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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 16:34 GMT
France makes room for EU treaty
Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Mr Raffarin said the debate on France's EU role could now begin
The French parliament has adopted an amendment to the country's constitution, paving the way for a referendum on the new EU charter.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said the amendment was a consequence of a fundamental and positive development in the organisation of Europe.

The special joint session of both houses of parliament took place in the historic Palace of Versailles.

President Jacques Chirac is later due to announce a date for the referendum.

Analysts say it will probably be in late May or early June.

Legal hurdle

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced on Monday that Denmark would hold a referendum on the EU constitution on 27 September.

Today the world is too unstable, humanity needs Europe and its values to find a balance
Jean-Pierre Raffarin,
French Prime Minister

In France, a vote to amend the country's constitution was needed after the Constitutional Council ruled it could not legally coexist with the EU constititution under current law.

The BBC's Allan Little in Paris says support for the EU document among France's governing elite is such that approval was expected.

Parliament voted with 730 votes in favour and 66 against, with 96 abstentions.

"A Yes to Europe is the right response to the challenges of the 21st Century," Mr Raffarin told lawmakers at the palace where Louis XIV once exercised absolute power and where world leaders redrew the map of Europe after World War I.

"Europe is neither Right nor Left, Europe is our future, it is our destiny."

Turkey fears

Our correspondent says that despite their leaders' enthusiasm for the EU treaty, the French electorate have a habit of using referendums to punish unpopular governments. Many pro-Europeans could vote No to signal their more general dissatisfaction.

And then there is the question of Turkey's application for EU membership.

France's Eurosceptics are trying to persuade voters that saying Yes to the European constitution amounts to the same thing as saying Yes to Turkey - and most French voters strongly oppose that.

Polls show that most French people support the new constitution for Europe, but it is by no means certain that that is how they will vote in the referendum.

All 25 members of the European Union must ratify the treaty by public referendum or parliamentary vote before it can come into force.


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