Czech president makes new demand over EU treaty
Czech President Vaclav Klaus raised a new obstacle to the European Union's Lisbon reform treaty on Thursday, telling EU president Sweden he wants a footnote added to the document before signing it into force, Reuters reported.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski will sign the treaty on Saturday, an aide said, leaving Klaus as the only EU state leader holding out against ratifying the treaty to give the 27-nation bloc more influence in world affairs.
The treaty's backers say failure to secure Klaus's signature would plunge the EU into crisis, potentially paralyzing the bloc as it tackles a deep economic crisis and power shifts toward China and other emerging powers.
"I spoke by phone today with President Klaus ... In order to sign the treaty, Klaus asked for a footnote of two sentences concerning, as I understand, the charter of fundamental rights," Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told Reuters by telephone.
"I told him this is the wrong message at the wrong time for the EU. I told him clearly it is his ink on the paper that counts and I don't want this to delay the treaty going through as soon as possible," he said.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner ruled out any change to the treaty to accommodate Klaus.
"We are not going to change the Lisbon treaty. It has been approved by the Czech parliament and by the Czech senate in the precise terms in which everybody has accepted it, the 27 countries including that country (the Czech Republic)," he told a news conference.
"I have no doubt that President Klaus is going to invent many more difficulties, but I think that the Czech people accept that their representatives having voted, having said yes each time to this treaty precisely without changing one word, will influence him enough for it to finally be done."
ALL EYES ON KLAUS
Attention turned to Klaus after Irish voters backed the treaty last Friday in a second vote after receiving guarantees on human rights, sovereignty and taxation.
Klaus says the treaty would create a European superstate that gives too much power to Brussels, and it is not clear whether he intends to continue resisting the treaty or his new terms are a delaying or face-saving tactic.
He could try to delay ratification until Britain holds an election next year which is expected to be won by the opposition Conservatives who have said they will hold a referendum on the treaty if it has not yet been fully ratified.
Reinfeldt said Klaus had told him he would sign the treaty if he received the additional wording and if the Czech Constitutional Court rejects a legal challenge to the treaty by a group of senators.
"At least this is a step forward for the EU in that he (Klaus) was able to clarify his position and what he is asking for," Reinfeldt said.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek will visit Prague on Friday and is expected to meet Klaus.