EU in grim scenario after French 'non'

30th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, May 29 (AFP) - Europe faces a scenario of prolonged stagnation or worse, the very foundations of its future in question, after France's rejection of the EU's constitution Sunday, analysts said.

BRUSSELS, May 29 (AFP) - Europe faces a scenario of prolonged stagnation or worse, the very foundations of its future in question, after France's rejection of the EU's constitution Sunday, analysts said.  

The charter, drawn up in three years of delicate negotiations, appeared near dead in the water because all 25 members of the expanded European Union must ratify the text if it is to come into effect.  

European leaders have repeatedly said there is no "plan B".   The most immediate question is whether the poll, in which 55 percent of French voters spurned the treaty according to exit polls, will trigger a domino-like effect across Europe, starting with the next referendum in the Netherlands on Wednesday.  

"Probably it will ensure a comparable majority (for the "no" camp) in the Netherlands, and then we will have had two founding members of the Union ... having rejected the treaty," said John Palmer from the European Policy Centre.  

That scenario could lead to turmoil when EU heads of state and government meet for a summit in Brussels on June 16 and 17.  

Leaders could be faced with killing off the treaty or pushing on despite the rot that has already set in.  

"I think it possible at the (EU summit) in the middle of June ... that they may wish to continue with the ratification process because there is a democratic case. Just because the Dutch and French voted (no) should not deprive other people of voting or ratifying the treaty," said Palmer.  

Austria and Germany last week ratified the constitution, which is aimed at streamlining decision making in the enlarged 25-member Union, bringing to nine the number of countries which have said yes.  

Some 220 million Europeans are now in the yes camp, almost 49 percent of the EU population, according to the European Commission.  

"You can't say (that because) France has voted no, people are against further European integration," said Marco Incerti, from the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.  

"At least until the end of this year, the ratification process could continue. By then you will have four referenda, there will be one in Luxembourg in July, one in Denmark in September and one in Portugal in October, apart from the Dutch one of course.  

"You will have more of a mass of information to work on. Then you can say: 'Well yes, in fact many people are saying yes to the treaty so it may be necessary to ask the French again'."  

Charles Grant of the London-based Centre for the European Reform said leaders may announce a "pause for reflection" before convening a new intergovernmental conference (IGC) to produce a radically cut down new treaty.  

But even in the best of scenarios, the EU could be facing "a period of confusion, uncertainty and recrimination," he said.  

Virtually no one believes that changing parts of the constitution might be an option, indeed most fear it would only unravel the whole process and ultimately result in a very similar new document being reproduced.  

Other processes may also be blocked. The European Union's budget from 2007 to 2013 is a case in point and it may ultimately take a change of governments in some of the member states for any real movement to resume.  

"We may be in for a period, I don't know how long it will last, I suspect until we have new political leaderships in some of the key European countries," said Palmer. "And there are elections due in Germany, Italy and France over the next two years."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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