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By Jan Korselt
PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech President Vaclav Klaus set out his terms Friday for signing the EU's Lisbon reform treaty, demanding an exemption to protect Prague from post-war property claims and safeguard the sovereignty of the judiciary.
Klaus's demands further complicate the European Union's efforts to implement reforms to give the bloc more global clout, even though he will be the only EU leader who has not ratified the treaty once the Polish president signs it Saturday.
Klaus said the Czech government should follow the example of Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs on the application of some of the provisions of a Charter of Fundamental Rights which will be given binding force when the Lisbon treaty is ratified.
"Before ratification, the Czech Republic must, additionally at least, negotiate a similar exemption," Klaus told reporters. "I believe that this exemption can be resolved quickly."
Klaus says the treaty would create a European superstate that gives too much power to Brussels, and has refused to ratify it even though the Czech parliament has approved it.
Klaus has been resisting the rest of the EU as well as most Czech political parties, isolating the central European country which has already lost some credibility when its government collapsed during the Czech term as EU president in March.
Another big obstacle to the treaty, which would create the post of a long-term EU president and a more powerful foreign policy chief and streamline decision-making, was removed when Irish voters backed it in a referendum last Friday.
In the Czech Republic, foreign policy is conducted by the government, which would have to negotiate the demands.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer said his interim cabinet would discuss the matter Monday, but he believed ratification could still be completed by year-end. He said previous analyses have found fears of property claims groundless.
GERMAN CARD BACK IN PLAY
Klaus said he feared that claimants of property, confiscated from some 3 million Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War Two, could circumvent the Czech judicial system under the Lisbon treaty and go directly to the highest EU court. A fear of property claims was a factor in Czech politics in the 1990s, after the end of communism, but Czech courts have thrown out claims brought by some of the expellees.
Germany is the Czechs' key market and source of foreign investment, and relations between the two countries' people have been generally warm.
Poland's desire for an opt-out was also prompted partly by fears of German property claims, as well as by efforts to safeguard conservative family laws.
It could be legally complicated for the Czech Republic to win a similar protocol quickly because this would in theory mean renegotiating the treaty.
It might be easier to approve a declaration by EU leaders, but would not be part of the treaty.
A similar procedure was followed in the case of Ireland to offer its citizens guarantees on neutrality, taxation and abortion to convince to convince them to back the treaty.
But there will be little willingness to accommodate Klaus.
"If I were the EU member states, I wouldn't really be minded to give Klaus what he wants. He has expressed nothing but hostility towards this thing and he suddenly says he'll do it 'if'," said Hugo Brady from the Centre for European Policy Studies.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has ruled out any change to the treaty to accommodate Klaus.
Czechs have been largely indifferent to the treaty and the turmoil around ratification, though many would like to see the affair to be over.
"I think Klaus no longer has a chance to turn anything around," said David Suchanek, a 24-year old construction engineer.