France buries the EU constitution

#1
Good on the french, but notice how they still use it as an excuse to poke the British?

France performed a historic about-turn yesterday and abandoned the European Union constitution to its fate, dropping demands that other nations ratify the treaty.

The unexpected move appeared to seal the constitution's doom, even if its most passionate supporters still refuse to accept its demise for several months more. Days before a crisis EU summit, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, simply waived Paris's insistence that the treaty still be put to the vote, country by country.

"Our humble and modest position says we simply respect the position of each member state," said Mr Douste-Blazy.

He added that it was not up to France to "dictate" how others should proceed, but then raised the stakes in the battle over the EU budget by accusing Britain of selfishly refusing to pay the bill for enlargement last year, when 10 nations joined the EU.


Senior French officials quietly agreed with British predictions that an EU summit this week would leave individual member states to decide how, or whether, to vote on the constitution, with no deadline or timetable. Without these "the whole thing is being kicked into some very long grass indeed," said one EU official. "You could say it is effectively dead."

A senior French official said: "The heads of state prefer to avoid a debate on the timetable." An original deadline of November 2006 was now "a target date, a date on which we take stock," the French official said.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, maintained pressure on France to clarify whether it feels capable of holding a second vote on the constitution and obtaining a Yes.

If France says it has no hope of reversing its first No vote, the treaty is effectively dead, because it must be ratified by all 25 member states.

Speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Mr Straw said: "There is a general consensus that decisions on whether to proceed with ratification or not should be left to individual member states."

France would be asked to make clear at the European Council on Thursday "how they intend to proceed", Mr Straw added. The apparent demise of the EU constitution plunges Europe into its deepest political crisis for decades.

The drafting of the text took four years of intense negotiation. It was born after EU leaders agreed that the spider's web of overlapping treaties was not fit to govern life in the new, greatly expanded EU of 25 nations, soon to rise to 27 with the addition of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.

France led calls for it to be called a "constitution" and its drafting was presided over by the former French president, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Its over-arching aim was to streamline the process of taking decisions and to create a new EU presidency and foreign minister. France, which first threw the project into question with its No vote on May 29, had been in the vanguard of moves to keep the treaty alive.

President Jacques Chirac had repeatedly called on other member states to carry on with referendums or parliamentary votes on the text. Desperate to avoid being isolated after a No vote, Mr Chirac allied himself with 10 nations that had already ratified the text.

His government endorsed a contentious argument that all nations were obliged to hold votes before a November 2006 deadline - a regulation that federalist leaders claimed to find buried deep in the text.

That position has now abruptly collapsed, helped by increasingly bold hints from countries such as Denmark, the Czech Republic and Poland that they had no appetite for holding referendums on the treaty, with in the face of opinion polls predicting a long string of No votes.

Holland - whose referendum three days after the French vote delivered an even more emphatic No - has been conspicuously silent.

The Dutch government tersely declared it had heard the voice of its voters, and would not now send the constitution to parliament for formal ratification.

The final text that emerges from the European Council on Friday or Saturday is, nonetheless, unlikely explicitly to declare the constitution dead. Many are pushing for a "freeze" or a "pause for reflection" in the hope of resurrecting the treaty later.

One EU official said: "No one is ready to kill this thing off, but an open-ended deadline is a tacit admission that this thing is in serious difficulties. That might be combined with a freeze."

The Danish foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller, hinted that his government, which longs to scrap a Sept 27 referendum - had serious doubts about a pause, in case others tried amending the treaty while it was in the freeze.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/06/14/weu14.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/06/14/ixportaltop.html
 
#2
Latest poll from Luxembourg (referendum due 11th July) suggests yes/no might be see-sawing, previously no chance of a No.

The Danish Foreign Minister (one Per Stig Moeller) has suggested that their referendum on 27 September might be cancelled. This follows a drift from 45% Yes to 25% No (In May) to 34% Yes, 38% No (in June).

Meanwhile, in Britain there's no chance of a vote if Tony's going to lose. "The people can speak if they agree with me!". B'stard.
 

Latest Threads

Top