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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 09:32 GMT 10:32 UK
Estonia ratifies EU constitution
Copies of the EU Constitution
Estonia chose to ratify the constitution on Europe Day
Estonia has become the 15th country in the European Union to complete the parliamentary stage of ratifying the draft European Constitution.

The text was approved by 73 votes in favour, with one vote against in the 101-seat parliament.

Estonia had planned to hold the vote to coincide with Europe Day to send out a message of support for the project.

The vote comes as debate about what to do with the text begins to heat up in the run-up to an EU summit in June.

France and the Netherlands rejected the treaty in referendums last year, but some EU states, including Estonia, think it can be salvaged.

Finland is also expected to ratify the text, designed to streamline EU institutions and improve decision-making in the enlarged 25-member bloc, in the next few weeks.

The EU constitutional treaty has to be endorsed by all 25 members of the enlarged bloc before it comes into force.

Of the 15 states that have finished the parliamentary stage of ratification, 12 have also gone the last step by signing the instruments of ratification.

Two countries, Spain and Luxembourg, have held successful referendums.

Other countries that have promised voters a chance to have their say on the constitution as part of the ratification procedure include two of the most Eurosceptic member states, Denmark and the UK.

Ending the impasse

On Wednesday, the European Commission is to adopt a paper containing its own suggestions for ending the impasse.

Among other things, it will suggest boosting EU-wide co-operation in the fight against terrorism, in order to show citizens that Europe can help solve problems central to citizens' lives.

The EU is divided between countries that think the constitution can be revived in something like its original form, and those that think it is dead.

Leaders agreed in June last year on a "period of reflection" to help soothe tensions.

The debate due at a summit in Brussels this June will be the first serious attempt to discuss possible next steps.

Most observers expect little progress to be made resolving these differences until Germany takes over the rotating presidency of the EU, in the first half of 2007.

The two countries which rejected the constitution, France and the Netherlands, will also have elections next year.




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