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Czech OK to Lisbon 'in weeks'

Gavin Hewitt | 16:45 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Prague: If some Tories were hoping that the Eurosceptic Czech President Vaclav Klaus would delay signing the Lisbon Treaty until they were in power next year, today was not encouraging. Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer addresses EU leaders, 7 Oct 09

Czech Ministers were out to reassure Brussels that ratification of the treaty would not extend beyond the end of the year. The Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, said he thought his country would complete ratification by the end of the year. "Everything is in place," he said. When I spoke to the Czech Republic's Europe Minister, Stefan Fule, he thought it could even be sooner, "weeks rather than months".

It seems that the Czech Constitutional Court has agreed to fast-track its examination of a complaint that the treaty violates the Czech constitution. As early as next week the court may name the date for the full hearing and that could come within weeks.

The two ministers also said there was no reason to believe that President Klaus would refuse to sign the treaty if the legal hurdles had been crossed. The Europe minister said it was not a question of "if the treaty is signed, but when".

At that point it would be the moment that all 27 countries had backed the treaty. At that point the pressure would be on the Conservative leader, David Cameron, to state clearly what Tory policy is. Up until now he has indicated what he would do if the treaty had not been ratified. He would hold a UK referendum. But it could be that in a matter of weeks he will have to define what his policy is, if every other EU country has ratified Lisbon.

Some words of caution. The legal process is real and the two ministers who spoke today do not know what the Constitutional Court will decide. Their views are therefore opinions, but they reflect a belief here in Prague that President Klaus will sign "sooner rather than later".

In relation to those Tories who harboured hopes that the Czech president would delay signing, to help them hold a UK referendum, the Europe minister said it was "a waste of time". All decisions in the Czech Republic would be taken in the national interest and not to help a foreign party.

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