German Bundesrat approvesEuropean Union constitution
27 May 2005, BERLIN - Germany's parliament gave final approval to the planned European Union constitution on Friday in a vote overshadowed by polls showing French and Dutch voters may reject the treaty in referendums next week.
27 May 2005
BERLIN - Germany's parliament gave final approval to the planned European Union constitution on Friday in a vote overshadowed by polls showing French and Dutch voters may reject the treaty in referendums next week.
A total of 15 of Germany's Laender, the federal states, voted in favour, while one state, Mecklenburg-West Pommerania abstained in the Bundesrat.
The abstention of Mecklenburg-West Pommerania came about because the former East German communists, who oppose the constitution, serve in the state government led by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats.
Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, approved the constitution two weeks ago.
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, in a plea for the constitution clearly aimed at France and Holland, said voters should not forget that the European Union (EU) was the answer to the two world wars and forced 'Sovietisation' of large parts of Europe last century.
"The world will not wait for Europe ... even the biggest EU members are not big enough for a globalised world," said Fischer who warned that rejecting the constitution would mean the EU would have to stick to its Nice Treaty agreed in 2000.
This, said Fischer, would make Europe "weaker."
In Brussels, the European Commission hailed Germany's approval for the constitution as a "strong signal" to French and Dutch voters to cast ballots in favour of the treaty in upcoming referendums.
"We are delighted by the German parliamentary approval," a Commission spokesman told reporters, adding that support for the constitution from all major German political parties was especially impressive.
Despite the vote, a final question mark still hangs over German approval. A Bavarian conservative has asked Berlin's Federal Constitutional Court to review the treaty amid allegations it infringes on Germany's Basic Law or constitution.
"Europe is already too centralised and this will be strengthened by ... the constitution," said Peter Gauweiler, a Christian Social Union (CSU) Bundestag member who lodged the high court complaint.
The planned constitution would give the EU a president, a foreign minister and bolster the European Parliament. Its broad aim is to streamline decision-making in the European Union (EU) which took in 10 mainly east European new members last year.
Germany's 'yes' vote means national parliaments in 10 of the EU's 25 members have approved the constitution. All members must ratify the text for it to come into force on 1 November 2006.
The first country to approve the treaty was Lithuania last November, followed by Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Slovakia, Spain and Austria. Belgium's parliament has approved the text with final approval still needed from five regional assemblies in the country.
But the real challenge is this Sunday's French referendum where latest polls show 53 percent of voters are planning to vote 'no'.
Opinion polls show an even higher level of rejection in the Netherlands with up to 60 percent of voters saying they will vote against the constitution on 1 June.
A 'no' vote by either France or the Netherlands could kill the constitution and pitch the European Union into crisis.
Other states planning referendums on the treaty are the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland and Britain.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ruled out allowing an EU constitution referendum in Germany.
Subject: German news