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Europe

"Don't Make the Same Mistake"

The Dutch people are voting in a referendum on the EU treaty. What happens in the event of a second "no" after the French one on Sunday? DW-WORLD spoke to EU Foreign Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

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Ferrero-Waldner: "Europe has to grow stronger"

DW-WORLD : France rejected the constitution, what does that mean for the future of the EU? Is it a major crisis or even a catastrophe?

Benita Ferrero-Waldner: It is neither a major crisis nor a catastrophe, but it was a sad day, and I must confess that we are all feeling a bit down. The European project which we wanted to advance with the constitution, has now ground to a halt. Of course the Nice Treaty will continue to hold good, which means we are not looking at a crisis, but just that it is a shame. After all, almost half the population of Europe has voted and now one of the founding members is pulling back. But I think we should continue. Now it is Holland's turn, followed by Luxembourg before a whole string of other countries vote in the autumn, either in a referendum or parliamentary process. I believe that at the next meeting of the European Council, we should stop for breath and consider which way to go, not least out of respect for the wishes of the people. They were evidently giving us a sign and that needs to be analyzed firstly by the French authorities and then the European institutions.

You just referred to the referendum in the Netherlands , for which there was every indication of a "no" vote even before Sunday's result in France . Now, the likelihood of a negative outcome is even greater. What are your expectations?

There is no way of knowing what will happen, but it is true to say that the polls are not very optimistic. We should definitely use the meeting of the European Council on 16 and 17 June to discuss the situation.

What would your advice to the voters in the Netherlands be now?

I would advise them not to make the same mistake as the French. Europe has to grow stronger and moreover has to become stronger in the globalized world in which we are competing with other big powers such as the United States, China, Japan, Brazil and India. We have to become a stronger combined force, which is precisely what the constitution intends.

Are you in favor of repeating the referendum in France ? There are those who say "let's try it again in a year's time."

I think it is much too early for such speculation. We should just sit down together and think about the reasons for the result and what we can do about it.

What does the rejection of the constitution mean for the plans to create the posts of EU foreign minister and permanent council president? Is that on the back burner?

I don't think anything is on the back burner, but we are not at the point at which we can forge ahead. It is a pre-requisite that the constitution be ratified by everyone. We will just continue with the preparation process, and I think we work very well together in many areas.

If you could give the French people a message following their referendum, what would it be?

My message to the French people would be, "I'm sorry that you chose to vote as you did, but you must have had your reasons for doing so. We want to examine these reasons and try and understand your signal."

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