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Germany

EU Constitution Takes Final German Hurdle

A proposed constitution for the European Union has received the final approval in Germany after a majority of representatives from the 16 states voted in favor of the document on Friday.

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Germany's upper house, the Bundesrat, has approved the treaty

While the eyes of Europe are fixed on France, Berlin hoped its endorsement would play a part in convincing voters on the other side of the Rhine to give the draft their approval on Sunday as well.

Germany is the ninth country to ratify the European Constitution. Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain have already done so.

The timing of the Bundesrat vote was chosen to send a signal to the draft's supporters of in France. But recent polls suggest it will not be enough to win over French sceptics who fear the charter will entrench a free-market model that puts capitalism ahead of social concerns.

"No" camp ahead in France

French President Jacques Chirac will hope that the German message arrives in time, as polls show the French "no" camp ahead with 55 percent to the supporters' 45 percent.

Valery Giscard d'Estaing

European Convention President Valery Giscard d'Estaing

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who led the constitution draft committee, used a speech in the Bundesrat to issue a last-ditch appeal to his countrymen.

"The day after tomorrow, I hope with all my heart, the French will in their turn ratify the constitution in a referendum," he said.

A "milestone" for Europe

Bundesrat President Matthias Platzeck called the constitution a "milestone" in European development that would increase the union's international influence as well as make it a more democratic and transparent.

Though the necessary two-thirds approval in Germany was never in question, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern abstained from the roll call. The state held backs its vote because ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Party of Democratic Socialism, the successor to the East German communist party, could not reach a common position.

Earlier this month a poll from Infratest Dimap showed that 59 percent of Germans would have voted for the treaty, had the been given the chance as another study from Omniquest showed 77 percent of them wished they could.

Now the constitution only needs to be signed by German President Horst Köhler before it becomes binding. That step is considered a formality.

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