Chirac and Schroeder warn French against 'non'

26th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 26 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday again urged French voters to say 'yes' to the European constitution in next month's referendum, an appeal backed by visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

PARIS, April 26 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday again urged French voters to say 'yes' to the European constitution in next month's referendum, an appeal backed by visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.  

After morning talks and a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting focused on industrial policy, the two leaders insisted that the constitution would strengthen the European Union's influence in world affairs.  

Addressing a joint press conference, Chirac said the treaty "will allow France to be stronger in Europe and will strengthen Europe's position in the world".  

He warned that if the 'no' camp wins, "France will find itself on the platform while the train passes us by".  

For his part, Schroeder told reporters that "Europe's voice would lose strength, it would have trouble making itself heard, it would be weaker" if the landmark treaty were to be rejected.  

"What's at stake is something truly historic: the idea of a Europe united in response to the horrors of fascism," the German chancellor added, saying he hoped that France, "the cradle of this idea, remains true to its promises".  

French voters will cast their ballots on May 29 in a crucial referendum on the European constitution, which must be approved by all 25 EU member states. A string of recent opinion polls have shown that a majority opposes the text.  

Chirac - who has staked his prestige on a 'yes' vote - warned constitution opponents that should they triumph, they would bear "responsibility for interrupting 50 years of European construction".  

By approving the text, which aims to simplify decision-making in the expanded bloc, France instead would be "making the choice of a Europe that is more social, more independent and more powerful," he said.  

The two leaders said earlier in a statement that the constitution would "be an important step in terms of asserting Europe's weight in the international arena and reinforcing its ability to act for peace and security in the world".  

Chirac and Schroeder highlighted the fact that the constitution marked a "major step" in the realization of the "European political project", adding that it would reinforce "the sphere of activity of European defence".  

The joint Franco-German cabinet meeting, focused on industrial cooperation, was intended to showcase the dynamic nature of Europe's economy as an incentive to French voters to vote 'yes' on May 29.  

The French and German leaders of a working group on the issue presented four possible joint projects - two on biomedical research, and two others on information technology.  

Chirac was to insist on the link between European industrial cooperation and the political importance of the EU constitution in a speech later in the day at the Sorbonne. Schroeder was also expected to speak.  

During their morning meeting, the two had also been expected to discuss the EU's 2007-2013 budget, a possible lifting of the EU arms embargo on China and a controversial draft EU law on the liberalization of the EU services sector.  

Chirac told reporters that the so-called Bolkestein directive on the bloc's services sector "no longer exists".  

He added that Paris and Berlin would work to ensure that any revised draft would not include a "country-of-origin" clause which suggests that companies could provide services throughout the EU using the laws of their own country.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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