Czech President Vaclav Klaus has given a long-awaited final seal of approval to the EU’s reforming Lisbon Treaty, paving the way for the 27-nation bloc to find a new president.
The ardent euroskeptic on Tuesday became the last EU leader to sign the landmark document into law after the top Czech court ruled that it was in line with the country’s Constitution.
Klaus remained critical of the document which is now set to come into force on Dec. 1, saying: “I cannot agree with its contents since after the validation of the Lisbon Treaty ... the Czech Republic will cease to be a sovereign state.”
The signature unties the EU’s hands to appoint a new European Commission — its executive arm — as well as fill the freshly created posts of president and foreign affairs supremo.
US President Barack Obama welcomed the ratification, saying “a strengthened and renewed EU will be an even better transatlantic partner with the United States.”
Obama said he believed the decision would “further move Europe in the direction of integration not only on economic policy but also on a number of security issues.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the bloc “will be more democratic on the inside, and stronger and more confident on the outside.”
“The importance of this day for Europe is difficult to measure. Today is the successful end to a European Union reform process that has lasted for years,” she said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed Klaus’s signature as “good news.”
“The European Union is now able to have the new institutions that it needs to function efficiently and have a strong influence in the 21st century world,” he said.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said he would call an EU summit shortly and “begin name consultations” to find a new top boss and chief diplomat.
Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy has been mentioned as a consensual candidate for president after support for former British prime minister Tony Blair proved weak at an EU summit last week.
The Lisbon Treaty is designed to smooth the workings of the EU, which has almost doubled in size since a swathe of ex-communist nations including the Czech Republic joined in 2004.
The delay in implementation has hampered the work of the European Commission, whose mandate expired at the end of last month, and put on ice the appointment process for the two top EU jobs.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed Klaus’ decision to sign, saying it “marks an important and historic step for all of Europe.”
“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,” Brown said.
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said he believed that “the transformational potential that is there, the new external profile for the European Union, will be felt immediately.”
But Klaus, who refuses to fly the EU flag at his residence, remained unconvinced.
“Good cloudy afternoon,” Klaus, wearing a black suit and tie, said in a grim voice before telling reporters he disagreed with the constitutional court ruling that paved the way for him to sign.
Czech lawmakers approved the treaty earlier this year, but Klaus refused to sign pending the top court’s verdict on a complaint by pro-Klaus senators.