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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Schroeder urges EU to forge ahead
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder said the votes must not lead to a general crisis
German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has urged EU nations to continue ratifying the EU constitution despite "No" votes in France and the Netherlands.

Mr Schroeder spoke in Luxembourg where he met PM Jean-Claude Juncker, who currently holds the EU presidency.

The constitution must be put to all 25 states, he said, adding: "Every form of over-reaction at this stage is wrong."

The "No" votes of two founding members of the European Union could effectively kill the constitution, analysts say.

The Netherlands on Thursday withdrew a bill proposing ratification of the draft constitution from parliament.

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European leaders will meet on 16-17 June for a summit that could decide the future of the constitution, drawn up over two years.

On Wednesday evening, Mr Juncker described the EU as in "a dangerous position".

'Cheeks slapped'

BBC European affairs correspondent William Horsley says Mr Juncker seemed so distressed that he could hardly take in the fact of the second "No" vote.

The mood in Brussels is deep gloom, our correspondent says.

Europe has spoken loud and clear - it is time for change
Michael Koumenides
Nicosia, Cyprus

Latvia's parliament ratified the constitution by a vote of 71-5 on Thursday, bringing the number of countries backing it to 10.

The charter needs to be approved by all 25 of the EU's member states by the end of October next year in order to become law.

Some EU officials tried to put a brave face on the Dutch result, but others were more plain-spoken.

"The French slapped the left cheek of Europe, the Dutch have now slapped the right," Graham Watson, Liberal leader in the EU Parliament, told Reuters news agency.

Provisional results from the Netherlands show nearly two-thirds of voters were against the draft treaty. Turnout was 62.8%.

The euro fell to an eight-month low against the dollar as the Dutch results came out.

'Profound questions'

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the double rejection "now raises profound questions for all of us about the future direction of Europe".

Britain will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union next month.

ALREADY RATIFIED TREATY
Austria
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was "very disappointed" with his country's referendum but pledged to honour the voters' verdict, which is not legally binding.

Neelie Kroes, a European commissioner from the Netherlands, told the BBC her country's "No" vote was partly a reaction to the speed at which the union was moving.

Wednesday's ballot was the first time Dutch voters have had a chance to vote directly on a European Union issue - and the first national referendum in two centuries.

With some postal ballots still to be counted, the official result is not expected until 6 June.

The draft EU constitution was signed last year, after lengthy negotiations between members states.

It brings together for the first time the many treaties and agreements on which the EU is based. It defines the powers of the EU, stating where it can and cannot act and where the member states retain their right of veto.

It also defines the role of the EU institutions.

The constitution was rejected by 55% of French voters in a referendum on Sunday.


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Schroeder kept a stiff upper lip for the cameras



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