British press sees good in French Socialist vote

3rd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Dec 3 (AFP) - The vote by French Socialists to back the EU constitution bodes well for its ratification, even though the outcome of a referendum in 2005 is still uncertain, major British newspapers said Friday.

LONDON, Dec 3 (AFP) - The vote by French Socialists to back the EU constitution bodes well for its ratification, even though the outcome of a referendum in 2005 is still uncertain, major British newspapers said Friday.

"Approval (by the entire French nation in a referendum promised by President Jacques Chirac) is not a foregone conclusion," the Financial Times said in an editorial.

"Nonetheless, the French Socialist vote gets the ratification marathon of referendums in up to 10 EU states off to a good start," it said.

To the great relief of European governments, France's opposition Socialists voted 59 percent to campaign in favour of the EU's proposed constitutional treaty when it is put to a national referendum.

Several top French Socialists, led by former premier Laurent Fabius, opposed the constitution, fearing it would signal the demise of the welfare state in Europe in favour of US-style free-market economics.

"This week's Socialist party vote on the EU constitution marks a defeat for its left wing," the Financial Times said, adding that Chirac's success in co-opting many pro-EU liberals into his camp "has reduced the volatility of his own Gaullists towards Europe".

The Guardian said the result of the French Socialists' internal party vote "makes it more likely - though not certain - that the text will be adopted" in next year's referendum.

That in turn, the newspaper said, should "stop a domino effect of no votes" in other EU member states that would stall the constitution's ratification, which must be unanimous.

"The outcome is good for Jacques Chirac, who reluctantly called the (national) plebiscite" after Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a dramatic U-turn, agreed last April to a referendum in notoriously euro sceptic Britain, it said.

The Independent said Fabius "deserves his rebuff," but added: "He is not the only loser."

"If Tony Blair hoped France would kill off the treaty before his own promised referendum, he may have miscalculated... The constitution has survived its first serious test of European public opinion. It is high time Mr Blair got out there and started campaigning."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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