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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 12:25, May 30, 2005
France no to EU constitution not hinders integration : Analysis
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The integration of the European Union (EU) will continue despite a heavy blow dealt to it by French voters who said "no" to the EU constitution in a referendum on Sunday.

The French Interior Ministry announced on Monday that 54.87 percent of French voted against the charter.

However, EU integration will go on despite the "no" answer from France, one of the pillar founders of the bloc.

The EU constitution itself promulgates that "if, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, four-fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country is now holding the rotating EU presidency, reaffirmed on Sunday his demand for the continuation of the process.

"The ratification procedure must be pursued in other countries, " he said.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, made a similar statement, saying that "the battle goes on" as the "ratification process must continue because all countries must have the opportunity to express their view."

Meanwhile, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned against "over dramatizing the situation."

"Europe is not going to fall into a black hole. This is not the most happy of days, but also not one of tragedy," he said.

This view was echoed by his predecessor Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

"We must not read the 'non' in France as a 'non' to Europe, ( and) this is not the last word on the European constitution," said the former prime minister.

"Nine countries have said 'Yes' and one has said 'No'. We must take account of the democratic will of the majority as well as the minority in finding a solution," EU constitution expert Richard Corbett said in an email to Xinhua.

"Every EU country has a right to have a say. France alone cannot decide for the whole of Europe," he said.

As a matter of fact, the EU has a tradition of seeking compromise when crisis emerges.

When the deadline for finalizing the EU constitution in December 2003 failed to meet, the EU leaders struck a compromise just half a year later.

The EU leaders failed to select a new European Commission president at a summit in June 2004, but they chose Jose Manual Barroso at an emergency summit just 10 days later.

"We are aware of the difficulties, but we have confidence that once again we will find the means to move the European Union forward," said a joint statement issued Sunday night by European Parliament President Josep Borrell Fontelles, Juncker and Barroso.

However, some experts and politicians believe that the result, "a blow for the constitutional process" as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said, will set back both the ratification process of the EU constitution and EU integration.

"This raises profound questions for all of us about the future direction of Europe," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

It "could trigger a serious political crisis in the EU as a whole," commented Pawel Swieboda, an official of the Polish Foreign Ministry.

"A 'no' vote in France would halt the European construction process," said Thierry Cantet, a strategist at Societe Generale AG in Paris.

The constitution will become effective after it is ratified by all the 25 member states of the European Union. Ten countries including France will decide the matter by a national referendum and the rest 15, by parliament.

Nine countries -- Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Germany -- have so far ratified the EU constitution.

The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Ireland, Denmark and Britain have planned a popular vote on the constitution. A French "no" will trigger a domino effect in these countries, especially in the Netherlands, said analysts here.

The Netherlands is scheduled to hold a referendum on the constitution on Wednesday, only three days after France.

"France has not sent an encouraging signal to the Netherlands," said Vice President of the European Commission Guenter Verheugen.

"To be honest, I am not especially hopeful," he said.

"I think that the vote in France is the nail in coffin but I think a 'no' in The Netherlands would be a stake through the heart, " commented Richard Whitman, head of the European Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Source: Xinhua

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