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EU – Top Czech court opens Lisbon Treaty hearing

PRAGUE, 26 November 2008

The Czech constitutional court Tuesday opened its hearing to determine whether the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty complies with the eastern European country’s constitution.

The Czech Republic, which will take over the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1, is the only EU member state that has not started the ratification process on the document, which was rejected by Ireland in a referendum in June.

The reform treaty agreed on in Lisbon last year is aimed at streamlining EU decision-making after the 27-nation bloc’s enlargement and must be approved by all EU members.

Judge-rapporteur Vojen Gurtler read objections to the Lisbon Treaty raised by Czech senators and eurosceptic President Vaclav Klaus, who has said in the past that the treaty means a "fatal restriction of national sovereignty."

If approved by the top court, the treaty will be debated by parliament where it is likely to pass owing to votes from most of the centre-right governing coalition MPs and from the opposition Social Democrats. The treaty must then be signed by the president.

Klaus, who is to present his position during the constitutional hearing, said on Monday he may sign the treaty only after it has finally been adopted by Ireland.

Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty forced the European Union to put its plans for structural reform on hold. The Dublin government is mulling whether to hold a second vote and is expected to reach a decision by an EU summit in Brussels on December 11-12.

The Czech constitutional court has no deadline to take its decision on the treaty.

(AFP/Expatica 2008)