Slovakia, Poland ratify Lisbon Treaty

Originally Published: Friday 11 April 2008

Slovakia has become the ninth country to ratify the new EU Treaty as deputies approved the text by a margin of 103 votes to five – after settling a dispute over a controversial media bill that had dragged on for months.

The vote was originally scheduled for early February but opposition parties delayed ratification due to the government’s planned media law, which they said would limit press freedom.

While Prime Minister Fico’s coalition has a clear majority in the 150-seat parliament, it needed a handful of opposition votes to reach the two-thirds majority required for ratification. The missing votes eventually came from the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), which decided to approve the Treaty “to protect Slovakia’s good name abroad”, their leader Pal Csaky pointed out.

Two opposition parties walked out of the chamber before the vote. Several members of the Christian Democratic Party, which was the only one to oppose the Treaty itself, expressed their opposition by singing the national anthem before leaving.

Under the new media law, the revision of which was made a precondition of supporting the Treaty by centre-right opposition, the print media are obliged to allow politicians to respond to an article if they think it offends their honour, even if the information given is truthful.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico expressed his relief following the vote, saying “with this document, the EU will be closer to Slovak citizens”.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed ratification and expressed his hope that the remaining states would follow the Slovak example.

Support also came from the political groups in the European Parliament, with the vice-presidents of the Socialist Group, Jan Marinus Wiersma and Hannes Swoboda, declaring that the Slovak vote “firmly establishes Slovakia as a pro-European country”.

Joseph Daul, the chairman of Parliament’s EPP-ED group, also expressed his party’s satisfaction with the vote. However, he stressed that the adopted media bill still needs “significant amendment in order to meet normal European standards”.

Meanwhile, Polish President Lech Kaczynski added his signature to the Treaty, clearing the final hurdle in the country’s ratification process. It had already been approved by both chambers of the Polish Parliament last week.

The Polish president and his brother, former prime minister and current opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, had long delayed ratification, demanding legal guarantees that the new Treaty would not threaten Polish interests.

Ahead of Poland and Slovakia,  seven countries have ratified the Treaty, namely Bulgaria, France, Hungary, Malta, Romania, Slovenia and Austria, which was the most recent signatory. The text has to be approved by all 27 member states to enter into force.

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