With France apparently heading towards rejection of the European Constitution President Jacques Chirac has gone on air to urge the country to vote for it in a forthcoming referendum. Before on audience of mostly young people Chirac sought to reassure voters concerned that the treaty would mean unprecedented free market reforms. He said the expanded EU needed the new rules that the constitution would bring to function smoothly:
“Without them there’d be no organisation, no power, and we would count for nothing in the world,” he said. So these rules are the constitution. We’ve worked and thought a lot, and succeeded to have rules for twenty five members; they are our guarantee for our existence tomorrow”.
With just six weeks to go the vote opinion polls have given the ‘no’ camp a clear lead. Chirac said rejection would cost France its political influence within the Union. He said the country would, at least temporarily, cease to exist politically at the heart of Europe. Asked if he would resign if the Constitution was rejected he said: “No, that is not the question the French people are being asked.”
Supporters of the constitution are hoping Chirac’s intervention will mark a turning point in the campaign. But critics have suggested such is his unpopularity in some areas that it could actually undermine the ‘yes’ camp.