EU treaty splits Mitterrand clan

10th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 10 (AFP) - Mirroring the row within the French left over the EU's new constitution, splits appeared Tuesday inside the family of the late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand over which side to back in the country's referendum later this month.

PARIS, May 10 (AFP) - Mirroring the row within the French left over the EU's new constitution, splits appeared Tuesday inside the family of the late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand over which side to back in the country's referendum later this month.  

The former leader's widow Danielle Mitterrand, 80, was due to go on national television Wednesday calling for a "no" vote on May 29, accusing the text of betraying France's social model and opening the way to rampant capitalism.  

"Unless we react, this liberal constitution will make the very water we drink a commodity to buy and sell. We must rise up against this idea," Danielle Mitterrand - a campaigner for human rights - wrote in a recent article.  

But her younger son Gilbert Mitterrand, 56, was among senior Socialists - including party leader Francois Hollande and former culture minister Jack Lang - speaking for the "yes" campaign at a rally in Burgundy Tuesday evening marking the 24th anniversary of his father's election.  

Gilbert Mitterrand, who is himself a Socialist member of parliament, said that voting "no" would "undermine 20 years of French policy in Europe."  

France's opposition Socialist Party (PS) is sharply divided over the proposed constitution, with most of the leadership supporting the text but at least half of its voters telling pollsters they will vote "no."  

With the referendum less than three weeks away, latest surveys show that nationally the two sides are neck-and-neck, with wavering PS supporters forming the hinge bloc.    

Among the so-called Mitterrand clan - the late president's loyal entourage - many including Lang and former European affairs minister Elisabeth Guigou are strong proponents of the constitution.   

"Mitterrand would only have seen the advantages (of the constitution). He would have approved it and defended it," his former foreign minister Roland Dumas told Le Figaro newspaper Tuesday, denying the charge that the late president opposed the EU's enlargement to eastern Europe.  

However the leading PS opponent of the text is Mitterrand's former prime minister Laurent Fabius, who is backed by other ex-ministers such as Louis Mermaz and Michel Charasse.  

Dumas accused Fabius of rejecting the constitution for hypocritical reasons.   "It is purely tactical ... Europe is not his prime concern. He knows too well how Europe works not to grasp our powerlessness were we to vote against the constitution," Dumas said.  

Mitterrand was French president at the time of the 1992 referendum on the Maastricht treaty paving the way for the single currency - a vote which was won for the "yes" side by the slimmest of margins.  

The late president's long secret daughter Mazarine Pingeot has refused to declare which side she will choose on May 29.  

The constitutional treaty was drawn up by a committee under former French president Valery Giscard D'Estaing and is meant to simplify decision-making in an organisation that now comprises 25 members. To go into effect, it must be ratified by every country.  

Meanwhile left-wing opponents of the constitution in the National Assembly demanded the intervention of the State Council - the country's highest administrative court - to block government publicity which they said breaches the state's duty to remain neutral in the referendum.  

"It is intolerable that the government gives itself the right to spend public money for exclusively partisan ends when it is perfectly aware that what it is doing is wrong," the deputies from the Communist, Socialist and Radical Left parties sasid in a statement.  

"If this were to take place in any other country, there would be calls for international observers," said Jean-Luc Melenchon of the PS.  

The centre-right government of President Jacques Chirac is actively campaigning for the "yes" side and the president has appeared twice on television urging the public to support the constitution.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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