- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2009

One week after an Irish vote of confidence, EU officials still cannot say when a treaty streamlining European institutions will be ratified, let alone implemented.

On Saturday, Poland became the 26th member of the 27-member European Union to sign the 2-year-old treaty.

While Polish President Lech Kaczynski held a ceremony to mark the signing, Czech President Vaclav Klaus told the current EU president, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, that a footnote had to be added to the Lisbon Treaty before he could sign it.

The Lisbon Treaty would create a 2 1/2-year renewable term for the EU president and provide a single head of foreign policy. It also would give the European Parliament increased decision-making powers and make it easier for European citizens to petition the European Commission to bring attention to issues.

Mr. Klaus said the Czech Constitutional Court must rule on a challenge to the validity of the treaty and potential conflict with the Czech Constitution. That ruling is expected before the end of the year.

Mr. Klaus also said the treaty gives too much power to Brussels and strips individual countries of their sovereignty by removing their veto power and replacing it with majority voting.

All eyes are on Mr. Klaus since Ireland voted in favor of the treaty early this month after opposing it in June 2008. Ireland is unique in the EU because its voters had the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” in an election. In other countries, the treaty was ratified by national parliaments.

“This time it was different,” said Marian Harkin, an Irish member of the European Parliament, after Irish voters approved the treaty.

She said she campaigned in favor of the treaty and that the economic recession that struck Ireland harder than other European countries has played a significant role in the result of this year’s referendum.

Ireland is often called “the Celtic Tiger” because of an economy based on services and a lower tax burden, which helped attract foreign investors and led to sustained economic growth until the second quarter of 2008.

Ms. Harkin, speaking at a conference organized by the German Marshall Fund in Washington, said the fate of the Lisbon Treaty now “lies in Klaus’ hands.”

However, Timothy Garton Ash, a British academic, said his country also could pose obstacles to implementation. He noted that elections next year in Britain are likely to bring to power the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron.

If that is the case, Mr. Ash said at the Brookings Institution last week, “We have a British problem.”

Mr. Cameron has said he would organize a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it is not ratified by all EU member states before the elections.

Mr. Ash said Britain, which often has been reluctant to have the European Union dictate its foreign policy, “does not want an effective European foreign policy. And without political will, you cannot have one.”

John Bruton, the EU ambassador to the United States, said that the challenges awaiting the European Union in the medium term are “energy policy and security of supplies, climate change, managing the euro currency and tackling cross-border crime and immigration.”

Finding the right person to fill the position of high representative for foreign affairs will be tricky, Mr. Ash said.

“It is a key role,” he said, because that person “will have to shape something that still does not exist. It has to be someone whom [President] Obama or [Chinese] Premier Wen Jiabao will want to talk to.”

Those who have been mentioned as candidates include Wolfgang Schauble, the German interior minister, and Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister.

The Lisbon Treaty is the successor to an earlier attempt to write an EU constitution, which was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

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