Hungary first to ratify new EU treaty
18.12.07 @ 09:02
Hungary on Monday (17 December) became the first of the 27 member states to ratify the bloc's new treaty, making the move just days after the document was formally signed off by EU leaders.
A parliamentary vote saw 325 votes in favour, 5 votes against and 14 abstentions for the new set of rules, according to Austrian news agency APA.
Reacting to the vote, Hungary's prime minister praised the "historic achievement" of his country.
In taking the ratification step so quickly, Budapest has stolen the crown from Poland and France, both of whom had indicated they were aiming to be the first.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country rejected the original EU constitution in 2005, had suggested that France should be among the first to prove that the country is back on track in Europe.
Speaking before MEPs in the European Parliament last month, he said that French voters had rejected the constitution because they wanted more from Europe.
The new EU treaty takes on most of the features of the rejected European constitution, including a foreign policy chief, a long-term president of the EU, a binding citizens rights charter as well as cutting down on the areas where member states have a right to veto.
The new institutional rules, six years in the making, were signed off in a formal ceremony on Thursday (13 December) in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, with EU leaders happy to draw a line under the negotiations.
Each member state has to ratify the treaty for it to come into force, with governments aiming to get it in place by early 2009.
Ireland is the only country to have a referendum on the document, while the British government is undergoing strong pressure from opposition conservatives to hold a popular vote.
Mr Sarkozy has sidestepped the awkward question of why French voters will not be having a second say on the treaty by suggesting that if France had a referendum then the British government would be forced to follow suit, resulting in a probable rejection of the document.