France passes bill to amend constitution for EU

1st February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 1 (AFP) - France's lower-house National Assembly on Tuesday adopted a bill to amend the country's 1958 constitution, the first step toward a national referendum later this year on the EU constitution.

PARIS, Feb 1 (AFP) - France's lower-house National Assembly on Tuesday adopted a bill to amend the country's 1958 constitution, the first step toward a national referendum later this year on the EU constitution.

Members of President Jacques Chirac's ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) and the opposition Socialists approved the text. Communist lawmakers voted no.

The bill now will go to the upper-house Senate, which like the National Assembly is dominated by Chirac's supporters. The text is expected to pass through the Senate later this month without incident.

The two chambers are then scheduled to convene in a special session at the end of March to approve the constitutional change, which is a necessary precondition before the EU text can pass into law in France.

The EU constitution - designed to head off decision-making gridlock in the expanding European Union (EU) - will then be put to the people in a national referendum, probably in June.

Some supporters of the main text have criticised one of its provisions, which makes mandatory a national referendum before any new entrant to the EU can be admitted.

Chirac included the article - which was approved on Tuesday - to reassure a public that is wary of Turkey's candidacy. It will not apply to Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania, which are already in advanced negotiations to join the EU.

Polls show that 65 percent of the French would vote in favor of the EU constitution at a referendum, but Chirac fears that number could dip sharply if other issues - such as Turkish membership of the EU or the government's own popular standing - enter the debate.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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