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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 May, 2005, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
German MPs back EU constitution
Gerhard Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder wanted Germany to set a good example
Germany's lower house of parliament has shown its full support for the European Union constitution.

The vote had cross-party backing and was passed by 569 votes to 23, well over the required two-thirds majority.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had urged MPs to back the treaty, which he described as "historic".

The upper house will vote on 27 May, two days before France's referendum. Slovakia's parliament ratified the treaty on Wednesday.

Mr Schroeder has said he hoped Germany would "set something of an example for others".

RATIFICATION LEAGUE TABLE
Ratification finished:
Greece
Hungary
Italy
Lithuania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Ratification started:
Austria
Belgium
Germany
Spain (referendum)

Martin Schulz, Socialist group leader in the European Parliament said Germany was following its pro-European tradition.

"A German Yes will encourage a French Yes later this month," he said.

The EU treaty must be ratified by all 25 member states either by parliamentary vote or public referendum.

Germany's constitution does not allow it to hold a referendum. A poll released on Sunday by ARD television indicated that 59% of Germans would vote Yes in a referendum, 15% would vote against, and 26% were undecided.

Last year, Mr Schroeder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) raised the possibility of changing the constitution to allow for a referendum, but did not go through with it.

Divided opinion

The German debate came a day after Slovakia became the sixth country to complete the process of ratifying the constitution.

The lower house of the Austrian parliament also voted almost unanimously in favour.

QUICK GUIDE

The German, Belgian, Estonian and Latvian parliaments are expected to ratify the constitution in May.

But the latest opinion polls in France and the Netherlands suggest that the result of referendums due on 29 May and 1 June are balanced on a knife-edge.

Spanish voters approved the constitution in a referendum in February, but this has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

If just one of the EU's 25 member states rejects the treaty, this could prevent it coming into force.

The Belgian Senate has already approved the constitution, but the lower house of parliament, and the regional parliaments, must also hold votes.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
New EU constitution gains cross-party support



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