22 May, 2013
European Parliament rejects Czech "opt-out" on Charter of Fundamental Rights
On the proposal of Andrew DUFF, President of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) and ALDE coordinator in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the European Parliament called on the European Council to reject a request to amend the Treaty of Lisbon which would weaken the force and limit the application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the Czech Republic. With a vote of 574 to 82, MEPs for the first time used their right not to support an amendment of the EU treaties.

© Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

The proposal rejected by Parliament would add the Czech Republic as a signatory to Protocol 30 devised by Tony Blair which seeks to limit the use of the Charter in British courts. Poland is a co-signatory with the UK. Parliament has to be consulted by the European Council, and its negative opinion poses a big dilemma for the heads of government who must now decide whether to follow the Parliament or to continue to deliver on their earlier political pledge to former Czech President Klaus.

"Parliament has a duty to protect and promote the Charter of Fundamental Rights. We cannot be complicit in a treaty amendment which blunts the Charter," said Mr. Duff who congratulated the EPP "for changing their mind about this matter after long consideration. Christian Democrats have no need at all to play to the nationalistic fringe."

"President Klaus demanded the Czech Protocol as his price for completing the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty," recalled M. Duff, in highlighting that "the Klaus Protocol has never been endorsed by the Czech parliament or the Czech constitutional court and, as things stand, it seems unlikely ever to be ratified by the Czech senate. This measure therefore relies on the twin legacy of two gentlemen, MM. Blair and Klaus, whose service to Europe is not beyond reproach".

"The legal effect of Protocol 30 is unclear. Mr Blair claimed it was a British opt-out from the Charter. It is not a view confirmed not only by the UK's Court of Appeal but also of the European Court of Justice. Whatever its intended effect, its actual effect is to weaken the force of the Charter and to vary its application across the Union. Why should Czech citizens be exposed to the risk of a weaker regime of fundamental rights than anyone else?" concluded Andrew Duff.

Mr Duff added: "One notes that the UK Tories are now voting for Mr Blair's so-called opt-out which they not so long ago opposed - while British Labour MEPs vote against that same measure which they once supported. All very curious."

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