat from the UK’s Conservative Party, which threatens to hold a referendum on the treaty if they form a government next year, and if it is not signed into law by then.
Speculation is mounting about possible candidates for the two new powerful posts that Lisbon would create - the President of the European Council (EU president), and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
One marked difference between the Lisbon treaty and the Nice treaty it is stipulated to replace is in fact the creation of a combined European Foreign Service, which is expected to consolidate the beginnings of a Common Foreign Policy - soemthing the EU
Critics fear that this will mark the first step towards the dismantling of member states’ own foreign offices, and could signal a move towards the creaton of a common EU military force.
However,t he most controversial decision to be taken in the near future concerns the EU presidency. UK ministers say they would welcome former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair becoming EU president, though he himself remains tight-lipped about whether he will bid for it.
But other countries have expressed scepticism, and Blair is likely to be an unpopular choice over his support for the USA-led invasion of Iraq in 2004.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are among smaller EU countries further argue that the EU president should come from a country that uses the euro and is part of the border-free Schengen Agreement.
Malta has yet to take up an official position, although the current government is understood to support his nomination.


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