Polls show support, criticism for Klaus' Lisbon stance

Vaclav KlausPrague - Nearly two-thirds of Czechs, or 65.8 per cent, back Czech President Vaclav Klaus' move to place new conditions on ratification of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, according to an opinion poll published Friday.

But another poll, whose results were released Thursday, found that 50 per cent of Czechs thought the president's opinions harmed the Czech Republic's reputation.

The signature of Prague's Eurosceptic president is the last obstacle to the Lisbon Treaty's coming into force.

In a last-minute objection after the repeated Irish referendum on October 2, Klaus demanded that the Czech Republic get an exemption from the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights before he ratifies it.

A survey of 504 people conducted by the Median polling agency for the daily Lidove Noviny, published Friday, found that 63.5 per cent of respondents share Klaus' worries that the charter would pave way for property claims by the so-called Sudeten Germans.

The poll's margin of error is 4.5 per cent.

The Median poll also found that 57.2 per cent believe that the president is defending national interests, while 35.4 per cent see his objection as a way to avoid signing the treaty.

The Lisbon Treaty, meant to streamline EU decision-making, must be ratified by all 27 EU countries to take effect. After the signature last week from Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Klaus remains the sole holdout.

In a Stem survey of 680 people conducted for Czech Television and released Thursday, 50 per cent of respondents expressed the view that Klaus' opinions are harming the Czech Republic's reputation.

The poll also found that 70 per cent of Czechs believe that Klaus should not present his opinions abroad without considering government policy.

The Stem poll, which has a margin of error of as much as 4.1 per cent, found that 37 per cent of Czechs back the Lisbon Treaty's ratification, while 33 per cent oppose it. Thirty per cent did not have an opinion.

Klaus has argued that the rights document puts Czech citizens' property rights at risk, as it allows former Czechoslovakia's ethnic Germans, who were expelled after War World II, to sue for their seized property in the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.

Previous opinion surveys have shown that Czechs would back the treaty in a referendum. According to an early October survey by the Sanep polling agency, 53 per cent of respondents would back the accord in a referendum, and 43 per cent want the president to sign the agreement promptly.(dpa)