EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Czech President Vaclav Klaus has finally signed the Lisbon Treaty, ending a highly drawn out ratification process that left many wondering whether the document's provisions would ever see the light of day.
"I signed the Lisbon Treaty today at 15.00 (CET)," Klaus told reporters on Tuesday (3 November).
His signature, the last of EU leaders, follows on from a Czech constitutional court decision early on Tuesday morning that ruled in favour of the Lisbon Treaty's compatibility with the Czech constitution.
"It's now absolutely clear that the Lisbon Treaty will enter into force soon," said European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso upon hearing the news.
Swedish prime minister and current EU president Fredrik Reinfeldt also sought to draw a line under the process.
"His signature ends a far too long period of institutional focus within the EU. It opens up for a more democratic, transparent and efficient Union," he said.
Welcoming the news, European parliament president Jerzy Buzek said his institution was now ready to swing into action to get a new commission up and running.
"We need a new and strong European Commission in place as soon as possible. The European Parliament will be ready as of the 25 November to start the hearings of the new commissioners- designate," he said.
As well as appointing a new set of commissioners, the EU can now move ahead with the planned overhaul of its institutions and the appointment of several new positions intended to increase the bloc's standing on the world stage.
All of these decisions had been held up by the political uncertainty in Prague, with Mr Barroso saying he can only assemble his commission team when it is clear who will become EU foreign minister, a new post that will see the person also act as vice-president of the commission.
Mr Reinfeldt said he would now engage in a round of name consultations for the new posts to be set up under the Lisbon Treaty. "As soon as possible I will also call for an EU summit," he said, with current rumours suggesting the meeting could be held as soon as 12 November.
The other top post created by the treaty is the president of the European Council.
Former UK prime minister Tony Blair's chances of securing this job suffered a setback last week when some Socialist leaders failed to support his bid. Current Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, and the current Belgian prime minister, Herman van Rompuy, now look like frontrunners to secure the job.
Both are from Europe's centre-right family, leaving the position of high representative for foreign affairs likely to go to a Socialist. The UK's current foreign minister David Miliband is though to be a favourite. However, it is not precluded that new names emerge for the posts in the coming days.
The treaty, which reduces member states' veto power in several areas and hands a chunk of co-legislative power to MEPs, could come into force as early as next month.
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