While Britain will be a huge beneficiary if Czech President Vaclav Klaus delays ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and allows for a UK referendum, Klaus’s defiant stance is one driven by care for the Czech Republic whose best interests he does and should have at heart.
David Cameron, leader of the British Conservative Party — tipped by the polls to become Britain’s next Prime Minister by next June at the latest — has pledged to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is not ratified before the next UK general election. President Klaus has practically taken on mythical status among British EU-skeptics since a referendum on Lisbon is a sure-fire way to kick-start the renegotiation of Britain’s unsatisfactory relationship with the European Union.
However, the threats and pressure being leveled against President Klaus by Brussels’ elites serve to remind him exactly why he is holding out for firm guarantees on Czech interests before ratifying. First of all French President Nicolas Sarkozy threatened Prague with unidentified but serious consequences of delaying ratification. Now, newly-reelected Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso has threatened to cull the Czech’s Commissioner (note that Barroso waited until after he secured Czech support for his reelection). In the absence of legally binding written guarantees, President Klaus should not trust vague assurances from people who clearly care nothing for the national interest of the Czech Republic.
As a matter of principle, safeguarding his nation’s interests is nothing less than President Klaus’s constitutional duty. And his concerns over the radical Charter of Fundamental Rights is valid. More a charter for fundamental socialism, it legalizes the right of collective bargaining and action among other questionable ‘rights.’ Klaus’s concerns over the impact of property claims by ethnic Germans forced out of the Czech Sudeten region after World War II are equally valid. Until he can be confident that the Lisbon Treaty serves Prague’s interest, there is no reason to rush ratification.
The EU started negotiating the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty in 2001 following the Laeken summit. Without a constitution, the EU has managed two rounds of expansion, two Euro-wide parliamentary elections and nearly two dozen EU security and defense missions (not to mention three resounding rejections of further European integration in referenda). There is absolutely no legitimate reason that President Klaus cannot wait a few more months to satisfy Czech interests. And with the highest approval ratings of all Czech politicians, he has the added bonus of popularity as well as principle on his side.