Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Upcoming French Referendum on the EU Constitution

France will vote by referendum on the EU Constitution on May 29, 2005. In this connection the Embassy of France in the US has published "Five reasons for voting 'yes' to the European Constitution", an article by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister of France, as first published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

FUTURE OF EUROPE

"Five reasons for voting "yes" to the European Constitution"
by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, published in the "Le Monde" newspaper.
Le Monde, Paris, March 5, 2005

The European debate is rediscovering its historic dimension, that of its inception when peace in Europe seemed so fragile. Progressively, we have got used to peace, to the point where the wars on our doorstep barely disturb us. In the EU, administration insidiously replaced ambition... until Europe's enlargement at last gave us back a taste for history. With our new geography, a new organization became necessary. This is a Constitution for a new history.

An urgent yes. The world is growing ever more dangerous. Economic and social imbalances are increasing the number of political conflicts and exacerbating the terrorist threats. The world needs Europe because it is the bulwark against the clash of civilizations. Europe's ideas and values are needed to strengthen the UN to enhance the rule of law, reform the WTO for greater fairness, and create a world environment organization for greater awareness of the planet's fragility... With an EU foreign minister, our continent's voice will be stronger. Hence the urgency.

A political yes. The European Constitution allows political democracy to regain and assert the upper hand over administrative organization. The European Council, the meeting of the Heads of States and Government, will have a full-time elected President, able to remain in office for five years. The Commission President will be elected and accountable to the European Parliament, whose powers will be strengthened. Every national Parliament will monitor compliance with the proper division of responsibility between the EU and national governments. Most decisions will require the support of a majority of States (55%) and a very clear majority of the population (65%). Finally, the Constitution recognizes the right of EU citizens (a petition with a million signatures) to propose legislation.

A social yes. Employment and social progress are confirmed in the Constitution as European Union objectives. Ten specific articles deal directly with Europe's social policy, not counting those relating to employment or social cohesion. The Constitution commits us to respect minorities and absolute gender parity, fight exclusion, protect health, ensure a high level of education and safeguard the environment...

The social market economy recognizes the social dialogue by including in the Constitution the concepts of social partners and the tripartite social summit: it endorses the special nature of French-style public services. On the societal level, the Constitution also strengthens the area of freedom security and justice, particularly by increasing the powers of "Eurojust".

An economic yes. What would French agriculture or French fishing become without European support? How would we succeed in enforcing the use of biofuels without the power of Europe? The EU is exigent, but its assistance is essential both for French farmers and for rurality. Our major successful projects such as the A380 Airbus and the locating in Cadarache of ITER, the centre of post-nuclear energy production, the energy of the stars, the energy of the twenty-fist century, have become European projects. Until now, our different economic policies were not always well coordinated. Now, thanks to the establishment of a stable presidency in the Eurogroup, finance ministers will be able to inject new momentum into the Euro Area. Together, we shall be able to make Europe an economically more attractive place and go on the offensive, which is the best way to respond to the relocations issue. Employment in France needs Europe.

A cultural yes. Europe's cultural dimension will be strengthened not only by the recognition of cultural and linguistic diversity in the EU's objectives, but also by the move to qualified majority voting for the adoption of measures establishing major European programmes.

It was at President Chirac's request that the cultural exception was maintained in the common trade policy. "The increasingly problematical nature of the world incites us to start the European adventure afresh, this time with a new openness to the world": Edgar Morin is thus encouraging European intellectuals to escape from the "ideological cataclysm", which will remain a scar of the twentieth century. With those lighting the way ahead in the cultural sphere, the "Aufklärer", let us give birth to the new European spirit.

My vote for the European Constitution stems from a deeply-held belief. It has nothing to do with party politics or tactical voting. The vote on the Constitutional Treaty is not about who will run for the Opposition in the 2007 presidential election, or decide on Turkey's accession, on which the people of France will have the final say in a referendum, as Parliament decided on Monday this week.

As the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) embarks, this Sunday, on the referendum campaign, I am asking Ministers to campaign as simple citizens, to answer the French people's questions and wholeheartedly promote France's European project. The debate on Europe's future does not belong to anyone. It transcends political divisions, without erasing them. It primarily concerns future generations.

Faced with the challenges of the future, a lifelong pro-European, I commit myself. For me, the right answer is "yes" to Europe.


Embassy of France in the United States - March 7, 2005

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