22nd Apr 2019

French deputies approve amendment permitting adoption of EU treaty

French MPs have voted in favour of amending their country's constitution to allow adoption of the EU Lisbon Treaty.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon called the decision: "a vote that distinguishes the actors of history from the spectators."

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The Versailles assembly, bringing together both the French Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, voted 560 to 181.

Of the 893 voters present, 741 votes were cast

The opposition Socialists, while in favour of the treaty, largely abstained in protest at the decision to "take the parliamentary road" to pass the treaty rather than hold a referendum.

The party, however, is very much divided on the issue. Although ahead of the vote, the Socialists had announced they were all to abstain, many voted for the amendment and many voted against.

Earlier on Monday, MP Bruno Le Roux said that the Socialists had two positions on the Lisbon Treaty: "We are for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty; We are for a referendum."

There were two different roads to the treaty's adoption, he said: the parliamentary road and the road of referendum.

"We would have liked to see the road of referendum," said Mr Le Roux, "but as the president of the republic has announced that it would be the parliamentary road, we will abstain to show our discontent."

Any modification of the constitution must be approved by three fifths of the deputies.

Following the constitutional amendment, the National Assembly and Senate will hold separate votes on the adoption of the treaty on Thursday.

Although the Socialists would have preferred a referendum on the treaty, they intend to vote Yes to the treaty itself.

"There will now be a vote in parliament," said Mr Le Roux. "We will vote Yes."

The Lisbon Treaty replaces the Constitutional Treaty voted down in referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005.

The extra-parliamentary groups that organised the original No campaign in 2005, led by Attac France, held a demonstration today in Versailles against the vote.

The group, which campaigns for a tax on international financial transactions to encourage global currency stability, condemned the "imposition on the French people of what we rejected in 2005.

"This is one of the gravest blows ever to democracy in our country."

Last week, a poll by French left-wing newspaper Liberation said that 59% of French voters favoured a referendum on the treaty and 33% approved of its adoption by parliament.

Underscoring the opposition to the treaty on the left despite the Socialist Party's support, the same poll showed that 71% of left-wing voters were in favour of a referendum.

The ruling UMP largely voted in favour, apart from a handful of so-called sovereignists. The Communist Party also voted against the amendment.

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