Fabius splits French Socialistsover EU constitution

14th September 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 13 (AFP) - Former French prime minister and presidential hopeful Laurent Fabius's firm "no" to the proposed EU constitution drew jeers on Monday from the ruling centre-right and deepened divisions in his own Socialist party.

PARIS, Sept 13 (AFP) - Former French prime minister and presidential hopeful Laurent Fabius's firm "no" to the proposed EU constitution drew jeers on Monday from the ruling centre-right and deepened divisions in his own Socialist party.  

After saying last week that he would only support the proposed text if President Jacques Chirac successfully lobbied to reign European policy in a more "social" direction, Fabius came out clearly against the treaty Sunday.  

"The main issues in Europe are jobs and relocations. After looking at this treaty very closely, I don't see anything that would allow for a policy change on these two points. As it stands, I cannot approve this treaty," he said.  

"My natural inclination is thus to vote no," he said in a televised interview.  

The constitution has been accepted by all 25 EU member states, but must be formally adopted by each one - either by a referendum or a parliamentary vote - before it can come into force.  

Chirac has pledged to organize a referendum on the constitution in the latter half of 2005.  

France's position is crucial, because while EU officials say the process could survive if one or two smaller countries reject the text, rejection by a major power would lead into uncharted territory.  

Fabius dismissed those fears, saying: "It wouldn't be complete chaos, after all. Europe would continue to exist."  

Commentators said the former prime minister was trying to reach out to the left wing of the Socialist Party (PS), which believes the constitution is a sell-out to capitalism, ahead of his expected bid for the presidency in 2007.  

His "no" stance -- while winning him the support of Communist leaders - has put him at odds with party leader Francois Hollande, who has come out in favour of the treaty.   Socialist party spokesman Julien Dray tried to downplay the split on Monday, saying: "Debate does not mean war."  

But former Socialist culture minister Jack Lang expressed "sadness" at Fabius's position, and Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) used the opportunity to score a few political points.  

"The UMP regrets that for the Socialists, the debate on the European constitution has already disappeared behind personal agendas," party spokesman Yves Censi told reporters.  

Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin told Europe 1 radio: "Laurent Fabius is making a personal choice and as he said himself, he's following his natural inclination. That's not necessarily the best way to make policy today." 

© AFP

 

Subject: French News

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