14. Adoption of the Lisbon Treaty by the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic

Members of the Czech Senate finally adopted the Lisbon Treaty on 6 May 2009. President Václav Klaus consequently called them cowards and declared that Czech political elites had failed.

Editor Martin Veselovský talked about this issue with the Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra in the program Twenty minutes on Czech Radio 1 on 7 May 2009.

The following is shortened version of the important interview:

Martin VESELOVSKÝ, interviewer:
Let’s start with a quote, Deputy Prime Minister. “This is a very sad proof of just another failure of major part of our political elites we remember so well from various analogical moments of Czech history. Our politicians have always found similarly gutless reasons. We are small, weak, we mean nothing in the European context. We have to succumb even though we don’t agree.” You know very well that these are the words the president Václav Klaus said yesterday. Do you feel like a party to Munich Agreement in the sense that there was no other option than to accept the Lisbon Treaty?

Alexandr VONDRA, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, member of Senate /ODS/:
Under no circumstances, and I think such rhetoric has to be strictly refused. The idea that everybody in Europe is a coward apart from Václav Klaus, who is the only hero, it is completely out of any reality. What I do feel is that it’s rather Václav Klaus who is failing. He promised, when he was striving to become the president, that he would not be an activist president, and this is nothing else than activism. This is a display of disregard for the position of legislative bodies. After all, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate in particular have worked hard to discuss the Treaty thoroughly. It did not take days in this country, it actually took more than a year. And it is good. And yesterday there was the voting, and the voting had a result, and I think Václav Klaus ought to respect it.

Martin VESELOVSKÝ, interviewer:
The fact is that he really called Czech political elite, which undoubtedly includes the members of the Senate, cowards, and this is the view of the head of state. Isn’t it a signal of something more significant than just a petty conflict between one political party and its former honorary chairman?

Alexandr VONDRA, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, member of Senate /ODS/:
I think this is not a conflict between one political party and its former chairman. After all, the voting went across both the chambers, so it’s more likely that it’s Václav Klaus who is becoming more and more isolated from the nation and its political elite. We may think whatever we want about the elite, but the position is clearly a majority one. I think the president should respect this position, also by authority of his constitutional function. It was him who promised it, when he ran for the office for the second time, and I think in the second term he is really beginning to experience difficulties with delivering what he has promised.

The Treaty is sort of compromise, but all the 27 member states agreed on it, and 25 adopted it politically. Of course, the Queen of Britain is to sign it yet, and the president of Poland, but the procedure was completed in the parliaments, and it was adopted by a remarkable majority. It is a compromise, it’s impossible to be an absolute winner or absolute loser here, but for us, as a country in the Middle Europe with all the historical experience of wars and conflicts, on which we have never earned anything, we have always lost, in this regard it is definitely more convenient to have the rules of the game established, rules respected by everybody, and this is no defeatism, this is no Munich Agreement replay. Munich was about us without us. And I’m worried that in case we really ended up somewhere on the periphery of the European politics, if we just turned our backs on the others, only then the Munich would start again, because we would not be there. The yes to Lisbon Treaty, beside other things, is because we want to be sitting at the table and participate in creation of the rules and playing by the rules, and this is something nobody is going to take away from us, and obviously, as a country of 10 million people, we aren’t and will never be a European power, we have to look for allies. And we have such allies, and when the British, the Poles, the Swedish are not afraid of it, I see no reason for us Czechs to be afraid.

Martin VESELOVSKÝ, interviewer:
In your view, is it a political duty of the president Václav Klaus to sign the Treaty after both the chambers adopted it and recommended it for ratification?

Alexandr VONDRA, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, member of Senate /ODS/:
I think yes, and after all, this logically results from the promise he has given, that he would respect the Constitution and laws of this country. And who makes the laws, it’s the Parliament, both its chambers, and when the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate agreed to the Treaty, I would expect the president to respect it. I’m not a lawyer, I think politically it is clear, and I even assume that the lawyers will agree on it, that it would be absolutely unprecedented if the president refused to respect unanimous will of the legislative bodies, especially in the case of an international treaty.

Martin VESELOVSKÝ, interviewer:
I beg your pardon, just a technical comment. In other words, the Lisbon Treaty is not dead yet, or is it?

Alexandr VONDRA, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, member of Senate /ODS/:
Well, it’s not dead. The only person who thinks it is dead is Václav Klaus, otherwise none of the relevant governments in Europe uses this adjective, because the Irish, Irish government, actually asked 26 member states of the European Union for repeated ratification attempt. We all have welcomed it and agreed. Now the text is being prepared to be presented in Ireland for plebiscite, and the decision when the plebiscite will take place has to be made. They haven’t made the decision yet, I expect it will be some time in the autumn. And it’s not possible to talk about a dead text, considering the circumstances it’s not proper.

Martin VESELOVSKÝ, interviewer:
One last question. Is there, how shall I put it, a safety brake in the Lisbon Treaty, in an event the Czech Republic decides to pursue its opinion against the qualified majority?

Alexandr VONDRA, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs, member of Senate /ODS/:
Well, of course it exists in some areas. ...For instance when we don’t agree with it, we have the possibility not to participate in the policy. We just don’t have to, we are simply outvoted, but we don’t have to be part of the arrangement. And... we may even leave the European union. This... the Lisbon Treaty allows it in case anybody wanted to leave.

”I consider Klaus’s statements regarding the Treaty not just negation of the development of Czech national history so far, but also being on the verge of conflict with his constitutional role.” (Jiří Paroubek, ČSSD chairman in PRÁVO daily on 7 May 2009)

In Štěpánov u Olomouce on 14 May 2009




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