The Czech Constitutional Court has ruled that the Lisbon Treaty conforms with the country's constitution.

Pavel Rychetsky, chairman of the court, said this morning the treaty did not 'run counter to the constitutional order.'

The court rejected the arguments of President Vaclav Klaus who described the treaty as undermining the country's sovereignty.

The verdict enables both chambers of the parliament to continue the ratification process, but Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said today he expected both expert and public debates to continue.

Mr Topolanek, whose cabinet has approved the treaty, said earlier he expected the document to be ratified in the first quarter of 2009.

The verdict still allows opponents to contest the document after it has been approved by parliament as the judges did not deal with the treaty as a whole but only with disputed articles.

After the parliamentary vote, the treaty must also be signed by Mr Klaus who has said he may sign the document only after it has been ratified by Ireland.

His Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski has been putting off his signature for eight months now.

The Irish government is now under increasing pressure to call a second referendum.

EU leaders were anxious to get the treaty passed before the European Parliament elections next June.