German parliament approves EU constitution
12 May 2005, BERLIN - Germany's lower chamber of parliament on Thursday gave overwhelming approval to the European Union constitution with the support of both government and opposition parties.
12 May 2005
BERLIN - Germany's lower chamber of parliament on Thursday gave overwhelming approval to the European Union constitution with the support of both government and opposition parties.
A total of 569 Bundestag members voted in favour of the European Union constitution, with 23 voting against and two abstaining.
The treaty is expected to easily win final approval in parliament's upper house, the Bundesrat, which votes on 27 May.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder purposely timed the vote in the hope that Berlin's green light will boost chances for a 'yes' in France which holds a hotly contested referendum on 29 May.
After weeks of showing public opinion set against the treaty, French opinion polls now show a neck and neck race.
There are growing fears, however, that the Netherlands, which holds an EU constitution referendum on 1 June, may reject the treaty. Polls give the 'no' vote in Holland 42 percent, compared with 38 percent for those in favour of the constitution.
All 25 EU member states must approve the constitution in order for it to come into force.
Rejection of the treaty by a core EU founder state such as France or the Netherlands would likely plunge the Union into a prolonged crisis.
Chancellor Schroeder declined to put the EU constitution up for a national referendum, saying there was no legal basis for such a vote under German law. An ARD TV poll last week showed 59 percent of Germans would cast ballots in favour of the constitution if a vote had been held.
Schroeder told the Bundestag that deepening ties in the 25-nation EU was the best way to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two.
"Who would have believed back then, sixty years after the European catastrophe, ... in a European constitution and a united Europe living in peace, freedom and prosperity?" said Schroeder.
The Chancellor admitted the constitution "naturally did not meet all hopes and did not banish all fears" but he called on members of the chamber to back what he termed a "good and fair compromise."
Seeking to allay fears that the Franco-German axis would try to dominate the EU, Schroeder said: "It does not create a French Europe or a German Europe."
Subject: German news