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The EU Constitution: parliamentary ratification or referendum?

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The EU Constitution: parliamentary ratification or referendum?


The whole of Europe will be watching the referendum vote in Spain on Sunday. As campaigning is ending in Spain, it will in fact be kick off time for campaigns elsewhere in the EU. The outcome in Spain will set the tone for a lengthy ratification procedure. Out of the 25 member states, ten are opting for a referendum. The next major tests will be in The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

The United Kingdom could be one of the last countries to ratify. Its referendum is the one that is most in the balance given the degree of Euroscepticism among British people. Three states so far have ratified the Constitution document but not by a referendum. Lithuania’s MPs gave the OK in November, Hungary’s in December, and Slovenia’s on the first of February.

Parliamentary ratification is the approach favoured by the majority of member states. There are few fixed dates as such because parliamentary timetables can vary but parliamentary ratification in Greece, Germany and Italy could come before July, Sweden and Finland’s in December.

One country where the ratification process will not be easy is the Czech Republic, where there is a Eurosceptic opposition. Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said a referendum could be held in June next year at the same time as the country’s general elections. The European Constitution will only be adopted as long as all 25 member states say “Yes”. They have to do so by October 2006.

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