Lisbon Treaty vote likely faces delay in Czech Republic

The ratification of the European Union' reform treaty in the Czech Republic likely faced another delay as the country was set to chair the 27-member bloc from January 1, dpa reported.

As the parliament's lower house was set to take up the treaty Tuesday, reports said that the party of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek planned to block the session in a bid to postpone the vote.

Topolanek signed the accord on behalf of his country in December 2007.

The premier's conservative Civic Democratic Party would like to barter the Lisbon Treaty ratification for opposition support of US plans to build a missile defence radar base on Czech soil, the reports said.

"The Lisbon Treaty vote will take place in January at the earliest when we will know that we also have support for the radar," euro.cz news server cited Civic Democratic lawmaker Marek Benda as saying.

The Czech Republic is the last EU country to vote on the pact, which has been stalled since Irish public turned it down in June. The accord is intended to streamline bloc's decision-making in an attempt to boost its global standing.

As Prague's six-month rotating EU presidency nears, Topolanek has been under pressure to ratify the accord soon.

Topolanek, whose party has a eurosceptic streak, backs the treaty - which requires approval by all 27 EU members - as a necessary evil and would prefer to postpone the vote.

He also hinted that he would like to barter the EU treaty ratification for approval of the unpopular US deal, a plan backed by his party.

The Civic Democratic Party congress late Sunday threw out a resolution asking party's lawmakers to reject the EU charter.

But the body "forcefully recommended" that the lawmakers first push through the missile shield pacts.

The Civic Democrats have been split over the Lisbon Treaty. The eurosceptic camp views it as a bad deal for small nations and a threat to country's sovereignty, while Topolanek's pragmatic wing sees it as a compromise whose only alternative is leaving the EU.

The party's eurosceptic Senators put the pact under review of the Constitutional Court, which found it compatible with Czech law on November 26.

The ruling opened way to ratification in the bicameral parliament where the treaty has support of junior governing partners, the Greens and Christian Democrats, and opposition Social Democrats.

It is opposed by opposition Communists and a portion of Topolanek's party, whose votes will be needed for approval.

The ratification however also requires presidential signature and President Vaclav Klaus, a fierce EU critic, said he would ink the treaty only after Ireland takes back its No vote.

Klaus can also further prolong the ratification process by putting the treaty back before the court after it clears parliament.

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