Jospin back on stage to help EU treaty

29th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - Former French Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin warned French voters that they would harm their own country by rejecting the EU constitution, in his first television appearance in three years on Thursday.

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - Former French Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin warned French voters that they would harm their own country by rejecting the EU constitution, in his first television appearance in three years on Thursday.  

While acknowledging voters' right to be unhappy with France's centre-right government, Jospin said a vote against the treaty "would punish France, punish Europe, but not punish the government in office."  

"If we have a political problem in France, let's solve it in France and not hold Europe as a witness or hostage to the debate" on how our country is governed, he said in a speech on state-owned France 2 television.  

Jospin, who went into self-imposed quasi-retirement after his humiliating defeat in the 2002 presidential election, has returned to the public arena in a bid to persuade sceptical left-leaning voters to approve the EU constitution.  

Last weekend he delivered a hard-hitting speech urging Socialists to approve the EU text in a May 29 referendum out of "respect for party members, party cohesion and even the idea of democracy based on respect for majority rule".  

The opposition Socialist Party (PS) has been split apart by the upcoming referendum, with the party leadership campaigning for a 'yes' vote alongside President Jacques Chirac's centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).  

An internal PS vote approved the text, but party heavyweights like former prime minister Laurent Fabius are campaigning for the 'no' camp.  

With PS leader Francois Hollande failing to rally the political left, where pollsters have noted the sharpest growth in the 'no' camp, Jospin is now expected to play a key role in the party's campaign for the constitution.  

Since mid-March, nearly two dozen surveys have indicated that a majority of French voters will reject the proposed constitution on May 29, with opposition hovering between 51 and 58 percent.  

"The Socialist electorate is hesitant. Jospin will give the left's 'yes' campaign a boost," said former Socialist agriculture minister Jean Glavany, who is close to Jospin.  

Jospin "can convince the two or three percent of left-wing voters" needed to put the 'yes' camp back in front, his former spokesman Manuel Valls told Le Figaro newspaper.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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