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The Content section will provide news, quotes and background materials refering to the topic of the EU Constitution. The time-table will give you an overview about the current status concerning the referendums on the Constitution.

 

Germany ratifies the EU constitution


The European Union constitution cleared its final legislative hurdle in Germany today, with the upper house of parliament overwhelmingly approving the charter, two days before French voters have their say on the document in a referendum.

All but one of the country's 16 states, which are represented in the opposition-controlled upper house, voted in favour of the treaty - giving the charter 66 of 69 possible votes, far more than the necessary two-thirds majority.

The eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania abstained because the junior partner in its governing coalition, the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism, opposed the constitution.

German leaders hope the vote will boost French supporters of the constitution ahead of Sunday's referendum there. Only President Horst Koehler's signature is required to formally complete ratification.

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who led the 17-month process of drafting the treaty, addressed the chamber and urged a "Yes" vote by his compatriots in Sunday's referendum.

"The day after tomorrow, the French will - I hope with all my heart - ratify the constitution by means of a referendum," Giscard d'Estaing said ahead of the vote.

"The double ratification in Germany and France would mark a historic passage for the future of the constitution and for Europe," he added.

However, polls ahead of the French referendum and a vote next Wednesday in the Netherlands have shown leads for the charter's opponents in both countries. The constitution must be approved by all 25 EU countries to take effect.

"This constitution ... has as its sole objective to allow Europe to function better in the coming decades," Giscard d'Estaing said.

The constitution provides for a foreign minister and a president to give the EU greater clout on the international stage, and it streamlines decision-making in the bloc while simplifying voting rules.

Still, opponents in France have voiced fears ranging from loss of sovereignty to a flood of cheaper labour from new members in eastern Europe.

At today's session, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer warned opponents that "it is clear there will be no better constitution." He described the project as "a compromise that was hard to reach but optimal."

"If there is a `No,' then there is likely to be a worse treaty," he said.

Germany is not holding a national referendum on the charter, as its constitution does not provide for referendums. Schroeder has argued the parliamentary votes will provide sufficient "legitimisation" for the document in Germany.

Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Austria, Slovakia and Spain already have ratified the constitution by parliamentary vote or referendum.


© PA

  


The European Union constitution cleared its final legislative hurdle in Germany. Only President Horst Koehler's signature is required to formally complete ratification.