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Pro-constitution French in heart of EU tense ahead of May 29 referendum


brussels bureau

Pro-constitution French in heart of EU tense ahead of May 29 referendum

French people living in Brussels are riveted to the referendum campaign for the European constitution.

The ups and downs of the yes and no camps in the opinion polls have these language teachers at the Alliance Francaise worried about how the vote on May 29th in France will turn out.Julien Phelippeau gives his perspective:“The French living in Brussels are rather in favour of the constitution because we are in close contact with the European Union; We can better understand how it works and what has to be changed. There is a lot of communication here about the EU and I think that is what is missing in France.” French Socialist Party militants here tend to be more in favour of the constitution then their fellows in France. When the members took an internal vote, the “no” got only half the response it did in France. The leader of the French socialist abroad, Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, is a legal advisor for a U.S. chemical company: “People living abroad are more inclined to vote “yes”. At any rate, ahead of the referendum the trend is looking that way. They’re a sort of test laboratory for the European way of life. They’re experiencing the EU’s achievements firsthand, such as coordinated social systems, but also its failures, such as the calculation involved in cross-border medical care.” The ruling UMP party in France is deeply involved in campaigning for a French “Yes” to the constitution abroad as well. According to its leader in Brussels, Georges-François Seingry, a publisher specialising in books on the EU, a victory of the “no” would be catastrophic: “I can’t imagine that French people won’t, at the last minute, realise everything, putting aside their all French-rooted questions in order to get to the substance of the issue. And if, unfortunately the “no” does win, I think that in the following 6-to-12 months, the question should absolutely be put to the French again.” Most of the French people living in Brussels fear their country could end up isolated in Europe, after having helped found the EU and been a driving force for integration for all these years.
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