Spanish PM urges 'yes' on EU vote in France

2nd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 1 (AFP) - Prime Ministers Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain on Tuesday urged French voters to say yes to the European constitution in an upcoming national referendum.

PARIS, March 1 (AFP) - Prime Ministers Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain on Tuesday urged French voters to say yes to the European constitution in an upcoming national referendum.

In a joint statement, the two hailed Spain's overwhelming approval of the EU constitutional treaty 10 days ago and "called on all Europeans to be consulted by referendum, notably the French, to vote 'yes' for the constitution".

The prime ministers expressed confidence that the draft, designed to overcome decision-making gridlock in the expanding EU, would be adopted by all member states.

Earlier, Zapatero called for the creation of a powerful Europe in a speech to French lawmakers, telling members of the lower-house National Assembly that the continent "must stop being an observer of the international order".

Europe "must be a decisive actor and, in order to acquire this strength, it must reinforce its security policy, foreign policy and policy in the fight against terrorism," the prime minister noted.

Zapatero spoke of a "powerful Europe" developing a common foreign policy "to speak with one voice in the world", as well as a "social Europe", which he called "the identifying sign of the European Union".

His speech came little more than a week after Spain gave a resounding seal of approval to the European Union's first-ever constitution, becoming the first EU state to give the treaty popular backing in a referendum.

"I voted for the first time in my life in 1978 to ratify the current Spanish constitution, and the last time I voted was 10 days ago, to express my support for the European constitution," Zapatero told French lawmakers.

"Europe is the solution: it was for Spain and it is for this great country that is France," he added, without explicitly asking French deputies to vote yes.

The EU constitutional treaty will be put to French voters this spring, likely in late May.

France's deputies and senators on Monday paved the way for a referendum by voting to amend France's 1958 constitution.

But the outcome of the vote is far from certain, with opinion polls showing58 percent of French people in favour of the constitution, and opposition mounting.

With the opposition campaign spearheaded by left-wingers who see the EU constitution as a sell-out to big business, the French government fears a bandwagon effect as disgruntled voters vent their unhappiness at high unemployment, low incomes and the strains of economic globalisation.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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