24th Mar 2018

Giscard demands second chance for EU constitution in France

The architect of the EU constitution and former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing has called for the charter to be ratified in France through a new referendum or a parliamentary vote.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing was the chairman of the European Convention, a body of EU politicians which presented the draft EU constitution in 2003, and has since been lobbying for his text despite "no" votes on the charter in France and the Netherlands last year.

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The French politician again strongly defended the constitution in an interview with the FT on Tuesday (23 May).

"It is not France that has said no. It is 55 percent of the French people - 45 percent of the French people said yes," he said.

"I wish that we will have a new chance, a second chance, for the constitutional project."

Mr Giscard d'Estaing indicated that the treaty could be put to French voters in a second referendum, or be ratified by the French parliament.

"People have the right to change their opinion. The people might consider they made a mistake," he said on a possible new referendum.

On the parliamentary option, he stated "If we had chosen to have a parliamentary vote last year the constitution would have been easily adopted. It is the method that has provoked the rejection."

The UK will still say no

The veteran French politician expressed optimism that his text will be adopted unchanged in the whole of the EU – except Britain.

"There are 16 out of 25 countries that have ratified the European constitution. That's to say there's a qualified majority. There is an agreed text. The concern now is the modalities of adopting it," he said.

But he added "The British will not approve the constitutional treaty. We know it."

"I think that for Great Britain we need to find a special arrangement resembling that which applied to the euro."

Other French politicians have rejected the idea of re-submitting the treaty to citizens directly.

Interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy said in February "I will not be the one who will tell the French that they have misunderstood the question."

Mr Sarkozy has suggested instead that a slimmed version of the constitution could be adopted by the French parliament.

Barroso wants treaty change

Meanwhile European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has reiterated that the constitution is still necessary despite Brussels' plan to improve the functioning of the EU within the framework of the current EU treaties, presented earlier this month.

Mr Barroso told Danish media on a visit to Copenhagen last week that the current treaties do not provide enough room for the EU to boost its foreign policy.

"For instance I would like to have a foreign minister for the union to have more action. That we can not do, because we cannot have a common foreign service of the union without a change in the treaties," he said.

He also highlighted the need for a revamped member state voting system.

"I would like to have a more pragmatic, a more efficient, a more quick system on votes, and that we cannot do because without a change of the treaties we can not change the voting system."

Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case

In a letter to a coalition of transparency NGOs, the EU executive has repeated that a meeting between its former boss - now working for Goldman Sachs - and the current vice president was "fully in line" with the rules.

Commission rejects ombudsman criticism over Barroso case

The European Commission repeated that it followed the rules when its former head joined Goldman Sachs - and suggested it will not follow the EU Ombudsman's demand to refer the case back to the ethics committee.

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