/ 12 January 2005

EU Constitution gets the nod

The European Parliament gave its overwhelming endorsement to the European Union’s first-ever Constitution on Wednesday and urged EU governments to follow suit quickly.

The EU assembly, meeting in Strasbourg, France, voted 500 to 137, with 40 abstentions, to ratify the new treaty, which is to take effect in 2007 if unanimously ratified across the 25-nation bloc.

The 732-member Parliament called on EU governments to move quickly to sell the Constitution, which faces widespread opposition in several EU-sceptic countries.

The Parliament called on EU governments to ensure “all possible efforts be deployed to inform European citizens clearly and objectively about the content of the Constitution”.

“The result of the vote leaves no room for doubt of the support this European Parliament has expressed,” said European Parliament President Josep Borrell after the legislators gave the result a standing ovation.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the EU presidency, urged all EU governments and the European Parliament to ratify the treaty, signed in Rome last October after a two-year drafting process.

“This is an important moment in the history of the Parliament, and it is an important moment in Europe’s ratification of Europe’s Constitution,” said Juncker.

The 460-article Constitution streamlines EU decision-making by dropping national vetoes in such areas as justice and immigration, and gives more powers to the European Parliament. It also creates a single foreign minister to represent the EU on the world stage.

“The ratification will not be easy everywhere,” Juncker told the EU assembly. “Of course the Constitution is not perfect, but let’s judge this by the yardstick of what Europe needs.”

During an all-day debate on Tuesday, EU lawmakers urged governments to win over voters in referendums to ensure that the EU’s new Constitution is ratified in all 25 member states.

Lithuania and Hungary already have approved it. The other EU nations all will have to approve it either in parliamentary votes or by referendum before it takes effect in 2007.

It faces referendums in at least nine countries, including Britain and Denmark, where Euro-sceptic opinion runs strong. Spain holds the first referendum on February 20. — Sapa-AP

On the net:

EU Constitution