PRAGUE - A charter meant to transform Europe into a more unified and powerful global player passed its last major hurdle yesterday and looks set to become law within weeks.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who has been highly skeptical of increasing the EU’s powers, signed the Lisbon Treaty at the Prague Castle hours after his nation’s Constitutional Court struck down a complaint against it.
Klaus has been tirelessly attacking and stalling the document, claiming it would hand too much power to European Union institutions in Brussels. He was awaiting the Brno-based court’s ruling before deciding whether to endorse it.
“I expected the decision of the Constitutional Court and respect it,’’ Klaus told reporters yesterday afternoon, but added he vehemently disagrees with the verdict.
“The Czech Republic will cease to be a sovereign state,’’ once the treaty enters into force, he said.
Klaus was the last obstacle to the full ratification of the treaty, which was bogged down in negotiations for almost a decade and has been ratified by all other 26 EU nations.
The Swedish EU presidency said the treaty will enter into force on Dec. 1.
European leaders welcomed news of the signing.
“President Klaus’s decision marks an important and historic step for all of Europe,’’ British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a statement.
“Today is a day when Europe looks forward, when it sets aside years of debate on its institutions, and moves to take strong and collective action on the issues that matter most to European citizens: security, climate change, jobs, and growth.’’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted during a speech to the US Congress in Washington that, with the new treaty, the EU “will become stronger and more capable of acting, and so a strong and reliable partner for the United States.’’