Poland's president approved the European Union reform treaty on Saturday, ratcheting up the pressure on the Czech Republic as the only nation yet to sign off on the agreement designed to sharpen EU decision-making and increase its influence.
President Lech Kaczynski signed Poland's ratification of the so-called Lisbon Treaty at a ceremony attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other EU leaders.
The deal seeks to strengthen the bloc's institutions after its rapid expansion eastward, and must be ratified by all 27 EU nations. Poland's final approval now puts the spotlight on Czech President Vaclav Klaus, whose signature is the last remaining obstacle the deal faces.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU presidency, urged Klaus to ratify the treaty swiftly so it can come into force Jan. 1.
"Europe eagerly awaits (for) this to happen," Reinfeldt said. "We do not need more delays."
With pressing matters such as the economic crisis and climate change to deal with, Reinfeldt stressed that "it is time to settle the institutional question of the EU."
"We have a responsibility to make this happen before the end of this year," he said.
Klaus' office did not immediately comment, but Prime Minister Jan Fischer said through his spokesman that he welcomed it and that he "believes that this document will be ratified in the Czech Republic in the foreseeable future."
EU leaders say new voting rules are needed to promote stronger policies in combating cross-border crime, terrorism and ecological threats.
If Lisbon becomes law, more policy decisions would be permitted by majority rather than unanimous votes in European summits. Those policies would then increasingly be shaped by the elected parliaments of each nation and the European Parliament, which currently has little say.
Projecting this more decisive EU abroad would be a new fixed-term president — in place of a decades-old system that rotates the presidency among governments every six months — and a new foreign minister.
Both houses of the Czech parliament have approved ratification, but it still needs the final signature from Klaus — an EU skeptic and vocal opponent of the treaty who argues it will transfer too much power to Brussels and strip the Czech Republic of its sovereignty.
Klaus says he is waiting on a ruling from the nation's Constitutional Court on a challenge from 17 senators questioning aspects of the charter before putting his final stamp of approval on it.
A similar complaint was dismissed last year after several months of deliberations.
Earlier this month, the treaty overcame a major hurdle when it was approved by Irish voters — who had rejected it in a previous referendum last year.
Kaczynski, who had expressed misgivings about the treaty and held off on signing Poland's ratification for months, sought to stress Saturday that the treaty is not a threat to sovereignty and will boost the EU's clout abroad.
"I'm deeply convinced that this next great experiment will be a success," Kaczynski told those gathered at the mirrored hall at Poland's presidential palace.
"Within the framework of cooperation among sovereign states, we will achieve even better results — in the interest of individual states, in the interest of Europe as a whole and in the interest of the world," he said.
Poland's parliament overwhelmingly approved ratification last year, but Kaczynski's signature was still needed to complete the process.
"President Kaczynski has today set the seal on a very important chapter for Poland and for the European Union," Barroso said.