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Europe vs. Vaclav Klaus

One of Europe’s most unusual leaders has now become one of its most powerful. With the Irish public finally voting to ratify the Lisbon Treaty last weekend, pretty much the only thing standing in the way of the measure to increase European integration is one man: Czech President Vaclav Klaus. While the Czech parliament has ...

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Czech President Vaclav Klaus (C-R) greets people as he leaves a demonstration against the Lisbon Treaty on October 3, 2009 in front of Prague Castle. Ireland's endorsement today is not the end of the road for the EU's Lisbon Treaty, with European leaders immediately turning their attention to the Czech Republic and its eurosceptic president. The reforming treaty must be formally ratified by all 27 EU nations before it can come into force. While the Irish were the only ones to put the matter to a plebiscite, the Czech Republic and Poland are yet to formally back the text which is aimed at streamlining the institutions of the expanded EU. The Czech parliament has already approved the Lisbon Treaty, which will create new posts of EU president and foreign policy supremo, as well as cutting the number of national vetoes available on European lawmaking. Klaus has said he will not sign off on the text until his nation's Constitutional Court has pronounced on its validity. AFP PHOTO / MICHAL CIZEK (Photo credit should read MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

One of Europe's most unusual leaders has now become one of its most powerful.

With the Irish public finally voting to ratify the Lisbon Treaty last weekend, pretty much the only thing standing in the way of the measure to increase European integration is one man: Czech President Vaclav Klaus. While the Czech parliament has approved the treaty, but it still awaits the president's signature and he's in no particular hurry. (Polish President Lech Kaczynski will reportedly sign it tomorrow.)

One of Europe’s most unusual leaders has now become one of its most powerful.

With the Irish public finally voting to ratify the Lisbon Treaty last weekend, pretty much the only thing standing in the way of the measure to increase European integration is one man: Czech President Vaclav Klaus. While the Czech parliament has approved the treaty, but it still awaits the president’s signature and he’s in no particular hurry. (Polish President Lech Kaczynski will reportedly sign it tomorrow.)

A libertarian nationalist who is best-known internationally for his anti-environmentalism, Klaus is also a strident Euroskeptic, he refuses to fly the EU flag from Prague Castle, saying it would be “reminiscent of Czech subservience to Moscow under communism.” In his latest gambit, 17 of Klaus’s allies in parliament have challenged the treaty in the Czech Republic’s constitutional court, allowing the president to delay his signature until there’s a ruling. 

The EU is hoping to get the Czech ratification over with quickly, but foreign pressure isn’t likely to work on Klaus, who waited nine months to sign the International Criminal Court treaty after parliament had approved it. There’s even speculation that Klaus might try to delay ratification until a new Conservative government is elected in Britain that could torpedo the treaty permanently.

Once the court rules, Klaus would have little political cover for such a maneuver and it seems unlikely that even he would try it. But for the next few weeks, Klaus will have an opportunity to do what he loves most — drive the the EU leadership absolutely nuts. 

MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Europe

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