Paris launches debate on EU's new constitution

25th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 25 (AFP) - France's parliament opened debate Tuesday on the EU's new constitutional treaty, launching the process that will lead to a national referendum in the first half of this year.

PARIS, Jan 25 (AFP) - France's parliament opened debate Tuesday on the EU's new constitutional treaty, launching the process that will lead to a national referendum in the first half of this year.

The lower chamber or National Assembly, which is dominated by supporters of President Jacques Chirac, was to spend two days discussing a bill to amend the country's 1958 constitution - a necessary pre-condition before the EU text can pass into law.

After a vote on February 1 the bill will be debated in the upper house or Senate in mid-February, before the two chambers convene in special congress at the end of March to approve the constitutional change.

The EU constitution will then be put to the people probably in June.

With Chirac's centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) being joined by the centrist Union for French Democracy (UDF) and most Socialist deputies, the bill was expected to pass without problem through both houses of parliament.

However opposition will be voiced by the Communist party, a section of the Socialists as well as a handful of Euro-sceptic mavericks in the UMP.

Some supporters of the main text have also criticised one of its provisions, which makes mandatory a national referendum before any new entrant to the EU can be let in. The article was included by Chirac to reassure a public that is wary of Turkey's candidacy.

Polls show that 65 percent of the French would vote in favour of the EU constitution at a referendum, but Chirac fears that the 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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