EC chief pleads for French 'oui' on EU treaty

30th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

LISBON, March 30 (AFP) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed Wednesday for a "yes" vote during the French referendum on the first ever European Union constitution on May 29, arguing it was essential for greater integration of the newly expanded bloc.

LISBON, March 30 (AFP) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed Wednesday for a "yes" vote during the French referendum on the first ever European Union constitution on May 29, arguing it was essential for greater integration of the newly expanded bloc.

"France is the indispensable country in Europe," he said during a meeting with foreign journalists in Lisbon.

"France is a founding member of the European Community, for us it is impossible to conceive of a EU without France in a leadership role in the advance of European integration."

Five consecutive opinion polls published in France over the past two weeks show a majority of voters plan to vote against the treaty, which is meant to streamline decision-making in the expanding bloc.

The latest survey, conducted by the Ifop polling institute for Paris Match magazine, showed that 53 percent of those who expressed a view said they would vote against the constitution with 47 percent in favour.

The constitution must be ratified in all 25 member states and a rejection by a large member of the EU like France would stop the process in its tracks and throw the bloc into crisis.

About half of the member states will hold a popular vote on the treaty while the others will ratify it in parliament.

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

Analysts say the charter faces a much tougher test in France than in Spain because of the risk of a voter backlash over the government's cost-cutting reforms, concerns over Turkey's possible entry to the bloc and anger over plans to liberalise the EU's services sector.

French President Jacques Chirac and his centre-right government as well as the main opposition Socialists back a "yes" vote in favour of the treaty.

Barroso refused discuss the possibility of a French "no" vote, saying the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, remained confident that French voters would approve the treaty.

"If we started to speculate now over what would happen in a 'what if' scenario then we would have a debate over this and not about the result," the former Portuguese prime minister said.

"The France which gave us the declaration of the rights of man, which so many times throughout history guided world civilisation with a spirit of openness to progress and confidence in the possibilities of humanity is the France I love," he added.

"And that is the France which I hope will triumph on May 29. The European France, the open France, the generous France, the France of solidarity."

In a 1992 French voters approved the Maastricht Treaty, which brought the EU closer economic and political union, by a razor-thin majority.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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