Bitter Giscard bites at Chirac over EU debacle

25th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 24 (AFP) - Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing says the country's present political leaders have done little to win backing for a "yes" vote in an upcoming referendum on the adoption of the European constitution.

PARIS, April 24 (AFP) - Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing says the country's present political leaders have done little to win backing for a "yes" vote in an upcoming referendum on the adoption of the European constitution.  

Giscard, president from 1974 to 1981, was chairman of the convention that drew up the constitution. A series of opinion polls has suggested that the constitution will be rejected, possibly by a large margin.  

"They are not personally engaged in Europe's construction, unlike previous top officials," said Giscard d'Estaing in an interview to appear in Monday's edition of the national daily France Soir.  

"The thing that has sunk the 'yes' vote is not campaigning from the 'no' camp but discontent at the economic and social situation," said Giscard, a champion of the European movement.  

Recent opinion polls suggest French voters will reject the European constitution at a referendum set for May 29, with the latest one giving the "no" vote 58 percent Thursday, its highest score yet, despite a live television appeal by President Jacques Chirac pushing the "yes".  

The former president said the government's failure to honour a promise to tackle unemployment was another reason behind the "no" vote, suggesting French voters may use the referendum to punish Chirac or Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.  

He said also that he and his successor as president, Francois Mitterrand, had got the European message across to the French but this was no longer the case.  

"There has been no explanation about what Europe brings (to the French) for 15 years now.  

"I was shocked to see that there was no talk of Europe in (French) year-end speeches in 2004," he said.   

Giscard d'Estaing believes the 'yes' vote will win the day with more than 52 percent despite the polls.  

"The French 'yes' vote will be a surprise because everyone is talking up the 'no' but it will show there is a France that wishes to see progress," he explained.  

The constitution must be ratified by all 25 member states and a rejection by a major EU member state such as France would stop the process in its tracks.  

France, one of the founders of European integration, will be only the second member state to hold a referendum on the constitution after Spain, which approved it on February 20 by a wide margin in a vote marked by low turnout.  

Government backers have clashed over what is seen by at least one senior minister as a lack of commitment to a "yes" vote by leading figures on the political right.  

The chief left-wing opposition group, the Socialist Party, is deeply divided though rank and file approved a 'yes' vote when consulted.

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article