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Czech MPs prepare Lisbon Treaty vote

PRAGUE, Feb 17 – Czech lawmakers were preparing Tuesday for the country’s long-delayed vote on the European Union’s reforming Lisbon Treaty after earlier planned votes were twice halted by opponents.

The Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of June, is the only country in the 27-member bloc that has not held a parliamentary vote or referendum on the document designed to streamline EU decision-making.

The ruling right-wing Civic Democrats pushed through postponements in December and January saying the country needed a law on the transfer of powers from Prague to Brussels, and that parliamentary committees should deal with the treaty first.

The treaty needs a constitutional majority, or support from three in five lawmakers, to make it through the 200-seat lower house.

A tight vote is expected as the treaty is backed by the opposition Social Democrats and the coalition Christian Democrats and Greens, while the Civic Democrats are split and the Communists are against.

The Czech ratification process was delayed by several months as right-wing senators challenged the treaty in the country’s Constitutional Court in June last year.

The top Czech court found the treaty in compliance with the Czech constitution in November despite fierce protests from euro-sceptic President Vaclav Klaus, who said it posed a threat to Czech sovereignty.

If approved by both houses of parliament — the Senate is expected to vote later — the treaty has to be signed by Klaus, who has said he would delay the signing for as long as possible.

Despite scepticism among politicians, more than 60 percent of Czechs want lawmakers to ratify the treaty, according to a recent opinion poll.

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The Lisbon Treaty was rejected by Irish voters in a referendum last year, but the Dublin government has vowed to hold a new vote by November.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, in charge of European affairs, said on Sunday that "no pressure" should be put on the two governments to ratify the treaty quickly.

The treaty has to be ratified by all 27 EU member countries before it can come into force.


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