Zapatero makes plea for EU poll 'yes' vote

11th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 January 2005, MADRID - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made an impassioned call to Spain to show the way in ratifying the EU constitution as it prepares to be the first country to vote in a referendum on adopting the text.

11 January 2005

MADRID - Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made an impassioned call to Spain to show the way in ratifying the EU constitution as it prepares to be the first country to vote in a referendum on adopting the text.

Spaniards will vote on February 20 on whether to adopt the blueprint for ruling the European Union in the coming decades.

About half of the EU's 25 members will follow with referendums of their own during the year.

The other members, including most notably Germany, will leave parliament to pass the text into law.

Lithuania, one of 10 states which joined the EU on 1 May, became the first and so far only country to ratify the text in a parliamentary vote in November.

The Spanish vote is thus being seen as a litmus test for the other ballots especially in countries such as France, due to hold its poll by the summer, and Britain, where polls show there is strong opposition to what is seen as "rule by Brussels."

"We are the first country to open the popular consultation process by referendum. We are in the vanguard of the ratification process," Zapatero told parliament.

As all EU members must in theory approve the text for it to become law, Zapatero warned that a vote against "could produce a crisis situation" paralysing Europe's decision-making processes. He urged his country to set an example to its neighbours.

"The eyes of Europe will be on Spain," said Zapatero, who said approving the constitution "will bring about a more democratic, more solid and inclusive" EU.

"We will be giving an example of democratic responsibility and renewing our commitment to the European project," said Zapatero.

He made reference to how Spain was left out in the cold under General Francisco Franco's 1939-1975 military dictatorship which followed the Spanish Civil War.

Zapatero praised the EU for having provided "a refuge for our compatriots fleeing authoritarianism and intolerance" during the Franco years and regretted his country's resulting inability to play a role in the bloc's formative years.

"Spain today is nothing like the one which excluded itself from the original European project," he noted, saluting the generous aid the country has received since its EU accession in 1986.

Relations between Madrid and Brussels were also frosty in the years leading up to Zapatero taking office last April after his rightwing predecessor Jose Maria Aznar sided with the United States over the US-led war in Iraq.

Zapatero insisted a yes vote of "historical significance" would "put the citizen at the centre" of Europe.

A 29 December poll showed three quarters of the electorate will turn out, with the "yes" camp set to win some 42.7 percent of the vote compared with just 4.1 percent for those against.

Mainstream opposition parties back the constitution but some regional nationalist groups and the hard left United Left oppose it.

Mariano Rajoy, leader of the opposition conservative Popular Party, said the referendum was also a way of opposing the Ibarretxe Plan for Basque independence.

The so-called Ibarretxe Plan, proposed by the Basque regional prime minister Jose Luis Ibarretxe, wants more independence for the north-west region of Spain.

But it is fiercely opposed by all the mainstream political parties.

In a reference to the Basque plan, Rajoy said a 'yes' vote in favour of the constitution would close the door on the "self-determination nonsense".

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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