Europe's luvvies tell France: just say 'oui'

2nd May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 2 (AFP) - Europe's cultural elite on Monday lent French President Jacques Chirac a helping hand in his campaign for a "yes" to the EU constitution, which he said would help forge the bloc's cultural identity.

PARIS, May 2 (AFP) - Europe's cultural elite on Monday lent French President Jacques Chirac a helping hand in his campaign for a "yes" to the EU constitution, which he said would help forge the bloc's cultural identity.  

From French rocker Johnny Hallyday to British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, some of the hundreds of artists and intellectuals in Paris for a two-day culture pow-wow did not mince words in backing the landmark EU treaty.  

"You have to vote 'yes'," Hallyday said on the sidelines of the Meetings for Europe and Culture. "We, the French, cannot stay outside of Europe. That would be a step backwards, it wouldn't be a good thing."  

French actress Jeanne Moreau chimed in: "I'm voting 'yes'. I think we have everything to gain."  

With less than a month to go before a May 29 referendum on the charter, Chirac is using every opportunity - and accepting any help he can get - to persuade sceptical voters that France needs Europe, and hence needs the treaty.  

The French leader opened the meeting by telling the actors, writers, filmmakers, painters and intellectuals in Paris that the constitution represented a "considerable advance" for EU cultural policy.  

"For the first time, the cultural aspect of European construction will be elevated to the rank of one of the Union's fundamental objectives," he told the cultural glitterati at the Elysee palace.  

The EU text will allow member states to "build the future of our continent not only on the union of our economic interests, but also on a community of values, principles and ideals."  

"The legitimacy of each state's ability to define and carry out its cultural policy is clearly established" in the treaty, he added.  

Chirac got a boost at the weekend after an opinion poll showed for the first time since mid-March that French voters would approve the constitution with 52 percent of the vote.  

Before the release of the survey on Saturday, nearly two dozen polls had indicated that the "no" camp would prevail.  

Chirac was to pursue his campaign late Tuesday with an appearance on state-owned France 2's nightly news program.  

During the Meetings for Europe and Culture in the French capital, artists and intellectuals were to put forward their views on where European culture is headed today and what measures are needed to strengthen and define its role.  

Most of the EU's 25 culture ministers, along with European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, were expected in Paris.  

French fashion designer Sonia Rykiel said she was "100 percent behind the treaty," adding: "I find myself confronted by the Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese. It's very important that I get Europe's support."  

Westwood launched a simple appeal to French voters to approve the constitution, saying: "Don't bore yourself reading all 800 pages and just vote 'yes'. It's very important."

© AFP

Subject: French News

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