EU referendum campaign starts in earnest
3 February 2005, MADRID - Spain officially kicked off its EU referendum campaign with the electorate set to give a clear yes in answer to the question: "Do you approve the treaty instituting a constitution for Europe?"
3 February 2005
MADRID - Spain officially kicked off its EU referendum campaign with the electorate set to give a clear yes in answer to the question: "Do you approve the treaty instituting a constitution for Europe?"
Spain is the first of a dozen EU members putting the issue to a popular vote with the remainder of the bloc preferring parliamentary ratification.
Latest polls show that around 45.3 percent of Spain's 34.6 million voters will back the treaty which at least in theory requires the approval of all 25 EU states before it can take effect.
Only seven percent of Spaniards canvassed say they will vote no, but that still leaves some 35 percent who say they have not made up their mind, while more than three quarters of the electorate profess to know little about the proposed constitution.
Both the ruling Socialist Party and the main conservative opposition Popular Party are in favour, as are the main regional parties including moderate Basque and Catalan nationalists.
The United Left, the Catalan Republican Left -- which is in a coalition government in the Catalan regional parliament alongside mainstream Socialists -- and the Galician Nationalist Party are calling on their voters to reject the treaty.
The two main Spanish unions, the pro-Socialist UGT and the pro-communist CCOO, are meanwhile in favour in the belief that a constitution would uphold worker's professional and social rights.
"Spanish workers are convinced that the EU is a constant source of social progress," maintains UGT secretary general Candido Mendez.
On 11 February, the referendum campaign will move into top gear when Zapatero hosts a meeting in Barcelona with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at which the leaders will look to whip up support for a verdict in
favour of the treaty.
Although the yes camp is clearly in the driving seat, interest is focusing on the likely turnout. The electorate in Spain, which joined the Union in 1986, is generally pro-EU but with their popular vote coming first their enthusiasm-or apathy-will be closely monitored.
To date, the parliaments of Slovenia, Lithuania and Hungary have already ratified the text, as has the lower house of the Italian parliament though the Italian upper chamber still has to ratify the treaty.
Zapatero was to start the campaign for real with the first of a slew of public appearances country-wide in the coming fortnight
while PP leader Mariano Rajoy also has a busy schedule ahead of him as he too pushes for a vote in favour.
Rajoy's precedessor as PP leader, former prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, favours a no vote as he feels the constitutional arrangements would leave Spain as a "small" player on the EU stage.
Rajoy's response has been to state that "I am in charge of the PP and it is for me to determine its political orientation."
Zapatero says Spain should vote yes in recognition of the "worthy contribution to the process of European construction to which we owe so much."
Spain has been a prime recipient of EU aid since its EU accession after having spent 1939 to 1975 out in the Euro-cold under late military dictator Francisco Franco.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news