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Czech President Reluctantly Signs EU Reform Treaty

Czech President Vaclav Klaus speaks with reporters just after he signed the Lisbon Treaty in Prague.
PRAGUE (RFE/RL) -- Czech President Vaclav Klaus has become the final European Union leader to sign the bloc's Lisbon Treaty.

Klaus's long-awaited move completes the ratification process of a charter aimed at streamlining the EU's decision making and giving it greater clout in global affairs.

The treaty has been years in the making.

Even after it was signed by EU leaders in 2007, it was held up by two referendums in Ireland, as well as legal challenges in other countries.

On November 3, the last of those legal hurdles was lifted when the Czech Constitutional Court ruled the treaty was in line with the country's constitution.

And within hours, Klaus added his signature to the document, despite reiterating his long-held view that the treaty infringes on Czech sovereignty and that the court had been politically biased in its ruling.

"Once the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, the Czech Republic -- contrary to the political opinion of the Constitutional Court -- will cease to be a sovereign state," Klaus said.

The Lisbon Treaty is aimed at smoothing decision-making in a bloc that has almost doubled in size this decade with two waves of enlargement. It's also meant to give the bloc more clout in global affairs.

The document needed to be ratified by all 27 EU members to come into force. Klaus's signature completes that process.

It now enters into EU law, though previous statements by EU leaders suggest it may not come into force officially until December 1.

'Historic Step'

Among the first to welcome Klaus's signing was British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who described it as an "important and historic step for all of Europe."

By completing the long-delayed process, EU leaders can now turn their full attention to the changes Lisbon will usher in.

Chief among them is who will get the top two EU jobs -- president and foreign affairs chief.

The first is a new post, replacing the current system where countries take turns at the presidency for six months. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair initially appeared the front-runner, but his chances are said to have dimmed in recent weeks.

RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent says Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy is now emerging as a favorite, with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said to be the front-runner for the top foreign-policy job.

Sweden, the EU's current president, is expected to call an extraordinary summit for the middle of this month to decide who gets the two posts.