September 10, 2007

Quick referendum news

A new YouGov poll for the I Want a Referendum campaign finds that 73% of trade union members want a referendum on the new Constitutional Treaty.

Mark Mardell writes that in Luxembourg the government won a referendum on the old constitution, so Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn says: "That is a very British question. The most important thing is we have a treaty. Not the form but in the basis, the substance we are not far away from the constitutional treaty. All the important things for Britain and for the European Union are in this treaty."
In France they lost the referendum on the same document, so Mr Kouchner said: "No, one is shorter than the other, one is a constitution and the other is a treaty." So will they have another referendum? He laughs. "No, not now. We'll go through the parliament."

The Portuguese foreign minister said: "What a question!" But then, he’s chairing all these meetings and wants no trouble.

In Austria, the government was enthusiastic about the constitution, so Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik answered the same question in this way: "We have slimmed it down. It has undergone a diet. But for Austria it was important to keep the essence, to keep the institutional side of it intact, and also to keep the Charter of Fundamental Rights. This is the essence, and we were able to safeguard that.

In Poland, there were more concerns about the constitution, and the government won new concessions in the treaty, so Anna Fotyga said: "Absolutely not. We have gone much further and got a good outcome." I asked her about the worries I mentioned before, about the Poles derailing the timetable. After making the point that the election date was not certain, she said: "There is no reason to think so. We are pretty united about the mandate we are able to discuss, and the government still has a mandate to act."

The British foreign secretary said: "The prime minister and I have both made this very, very clear - that the constitutional treaty has been abandoned... This is a treaty to make the European Union's institutions work better, and in line with all precedent it should be considered by Parliament. That is the right way of doing it, rather than referendum. Politicians of all parties are saying they want Parliament to play a bigger role in British national life, and here's an opportunity for Parliament to play that role."

When I asked if it was basically the same as the old constitution, he said, "It's completely different. This is not a new constitution for Europe, it's some institutional reforms."

EUobserver reports that the Danish government has pushed forward a decision on whether or not to hold a referendum on the EU's new treaty, saying it will start examining the issue next month instead of in December as planned. "The law experts will tell us whether there is a hand over of sovereignty," said the Danish Foreign Affairs Minister, adding that there will be a referendum if that is the case. "If there is no hand-over of sovereignty, then there will be a political decision on whether there will be a referendum."

Apparently the Belgian caretaker government would not be authorised to agree the treaty.

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