Berlin rejects referendumon EU constitution
21 April 2004 ,
21 April 2004
BERLIN - The German government Wednesday ruled out holding a referendum on a future European Union constitution and declined to comment on Britain's abrupt decision to call for a treaty vote.
"Ratification in Germany will be in the tried and test way by parliament," said Thomas Steg, a spokesman for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Steg said Germany's constitution did not allow referendums on such issues and calls by for an amendment to allow such votes should not be mixed up with debate on the European Union (EU) constitution.
Berlin was reacting to questions following British Prime Minister Tony Blair decision to reverse himself on Tuesday by saying he would call a constitution referendum to test British commitment to the EU amid growing scepticism over Europe.
Steg declined to comment on the move which he termed a "sovereign British decision."
EU leaders failed to hammer out a constitution at a summit last December but hope to agree a text during a June meeting in Brussels.
After being signed, the constitution must be ratified by all of the soon-to-be 25 members of the bloc. Most countries will rely on parliamentary ratification but several plan to hold referendums.
If a single country fails to ratify the constitution it cannot come into force. Such a move would likely lead to intense pressure on the offending nation to repeat a referendum or possibly to even quit the EU.
Meanwhile, a poll released Wednesday, showed that less than 10 days before the 15-nation EU expands by 10 countries, German fear of a larger EU also is expanding.
The survey by the Allensbach polling agency in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said 71 percent of those expect that crime will rise as a result of enlargement, up from 66 percent one year ago.
This year, 64 percent of respondents see higher unemployment, up from 57 percent. Only 15 percent hope for a positive impact on economy, down from 24 percent.
Most of the countries slated to join the EU are situated in central and eastern Europe. Some, including the largest addition, Poland, share a border with Germany.
The poll claims 58 percent of the German population fear EU enlargement will bring negative consequences and 65 percent think it will bring more risks than opportunities.
The head of the polling agency Renate Koecher wrote enlargement "is taking place in the phase of weak economic growth when the population is viewing economic developments with a rising sense of insecurity." This insecurity is making the Germans much less receptive to the idea of admitting other countries into the EU.
Only 36 percent of the respondents agree Hungary should be an EU member, considerably fewer than 49 percent last year.
Only 24 percent of Germans are backing the membership of the Czech Republic, down from 34 percent, and just 23 percent of the queried thought Poland should be in the community - down from 35 percent.
Turkey's bid for membership is finding an ever shrinking number of supporters, the poll showed.
Merely 12 percent of respondents agreed that Turkey should eventually join the EU - less than a half of the number in a similar poll one year ago.
Subject: German news