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Czechs concerned about changes to Lisbon treaty

Source: Reuters - Thu 2th Jul 2009

Legal guarantees given by the European Union to Ireland change the Lisbon treaty, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said on Saturday, opening a debate on whether the treaty's ratification process should be renewed.

The European Union agreed to offer the Irish legal guarantees on national sovereignty, and on matters ranging from military neutrality to abortion. Ireland said after winning the assurances it would hold a second referendum in early October.

The guarantees should help secure Irish voters' backing for the treaty which aims to streamline the 27-nation bloc's decision-making process and give it a greater say in global affairs.

"Although it is written in the treaty that not all countries ... will have their own commissioner, now suddenly it is promised that they will" news Web site quoted Klaus as saying.

"Every normal human being, a first form pupil, would know that it is a change and that somebody is promising it. So it is a change" he said.

Klaus, a staunch opponent of the EU charter, said earlier this week the guarantees would need to win parliamentary approval in the Czech Republic to comply with the constitution.

The treaty needs the approval of all 27 EU member states to go into effect.

The deal struck on Friday guarantees the status of a treaty protocol but will not affect the ratification of the reforms in other EU countries.

Some countries, such as Britain, Sweden and the Czech Republic expressed some concerns that giving the Irish a legally-binding protocol may reopen the ratification process in some member states which had already approved the treaty. 

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the pledges do not modify in any way the content of the treaty for the other 26 nations.

The Czech Republic and Poland are also yet to complete the ratification procedure.

Klaus has been doing all he can to halt the approval. He has not signed the treaty so far, although it has already been passed by both houses of parliament.

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