>Gambler Klaus knows when to fold ’em

>Inwardly, I never quite thought it would do it, but stony faced and behind closed doors he did. Václav Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty and so the whole ratification shermoz is over – at least fo rnow and until they realise that the whole hybrid federal-confederal confection that this the EU political system needs some further reform and we do the whole thing again.

If VK can draw any crumbs of comfort, it is that his profile on the European stage is higher and his reputation amongst all but the hardest of hardline eurosceptics enhanced by his last-man-standing act of the last few months. He may even pick up a few Brownie points among the Czech public for squeezing concessions, albeit of a meaningless and symbolic kind, out of the EU. Who, after all , could disagree that the Beneš Decrees need defending for all time? Not many Czech politicians and not very publicly.

A second crumb that may cause the Czech President a wry smile is that his decisions dumps British Tory leader David Cameroon, whose touchy-feeling, bluey-greem modern conservatism he is known to abhore, acute political difficulties as he will be under acute pressure tfrom his party’s eurosceptics o deliver on his ‘cast iron’ guarantee of a British referendum on Lisbon. Cameron’s only personal opt-out clause from keeping his promise – that he wouldn’t do it if the Treaty had already been ratified and was in force when he entered office may cut little ice there.

Why did Klaus acquiesce in the end? The answer it seems is that once the rest of the EU gave him whatever historical guarantees he could name concerning the Beneš Decress gidt wrapped and on a plate, he had a weak hand made up of increasingly fancifully challenges to the Treaty in Czech Constitutional Court. When it contemptuously rejected the last as irrelevant question mongering, he had no more cards to play and like The Gambler in the Kenny Rogers song, he knows when to fold ’em. The Czech President’s democratic mandate was simply to weak to make bloodyminded defiance in the name of the Czech nation a real option and there was always the risk the main parties might just find the wherewithall to defenestate him through some constitutional amendment.

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