With the words ‘What will you do on May 29th?’ the official referendum campaign has begun in France. And the French look open to persuasion. The campaign opened with ‘no’ ahead in some polls. But the vote on the new European Union Constitution, to be held less than two weeks from now, is looking to be a close call. The charter needs a ‘yes’ from all the 25 member states to come into force; That is plan ‘A’ — there is no plan ‘B’. A senior cabinet minister said a ‘no’ would be ‘very damaging for France’.
Both the ruling centre-right and the main opposition socialists support the constitution, with the Greens, while the overeigntists, communists and national front are against. The Dutch government is also concerned for its international reputation; The Netherlands is holding its referendum on the EU Constitution three days after the French. The ‘yes’ camp here are even more points behind the critics than in France. Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende has said openly that: “The debate hasn’t been so much about the constitution, it has been more about feelings, about dissatisfaction, sometimes about ignorance.”