Czech president becomes last EU leader to sign Lisbon treaty
Under growing pressure from other European leaders, Czech President Vaclav Klaus signed the treaty into law only hours after the Czech Republic's Constitutional Court ruled that the treaty is legal.Prague -- Czech President Vaclav Klaus on Tuesday became the European Union's final leader to sign a bitterly contested Lisbon reform treaty into law after the country's top court said it did not conflict with the constitution.
The Lisbon Treaty calls for the naming of an EU president and foreign policy supremo and aims to speed up decision-making in the 27 nation bloc.
But it has been held up by two referendums in the Irish Republic, legal challenges in other countries and delaying tactics by European politicians like Klaus who oppose closer integration.
Klaus, under growing pressure from other European leaders, said he signed the treaty into law only hours after the Czech Republic's Constitutional Court rule that the treaty is legal.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said after the court's verdict, "I hope that (ratification) can be done very soon and I hope that Europe can set aside years of constitutional and institutional debate... and that we can move forward and deal with the main issues that the European Union must now face."
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso also said "no further unnecessary delays should prevent the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty."
Czech lawmakers approved the treaty this year but a group of senators challenged it at the Constitutional Court last month.
The court had already turned down one challenge last year, but that verdict only concerned selected paragraphs of the treaty, not the entire text.
Klaus, who described the treaty as a threat to Czech sovereignty, said he would not sign before the latest verdict.
At a summit last week, EU leaders agreed to give Prague an opt-out from parts of the treaty. Klaus had demanded an exemption to ensure that a rights charter inside the treaty would not allow ethnic Germans forced out of the former Czechoslovakia after World War II to reclaim their property.
The delay in implementing the treaty has hampered the work of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, whose mandate expired at the end of October.
The EU also has to hold off on nominations for two top EU jobs created by the treaty -- the president and foreign affairs supremo. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is among figures mentioned as a potential president.
The Lisbon Treaty is designed to smooth the workings of EU, which has almost doubled in size to 27 nations since a swathe of ex-communist nations including the Czech Republic joined in 2004.
Backers of the treaty got more good news on Tuesday as a British newspaper said main opposition leader David Cameron -- widely tipped to be the next prime minister -- will drop plans for a referendum on the treaty.
The Conservative Party leader will shortly announce he will abandon a pledge to hold a vote on the treaty if his party wins the next general election and the document has not been ratified, the Daily Telegraph said.
Cameron had written to the Czech president urging him to delay ratifying the treaty, sparking anger from the leaders of France, Germany and Spain, media reports said last week.