Vaclav Klaus sets seal on Lisbon treaty ratification
Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, this afternoon signed the Lisbon treaty, finally completing the ratification process of the charter designed to transform Europe into a more unified and influential global player.
Klaus, widely known for his Eurosceptic views, announced that he had signed the treaty at Prague Castle after the Czech constitutional court announced its decision that the document, which has already been ratified by all 26 other EU countries, does not violate the country's constitution.
Klaus's signature sealed a painful eight-year effort to bring about a wide range of major constitutional reforms of the EU. The ratified treaty could be in force as early as December or January, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission, told Reuters. "The road has been a marathon of hurdles but the last hurdle is now removed," Barroso said.
It is now likely that a special meeting of European heads of state will be held in the coming fortnight to organise the implementation of the treaty, and to decide the vexed question of who will be appointed to the key posts it creates.
Tony Blair has been considered a strong candidate for president of the European council of heads of state, the EU's highest political decision-making body – a post more popularly known as EU president. Blair has faced growing opposition in recent weeks, however.
The treaty will also see a more powerful "foreign representative" of the EU appointed. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, has been linked to the post.
The ratification of the treaty will pose problems for the British Conservative party, which has staunchly opposed it. Two years ago, its leader, David Cameron, offered a "cast iron guarantee" that the party would put the treaty – the successor to the abandoned European constitution – to a vote in a referendum.
Enormous diplomatic pressure had been put on the Czech president, who said that though he respected the court's decision, which had been widely predicted, he disagreed with it. Klaus signed only after EU leaders agreed to a last-minute demand for a Czech opt-out from the treaty's charter of fundamental rights.
The Czech president and his supporters had long argued against the treaty, saying it would turn the EU into a superstate with little democratic control. Defenders, however, say the treaty will streamline decision-making within the expanded EU, increase transparency and enhance the organisation's global reach.
"Henry Kissinger once complained that the EU had no telephone number to call. Now it will have one," said one European diplomat in Paris.
The treaty was conceived after the EU constitution was thrown out by French and Dutch voters in 2005. Rejected by Irish voters in June 2008, the treaty got overwhelming support in a second referendum in Ireland in October, clearing the way for today's final ratification.