All smiles for Germany’s chancellor Gerhard Schroder, but France’s president is a worried man as the two met at the Elysee Palace. Opinion polls in France show a growing majority of voters plan to reject the EU constitution in a referendum. If true it would be a bitter personal blow to Jacques Chirac who’s influence has been significant in the Franco-German alliance that has shaped the development of the EU.
But a weak economy and high unemployment in France are turning the vote into a referendum on Chirac’s now unpopular presidency.
The president pulled no punches in a joint press conference and warned that a no vote would interrupt fifty years of European construction.
“If the “no” vote wins it’s clear that the ratification process will carry-on in the other countries and France will find itself stuck on the platform as the train pulls out, that would never been an advantageous position”
The constitution is intended to make decision-making easier in an enlarged EU of 25 members- all have to ratify it before it can take effect.
If only Chirac were in Chancellor Schroeders position. The Bundestag is expected to easily ratify the constitution without a referendum on May 12th.A nervous Chirac has until polling day on May 29th to persuade the French.