10/05/2009 06:18 PM

Signing the Lisbon Treaty

Czech Media Calls President an 'Embarrassing Handicap'

By Sarah Karacs

Media in the Czech Republic have hit out against President Vaclav Klaus, who is threatening not to sign the Lisbon Treaty and delay ratification for months. They call the Czech leader an embarrassment and discuss ways of forcing his signature.

The Irish have ratified the Lisbon Treaty; the Poles are soon to follow suit. The spotlight turns on the president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus and he has been slammed by the media in his own country.

Klaus is refusing to sign the Lisbon Treaty, which is meant to bring widespread reforms to the EU and streamline decision-making, because members of his own party -- the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) -- submitted a complaint to the country's Constitutional Court calling on it to determine whether it violates the country's constitution. Klaus has stated he will not sign the treaty until the court makes its judgment in November.

But the pressure to ratify the referendum is now on. The Czech broadsheet, Lidove Noviny, reports Klaus facing heavy criticism from his cabinet. The Czech caretaker Prime Minister Jan Fischer in particular is pushing to ratify the treaty by the end of the year. "Groundless postponement of the completion of the ratification process would have a negative impact on the position and influence of the Czech Republic in the European Union," he said.

Chairman of the opposition party, the Social Democrats (CSSD) Jiri Paroubek has also spoken out. "It is mainly the obstructive behavior of ODS leaders and its political allies over the Lisbon Treaty that threaten the national interest of the Czech Republic," he said. "As well as a strong and effective EU."

Harsh Media Criticism Of Czech President

The media have been no less critical. The Czech Republic's principle right-wing conservative broadsheet, Mlada Fronta Dnes, ran a satirical headline Monday morning. It said: "Starring Vaclav Klaus" and the editorial ridiculed the Czech president for treating the EU as his own personal stage. The article opens with the lines "Actor: Vaclav Klaus. Script: Vaclav Klaus. Direction: Vaclav Klaus." The imagery of isolation could not be more apt. The Eurosceptic president, so fond of railing against the EU, now appears to be on his own in his complaints.

Klaus' public image is not doing well. At home, his front page portrait was accompanied by the caption: "Critics hope he will cause no further embarrassment." His depiction in the international press appears to worry the Czech public. Czech online newsletters such as Ceske Noviny translated international coverage on the subject this morning. Concerning headlines were found in Belgian daily newspapers Le Soir and La Libre Belgique. These read, respectively: "New Handicap on the Horizon", and "Vaclav Klaus, alias The Black Prince." In Brussels, his stony faced attitude is being compared to that of the prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Newspaper Discussion On How To Force Klaus To Sign

Attitudes towards Klaus turned even sourer since he hinted yesterday that he may put off the ratification so that David Cameron, British conservative leader, will be able to hold a second referendum in the United Kingdom, should he come into power in 2010. Cameron reportedly sent a private letter to Klaus several weeks ago suggesting as much. "I have told (the British people) it may not be too late, and that they must wait for my decision," he told the Mlada Fronta Dnes newspaper. "This is my final word on the matter."

As a mark of just how unpopular Klaus has become, in the Prague Post, an English language newspaper based in the Czech capital, several legal experts have discussed ways in which the president could be forced to sign the treaty. These include putting Klaus before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or cutting the budget to the president's office. It remains to be seen whether a few derisive headlines and some unpopularity will coerce the EU-hating president, who feels the Lisbon treaty compromises national sovereignty, into signing the treaty.


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