Alexa

Czech court hears challenge of EU reform treaty

Czech court hears challenge of EU reform treaty

The Czech Republic's Constitutional Court was considering Tuesday whether the European Union's crucial reform treaty complies with the nation's constitution.
The court's ruling will determine whether efforts by President Vaclav Klaus, an ardent euro-skeptic, to hold up the document known as the Lisbon Treaty will be successful.
The Czech Republic is the last major obstacle to the ratification of the pact, designed to transform Europe into a more unified and powerful global player. The charter, which was bogged down in negotiations for almost a decade, has been ratified by all 26 other EU nations.
Failure of the treaty would send the EU into an unprecedented crisis. Negotiators say its reforms _ creating a new EU president post, giving more power to the foreign policy chief and streamlining EU decision-making _ are needed to make the EU more effective in line with its rapid growth eastward since 2004.
Klaus argues the treaty would give EU institutions too much power. He is also asking for an opt-out from the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights which sets out liberties citizens enjoy under EU law, over worries of property claims by ethnic Germans stripped of their land and expelled after World War II.
His demands have been backed by neighboring Slovakia, with Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak saying Monday that his country needs similar assurances. Both nations were part of the former Czechoslovakia when it expelled about 3 million ethnic Germans.
Klaus is awaiting the Brno-based court's ruling before deciding whether to endorse the document. The court became involved after Czech senators filed a motion arguing the treaty does not comply with the Czech constitution.
It was unclear when the court would deliver a ruling, but judges acknowledged that time was of the essence. EU leaders meet later this week for a summit that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said was meant to simply put the "finishing touches" to the document.
"We know that all of Europe is waiting" for our decision, chief judge Pavel Rychetsky told Czech public radio.
The court recessed before noon after a representative of the challenging senators presented additional documents for consideration.
Rychetsky called the move "an obstruction."
Last year, the court dismissed a similar complaint.
Both houses of the Czech Parliament already have ratified the treaty.
But if the court approves the motion, parliament would have to change the constitution accordingly. That could result in a possibly lengthy process that would dim hopes to fully ratify the treaty this year.