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By Jan Lopatka
PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus welcomed on Friday a proposal by the European Union presidency for removing his objections to signing the EU's Lisbon reform treaty, increasing the chances of it going into force.
The Czech Republic is the only member state that has not ratified the treaty and Klaus's refusal to sign is holding up reforms to ease decision-making in the 27-country bloc and increase its influence on the world stage.
Klaus wants an opt-out from a charter of fundamental rights that is attached to the treaty, saying he wants to shield the Czech Republic from property claims from ethnic Germans who were expelled after World War Two.
The Czech government has been negotiating his demands with Sweden, which holds the EU's presidency until the end of the year, and wants to secure approval for the opt-out at an EU summit in Brussels next week.
"The president ... received the Swedish presidency's proposal which is a response to his request related to the Lisbon Treaty ratification in the Czech Republic," Klaus's office said in a statement.
"This proposal corresponds to what the president has envisioned and it is possible to work with it further."
Klaus's office did not say what the proposal was and the European Commission, the EU executive, declined immediate comment. But Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt made clear he was encouraged by Klaus's comments.
"I welcome the statement by President Klaus. The presidency will continue to work with this in view of next week's European Council (summit)," he said.
Ratification by the Czech Republic also depends on a review by the country's Constitutional Court, which is widely expected to approve it, possibly next week.
STRENGTHENING EU ROLE ON WORLD STAGE
The comments by Reinfeldt and Klaus suggest a solution could be found at the summit that clears the way to Czech ratification but saves face for Klaus, who says the treaty is a step towards a European superstate that takes away national sovereignty.
The treaty creates a long-term president and a stronger foreign policy chief under reforms to help the EU remain a global force despite power shifting towards China and other emerging powers following the global economic crisis.
The treaty, which as been in the works for years, would also reform EU decision-making, which is more complicated now the bloc has grown to 27 member states.
The EU had hoped to discuss nominations for the jobs at next week's summit but progress is unlikely on this without clear signals from Klaus and the constitutional court.
Minister for European Affairs Stefan Fuele told a parliamentary committee the form the Czechs were seeking for the opt-out would not require new ratification of the treaty by all member states.
The Czech Republic wants to join Poland and Britain in having an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Slovakia has also said it might try to negotiate an exemption if the Czechs manage to do so.
EU diplomats have said the opt-out could be promised now and added to another treaty, perhaps when the EU takes in its next member state, widely expected to be Croatia.
(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Reuters