France to drop referendum block on EU enlargement
Government approves plans to scrap constitutional amendment that requires France to hold a referendum on any future enlargement of the union.24 April 2008
PARIS - The French government on Wednesday approved plans to scrap a constitutional amendment that requires France to hold a referendum on any future enlargement of the EU, the government spokesman said.
"We believe this safeguard doesn't really make sense, it sets a general rule when what we need is a case-by-case approach, in particular for Turkey," spokesman Luc Chatel said after cabinet members approved the bill.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has repeatedly said that European-Union-hopeful Turkey "does not belong in Europe", arguing that most of its land mass lies in Asia, a view shared by a majority of the French public.
In March 2005, then president Jacques Chirac backed an amendment to the constitution which says that the French people must approve by referendum any future accessions to the European Union.
Passed just before France's referendum on the EU constitution, the amendment was seen as a bid to reassure the public that the text would not automatically lead to more enlargements. In the end, the electorate voted against the treaty.
Part of a wider constitutional reform bill to go before parliament next month, the change would make it possible for the entry of a new EU member to be approved by parliament.
To be definitively adopted the bill will need the approval of three fifths of lawmakers at a special congress in July.
France's Junior Minister for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet told LCI television that removing the amendment was a "question of credibility" with regard to France's European partners and would-be new members.
"How can you negotiate, if once the negotiation is over you turn round and say... 'The final decision is not up to me, I can do nothing about it, I will hand it over to a referendum.'"
Jouyet denied the ruling UMP party was divided over the issue, even though UMP head Patrick Devedjian has called for a referendum on Turkish entry, and 75 French lawmakers have set up a "vigilance committee" against Ankara's EU bid.
[AFP / Expatica]