German Parliament votes yes on EU constitution; French referendum may vote no

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

The German Bundesrat ("federal council") voted to approve the European Union's drafted constitution on Friday. Only the government of the state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania abstained from voting. All of the other 15 states voted to approve the treaty. A French referendum to be held on Sunday is hovering on the edge of rejecting the constitution. If it does, and if the Netherlands rejects it next week as expected, that could destroy the chances of the constitution's acceptance.

All 25 member states of the European Union have to approve the constitution for it to take effect. France's support is considered key. The most recent poll on Friday indicates 48% in favor and 52% against.

Supporters say that it will unify Europe, break down internal barriers, and give the EU more strategic power in the world against American interests and other growing international alliances. Germany strongly supported the bill to prevent future European wars, and because Germany has the largest population in the EU which would give it certain political advantages.

Opponents in France are concerned about the possible effect on their country's already double-digit rate of unemployment, as lower-paid foreign workers enter the country and increase competition. They also worry about a decline of national sovereignty and lack of democratic control over European institutions.

Former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, who led the committee that drafted the constitution, pleaded for its acceptance. On Friday he made a speech in the German Bundesrat, saying, "The day after tomorrow, I hope with all my heart, the French will in their turn ratify the constitution in a referendum. Ratification by Germany and France would mark an historic step forward for the future of the constitution and for Europe."

Rejection would be a major setback for the French leadership under President Jacques Chirac, who is pushing acceptance of the constitution.

Nine nations have already ratified the constitution, including Germany. No countries have rejected the constitution so far.