EU reform treaty set to overcome final legal hurdle in Prague

EU reform treaty set to overcome final legal hurdle in Prague Prague/Brno - The EU's Lisbon Treaty is expected to overcome a final hurdle on Tuesday when the Czech Republic's constitutional court decides whether to accept a legal challenge by members of the Czech parliament's upper chamber.

Should the judges in Brno decide that the Lisbon Treaty does not conflict with the Czech constitution, Czech President Vaclav Klaus has said he will ratify the reform treaty, the last EU head of state to do so.

"As the court has already finished examining the evidence and has given the parties its conclusion, a final decision is expected," said a spokesperson for the court.

The court has previously rejected a challenge to the Lisbon Treaty by Czech senators in November 2008. It also ruled in favour of laws accompanying the treaty at the beginning of October.

The EU is currently planning for the Lisbon Treaty to go into effect on December 1, after the ratification documents of all 27 member states have hopefully been deposited in Rome.

President Klaus will be in Washington for the US-EU summit on Tuesday. He is expected back in the Czech Republic on Sunday. He has not yet indicated when he will sign the treaty, assuming a positive decision by the constitutional court.

Politicians and observers widely expect the constitutional court to approve the treaty without any further conditions. Miloslav Vlcek, Czech parliamentary president, has said that any decision to the contrary would be inconsistent with previous decisions.

"The government has tested the Lisbon Treaty and the legal complaints and concluded that the clauses in question do not contradict the constitution," said Czech European Affairs Minister Stefan Fuele.

On Thursday evening at the EU summit in Brussels, Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer was able to ensure that the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights would only apply to the Czech Republic in a highly circumscribed form.

That fulfilled a demand from Klaus, who feared the charter could give strength to reparations claims by Sudeten Germans who were forced from their homes in the former Czechoslovakia after World War II.

Klaus said he was "satisfied" with the compromise and would make no additional demands.

The Lisbon Treaty was drafted after a previous attempt at a European Constitution was rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

The treaty is aimed at streamlining the European Union's decision- making process and creates new positions similar to a president and a foreign minister. Those changes, proponents say, should improve continuity in external representation.  (dpa)