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Oct 162009

Commenters and politicians in Europe appear to take the final  ratification of the Lisbon Treaty for granted. Speculations, nominations and campaigning for the top posts is rampant. The Czech President is not taken seriously and an object of ridicule all through Europe. “Couldn’t someone carry this man out of the Presidential Palace” writes a normally serious blog by the Brussels representation of the Swedish Trade Unions under the heading “Reinfeldt would tear his hair if he had any.” (Reinfeldt is the Swedish Prime Minister presently Chairman of the European Council  and a bald man).

We fear this might be a great illusion. During a recent meeting with Russian President Medvedev, Klaus smilingly told the TV crews that he would never sign the Treaty unless it was changed. (Medvedev also smiled.) Obviously, new negotiations are out of the question but this seems to be exactly what Klaus insists on. A less formal decision by the Heads of State has been seen as a possible way out. A spokesperson for the Austrian government has clearly stated that the only acceptable solution for their part would be a unilateral declaration by the Czech, something that obviously would not satisfy Mr. Klaus, particularly not since his real objective is to postpone ratification until after the British elections.

That the Sudeten issue is dynamite in Austrian politics may not be well understood outside the country. It is unthinkable that the present Government under a social-democratic Chancellor would accept any decision that could be seen as going against this group since this would guarantee his party falling down to the third place in Austria.  The populist approach of the Chancellor, Mr Fayman, has today reached perhaps it highest point so far since he has refused to participate in the opening of a “House of the European Union” in Vienna whereas the President of the Republic, the Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance, The Foreign Minister as well as Mr. Barroso and the President of the European Parliament will attend. The Chancellor “has no time” his spokesperson says.

It is probably time to think of a fundamental renewal Union after the wrecking of the Treaty. Eurosceptic countries (which in the end may turn out to be only the UK) should be offered the possibility to opt out completely while continuing to enjoy free movement of goods and capital and – if they so chose- of labor. Remaining countries could perhaps work under the Treaty of Nice which should be amended so that unanimity would no longer be required for the so called “flexible integration.” That would prevent obstructive goverments or individuals to stop countries that wish a deeper cooperation from entering this. One might even envisage a group of “associated” countries consisting of those that wish to have a common market and nothing else (including among others Sweden, Denmark and Poland.)

(Afterthought:  Hungary may also have views on this and perhaps Slovenia. An explicit mentioning of the Benes decrees  would presumably provoke the latter country to demand a similar change with respect to the so called AVNOJ decisions.)

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