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Europe

Reluctant Czech Lawmakers Pass European Treaty

The European Union's stalled reform pact, the Lisbon Treaty, has cleared the first hurdle in the Czech Republic's parliament. But the treaty still has plenty of obstacles left before it is approved.

Hands holding up an EU flag

The European Union is still trying to pass a reform treaty

After repeated delays, the Czech parliament's lower house narrowly passed the EU reform treaty on Wednesday, Feb. 18. The Czech Republic is the last member state yet to vote on the accord, which passed parliaments in 25 countries but was rejected by Irish voters in a June 2008 referendum.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, formerly an opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, said this week that he had changed his mind and would vote in favor of the pact.

The Czech parliament passed the pact 125 to 61 on Wednesday, but the vote was closer than it appeared. A so-called "constitutional majority" of 120 of the 200-seat chamber had to approve the measure.

Germany, Poland also still have to sign

Members of Germany's constitutional court stand dressed in red

Germany is awaiting a court ruling on the treaty

If adopted by all member states, the treaty would overhaul EU institutions with the aim to streamline decision-making in the enlarged 27-member bloc.

But even in the Czech Republic, the treaty still has a ways to go. It will also need the approval of the country's senators and president, who may further drag out the ratification process. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, an opponent of the treaty, said earlier that he would sign it only after Ireland overturns its "no" vote. Anti-Lisbon senators may also delay the ratification process as they mull putting the treaty under a court review.

The Czech reluctance has been a point of contention since the country's government currently chairs the 27-member bloc. The ratification process has not been completed in Germany and Poland, whose presidents are yet to ink the pact. Germany's highest court also recently heard arguments that the treaty would undermine the power of the country's legislative body.

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