13th Apr 2024

Finnish parliament starts EU Constitution ratification process

Finland's parliament on Friday (12 May) voted in favour of starting the process to ratify the EU Constitution.

The Nordic country which will take over the EU's six month rotating presidency from Austria on 1 July, is now expected to become the sixteenth state to ratify the charter.

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The parliament voted on a government report in which the ratification of the charter was recommended.

Out of the 199 members of parliament, 104 voted in favour of the report, 11 abstained, 24 voted against and 60 were absent.

Although Friday's vote cleared the way for formal ratification, the cabinet must now decide whether to proceed with ratification or not, after which the charter has to be formally endorsed in another parliamentary vote.

"After this vote it will go to the cabinet and they will decide whether to propose the charter for ratification or not," a Finnish diplomat said.

But Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen indicated ahead of Friday's vote that a strong majority of MPs in favour of the report would mean that his cabinet would proceed with the ratification process.

"I recognize that the debate in other member states is different. The message from Finland is that it is a good treaty." Mr Vanhanen said according to media reports.

A Finnish diplomat said that the ratification process will probably be finalized after the summer holidays.

The largest parties in Finland, the Centre Party, the Social Democrats and the opposition National Coalition Party are in favour of the country's ratification of the treaty.

The Left Alliance, the Christian Democrats, and the True Finns oppose the proposed constitution while the Greens are requesting a referendum on the issue.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen has questioned the wisdom of the process.

"This is simply a question of time. Ratification as such has been a goal and the ratification should take place, but is this the treaty, which will ultimately be ratified?" Ms Halonen has asked, according to Finnish Helsingin Sanomat.

To come into force the EU constitution, which last year was rejected by the citizens of France and the Netherlands, must be endorsed by all 25 member states.

Up until now the constitution has been ratified by Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

A petition signed by some 50,000 people in Finland calling for a referendum on the constitution was presented to the Finnish parliament earlier this week, while a recent poll indicated as many as 57 per cent of Finns would like to be consulted.

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