Institutional Affairs

Tight referendum expected in Luxembourg

08.07.05 @ 17:32

  1. By Elitsa Vucheva

LUXEMBOURG - Luxembourg seems to be undecided as to how to vote on the EU constitution three days before its referendum on Sunday (10 July), despite being known as a strongly pro-European country.

  • "Jo" or "Nee" to the constitution from Luxembourg? (Photo: EUobserver.com)

All political parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies but one (the ADR party) support the treaty, but the population in the Grand Duchy is divided.

"I would like to vote 'undecided', because you're damned either way [with or without the EU constitution]. But if I have to chose, it's no", 18-year-old Caroline told EUobserver in a straw poll held on Thursday.

"I think that each country should decide on its rules on its own", she added.

"It is not such a bad document, and I think Europe needs it right now", argued 32-year-old Sebastien, who plans to vote yes, however.

Parliament versus people power

Christian Schaack, secretary of the ADR group said the division among citizens reflects the fact that "politicians have a different vision of that of the people".

Luxembourg's parliament ratified the constitution in its first reading on 28 June with second reading expected three months later. But the deputies have committed themselves to respecting the referendum's result and the parliamentary procedure will halt in the case of a no.

"Why vote on the constitution two weeks before the referendum then? The only objective of the vote was to influence the people", Mr Schaack added.

According to him, "the government does not leave a choice to Luxembourg's citizens, it makes an exclusively yes-axed campaign".

Blackmailing or political courage?

On top of criticising the government's campaign, the ADR's secretary also disapproves of prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker's announcement that he would resign if Luxembourgers rejected the constitution.

"It is not a vote on him as a person, it is a vote on a European text", Mr Schaack said.

"I know that there are people who are against the text, but who will vote yes anyway just because of him, because they like Mr Juncker and do not want him to resign", he added.

Yves Cruchten, vice-president of the socialist party in Luxembourg (LSAP), does not see things Mr Schaak's way however.

"Mr Juncker said that he regretted that some people had interpreted his decision as political blackmailing, which it is not. He said that it would be very difficult for him to continue his work, if he does not have his people's support. I think it is very honest of him", Mr Cruchten said.

And Mr Cruchten's words were reflected by 49-year-old Viviane, who intends to vote no.

"I am aware of Mr Juncker's decision, but I will vote no anyway. I think he has made many great things for Luxembourg and Europe, and I have nothing against him. But this is not about him", she said.

"I will vote no for social reasons, because I think this document is not good for Luxembourg. It will provoke a flood of eastern Europeans to the EU, and unemployment will rise even more", she added.

No on the increase, but yes back in the game

Under Luxembourgish law, official polls cannot be conducted four weeks before a referendum.

The last survey in mid-June had put the opposition to the EU constitution at 45 percent, compared to around 30 percent a few months ago.

Both ADR and LSAP representatives believe this was related to the French and Dutch no on 29 May and 1 June respectively.

But the yes camp indicates it has stronger support after the failure of EU leaders to agree on the bloc's budget last June.

"People saw that rejecting the constitution did not bring anything good and did not solve any problems. At least the yes is a clear signal", Mr Cruchten pointed out.

A yes from Luxembourg would give a new impulse to Europe, and will send a very positive message to all EU leaders, he said.

On the other hand, a rejection from the Grand Duchy, a founding EU member, would mean that the treaty "is not only dead, it is buried".

The result is expected to be tight, with a yes "between 50 and 60 percent", or "around 53 percent", very possible, the ADR and LSAP representatives indicated.

Polls in Luxembourg will open at 08:00 CET on Sunday, and close at 14:00 CET. The first results will be known shortly after closing.

The referendum in the Grand Duchy is compulsory for the 220,000 people or so eligible to vote there.