As the fuss continues about whether or not Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, will sign the European Union’s Lisbon treaty, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to a detail that appears to have been generally overlooked. It concerns Klaus’s demand for a special protocol or legally binding exemption from the treaty’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, which, he says, is necessary to prevent a flood of claims on Czech property from the descendants of the roughly 3m Sudeten Germans expelled from the former Czechoslovakia after the second world war.
Leaving aside Klaus’s dubious assertion that the Charter could be exploited as the basis for such claims, the fact is that the Lisbon treaty already contains a special declaration by the Czech Republic on the Charter. It is buried near the end of the treaty’s official text in a part called Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference, Section C: Declarations by Member-States. The Czech declaration, which is labelled No. 53, sets out the Czech position that “the Charter does not extend the field of application of [European] Union law] and does not establish any new power for the Union”. Read more