Giscard meets Blair on EU constitution

28th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, April 28 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair was holding private talks Wednesday with the principal architect of the proposed EU constitution, a week after he pledged to put it to a referendum.

LONDON, April 28 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair was holding private talks Wednesday with the principal architect of the proposed EU constitution, a week after he pledged to put it to a referendum.

Blair was to see Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who chaired the Convention on the Future of Europe which drafted the constitution, at his office in Downing Street, a spokesman for the prime minister said.

"Valery Giscard d'Estaing is in town, so the prime minister will receive him," the spokesman told AFP. "They agreed to meet up. It is just a private meeting."

In the biggest and riskiest U-turn of his premiership, Blair announced last week that he would put the constitution to the British people in a referendum if it is finalised by EU leaders in June.

In an article in the French newspaper Le Monde, published Wednesday, Blair said he welcomed the historic enlargement of the European Union due Saturday, saying the 10 newcomers would bring "new energy" to the bloc.

On his pledge to hold a referendum, which many political analysts expect will be in late 2005, Blair said he regretted that the issue had been presented "in such a bad light".

"It is impossible to argue intelligently when the debate centres not on the merits of the planned constitution but on whether there is good reason to consult the people on the subject," he said.

Blair's official spokesman, briefing journalists, rejected suggestions that the prime minister was hoping to pressure French President Jacques Chirac to call an EU constitutional referendum in his country.

Chirac "perfectly" understood the reasons behind the prime minister's decision, he said, adding that he doubted that one paragraph in the Le Monde article would swing the debate.

In an interview with a provincial French newspaper, La Montagne, published earlier this week, Giscard d'Estaing came out in favor of holding a referendum in France.

Blair welcomes an EU constitution so long as it safeguards member-state vetoes on taxation, foreign policy, defence and social security, but eurosceptics fear it will open the door to a European superstate.

Later Wednesday Blair was to host a gala EU enlargement cocktail party at the Foreign Office, with a star-studded guest list including sports and fashion stars plus business and media figures.

On Saturday he will be in Dublin for a ceremonial summit to seal the European Union's post-Cold War thrust into eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.

© AFP

                                                               Subject: French news

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