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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 July, 2005, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK
Luxembourg's EU 'medicine'
By Mark Mardell
BBC News, Luxembourg

Chairmen of local polling stations arrive at the central counting office
Tiny Luxembourg hosts several EU institutions
Luxembourg's foreign minister had a nice metaphor.

Asked if the "Yes" vote was like giving a dead person a vaccination, he said Europe had had a bad cold but the people of Luxembourg had given it a nice cup of tea with a drop of honey, and the patient was now getting better.

Do the Luxembourgers have an exaggerated sense of their own skills as physicians? What is the point of it all?

The Dutch and French have said "No" to the constitution, the Swedes, the British and the Danes have either said or hinted it is dead, the 25 EU leaders have agreed to "pause for reflection", and four countries have delayed or cancelled their referendums.

But not plucky little Luxembourg.

'Too complex'

The country's 223,000 voters have cast their ballots on their constitution. What on earth do they think they are up to?

It is a question I have been asking outside a polling station in Vianden.

If there was ever a competition for the most scenically positioned station, Vianden would be a strong contender, overlooked as it is by a magnificent castle perched on a verdant crag.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker
Junker said he would resign in case the "Yes" camp was defeated
Trade is brisk, as indeed it has to be, because voting is compulsory and the polls are only open between 0800 and 1400.

Of course as we regularly point out, chatting outside a polling station does not amount to a scientific experiment.

But the views of those in the "Yes" camp are remarkably uniform.

The prosperous looking voters in their Sunday best say "This is democracy - of course we should have a say".

They feel that the Dutch and French were voting against their own government and not against the European Constitution. They feel that as a small country, Luxembourg needs the EU and the constitution will be back in some form or other.

For whatever reason, its much harder to get "No" voters to talk, or even to admit to their vote.

But the common view among them seems to be that the constitution is too complex. One tells me: "You need five lawyers and two judges to explain it. A constitution should be simple."

He adds he supports the EU but it needs to change, it is too bureaucratic. One young woman tells me she voted "No" because there are too many foreigners in Luxembourg, making it difficult to find a job.

Moving forward

But Luxembourg held this vote mainly because of the determination and defiance of the European Union's longest serving Prime Minister, Jean Claude Junker.

Luxembourg was in the chair when the French and Dutch votes took place and when Tony Blair vetoed the proposed EU budget.

Luxembourg's Princess Sibilla casts her vote
The "Yes" front won 56.52% of the vote
Following his victory in this referendum, he has said that a majority of EU countries have now backed the constitution.

He has suggested all should carry on, and at the end of that process France and Holland could vote again or the constitution could be renegotiated.

The President of the European Commission Jose Barroso has issued a carefully worded statement welcoming this "strong" vote and noting that majority in favour.

Little Luxembourg will not on its own make a decisive difference, but it shows some are not willing to allow the constitution to die.

There is strong pressure to adopt at least part of the constitution: a small treaty just changing the voting system, or countries giving the green light to a "European foreign minister" - all without a referendum.

Some conservatives in the European Parliament say already there are signs that the finances are being arranged for some bits and pieces being snuck in the back door.

In some countries this might be regarded as nothing more than "a tiding up exercise", to coin a phrase.

But among those who would have campaigned for a "No" in Britain it would be hugely controversial, and its hard to see how Tony Blair could sign up to it.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear views on the EU treaty from people in Luxembourg



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