Slovakia delays EU treaty ratification indefinitely

Other News Materials 7 February 2008 22:54 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The Slovak parliament has postponed the ratification of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty indefinitely as the centre-left ruling coalition has so far failed to muster enough votes for its approval, media reports said Thursday.

"I will not allow the vote until a majority will be obtained," parliament speaker and deputy chairman of the senior ruling Smer- Social Democracy party, Pavol Paska, told reporters.

Most parties support the treaty, which was laboriously negotiated to streamline decision-making in the enlarged EU.

But the right-wing opposition has boycotted its ratification because of a dispute over the government's controversial draft press law.

This means the 85-strong coalition lacks five votes, as a majority of 90 in the 150-seat house is required to ratify the treaty.

"We won't let ourselves be blackmailed," Paska said in a briefing televised by the TA3 news channel. "We will not turn the Lisbon Treaty and the ratification process into a hostage of ... the opposition."

Last week opposition lawmakers repeatedly walked out of the chamber before the vote, as the ruling coalition would not give in to their demands to postpone the ratification until a revised draft of the press law was passed.

"We do not intend to torpedo anything ... but to protect elementary democratic values," opposition leader Mikulas Dzurinda said at a press conference televised by TA3.

As it is now, the contested bill would introduce penalties for stories approving of wars or drugs or grant wide-ranging rights to respond to published articles.

The proposal has recently been criticized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because its provisions would "severely restrict editorial autonomy."

So far three EU members - Hungary, Slovenia and Malta - have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

All 27 member states must pass it before it can come into effect on January 1, 2009. Only one EU member - Ireland - is holding a national referendum on the treaty.