President Klaus has right to his views, says Czech Prime Minister

Everyone in the European Union, including Czech President Vaclav Klaus, has the right to have his own views which he also can freely express, said Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Topolanek was reacting to Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin's criticism of Klaus over his meeting with Declan Ganley, leader of Irish opponents to the EU reform Lisbon treaty during his state visit to Ireland.

Klaus then described Martin's reaction to his meeting with Ganley as an example of hypocrisy. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende with whom Topolanek held talks today said the Lisbon treaty is necessary and advantageous for the 27 EU member states. He said he hoped that Prague would ratify the treaty as soon as possible, adding that the Czech Republic as a country that will soon take EU presidency will be important for the future of the treaty in the EU. Balkenende said that he knew Klaus's views but did not share it.

He said the Lisbon treaty was offering many advantages and could be used for the solution to the current world financial crisis or for urgent talks on climate protection. According to AP news agency, Martin said some of Klaus's views were "ridiculous, shallow and bogus". Klaus is criticizing the Lisbon treaty that sets new rules for the functioning of the enlarged European Union after 12 new countries entered it the past few years. The treaty can only take effect if all 27 countries ratify it. Twenty-four EU members have ratified the treaty so far. Ireland is the only EU member that rejected it in a referendum.

Czech parliament has interrupted the process of ratification pending the verdict by the Constitutional Court that is to assess whether the treaty contradicts the Czech constitution. "I do not remember any of us criticizing our colleagues in the Netherlands and France, the less so the Dutch or French public for what they think. Everyone has the right to their opinions, Europe is democratic and everyone can freely express his views," Topolanek told CTK.

Topolanek's government's position on the Lisbon treaty differs from Klaus's. Topolanek has made it clear that the cabinet was not artificially postponing its ratification and that the parliament would vote on the document after it is assessed by the Constitutional Court. Balkenende said in Prague that the Czech Republic was well prepared for taking over EU presidency in January 2009 and that Prague would face difficult tasks during the following six months.