20 May 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s lower house of Parliament on Thursday ratified the European Union’s draft constitution by a large majority, it was reported Friday.
The Chamber of Deputies gave its blessing to the constitution by a vote of 118 in favour and 18 against, with one abstention.
Only members of the right-wing Vlaams Blok party voted against the constitution, already ratified by the Belgian Senate in April.
Rallying support for the Constitution before the vote, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt warned that failure to ratify would both “weaken” and “paralyse” Europe.
“We completely approve of the European constitution,” he said. “It is the expression of our faith in the need for greater European integration.”
In accordance with Belgian law, the draft document now goes to the country’s five regional parliaments for ratification. Verhofstadt expressed hope that the assemblies would proceed with ratifying the text quickly.
As the vote was taking place, some 150 people demonstrated in Brussels against the draft constitution, aimed at streamlining decision-making in the 25-nation European Union.
Unlike France and the Netherlands, Belgium will not hold a popular referendum on the matter.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news