Jospin calls for ‘yes’to EU constitution
PARIS, Sept 22 (AFP) - France's former prime minister Lionel Jospin entered the bitter debate in the opposition Socialist party over the EU's proposed constitutional treaty Wednesday, urging a vote in favour at a referendum planned for next year.
In a text published in the left-wing weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Jospin said that though the constitution was not perfect, it was an “acceptable compromise,” and to reject it would weaken Europe and isolate France.
“On examination the reasons for a yes vote largely outweigh the temptation to say no,” he wrote.
The Socialists are deeply divided over the constitution, with party leader Francois Hollande in favour but others including former prime minister Laurent Fabius calling it unacceptably “liberal” in inspiration.
Jospin, who served under President Jacques Chirac from 1997 to 2002, reminded readers that in the past the French left had often had doubts about the direction Europe was taking, but at each juncture decided to move with the mainstream.
“The gap between Europe’s ambition and reality has on several occasions given rise to questions. But until now Europe’s imperfections have never led us to say no,” Jospin said.
Drawn up by a committee led by former French president Valery Giscard D’Estaing, the constitution has been accepted by all 25 EU member states, but must be formally adopted by them – either by a referendum or a parliamentary vote – before it can come into force.
In an opinion poll this week some 67 percent of the French public said they would vote yes at the referendum Chirac plans for the second half of 2005. The proportion of Socialist voters in favour was exactly the same as the national ratio.
Rebutting the accusations of Fabius and the left-wing of his party, Jospin said the treaty contains some “significant advances including a charter for fundamental rights, the declared objective of full employment, social rights, public services and economic governance of the euro zone.”
“The treaty creates a better institutional architecture and does not represent a retreat from any of the previous treaties, which it supersedes. So I do not see how Socialists could go back on their own previous European votes,” Jospin wrote.
The former prime minister also warned that a no vote would create a blockage in Europe that would “leave the field open for the United States … America prefers a handicapped Europe to an active Europe.”
And he warned that France’s already declining influence in Europe would suffer still further if it provoked a crisis by failing to ratify the constitutional treaty. “Europe’s method is compromise. If you can convince, you progress. You do not progress via ultimatums,” he said.
Jospin retired from politics after his humiliating defeat at the hands of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections of 2002, which Chirac went on to win by a massive majority.
Subject: French News