by RAY FLEMING

PRESIDENT Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic signed the Lisbon Treaty yesterday afternoon and an eight-year drive to make possible the improvement of the working methods of the European Union and to increase its standing in the world came to a successful conclusion. The Treaty is not the “constitution” which its opponents initially accused it of being and it is probably not perfect in every respect, but its ratification by 27 nations with very different perspectives is a triumph and an assertion of the strong belief in European unity felt by so many of its citizens. On this important day tribute should be paid to those who have been committed to the reform Treaty from the start and who have fought resolutely to see it carried to completion despite sometimes unprincipled and often irrelevant opposition - especially and regrettably from Britain in particular.

Now a long and quite difficult process of implementation of the Treaty will begin - perhaps within a couple of weeks when a special EU summit may be called to discuss how the first steps, including the choice of a president of the Council of Ministers and of a high representative for foreign policy and security, should be taken. For the next six months Spain will have an important role to play in moving matters forward as it takes over the old-style revolving presidency from Sweden at the turn of the year. At last the Lisbon Treaty is a reality!

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