France's top court decided on Friday that the country's constitution must be altered before the European constitution can be ratified in France.
The revisions to the French constitution will take place at the beginning of 2005, according to French daily Le Monde, allowing for the possibility of a referendum in the first half of next year. The constitutional court ruled that certain parts of the European constitution that "affect the essential conditions for the exercising of national sovereignty" will require a change in the national law before being ratified. The court cited justice and foreign policy as the main areas requiring changes to the constitution. The increased powers that national parliaments will have if the European constitution is ratified also require a change in the French constitution, as the role of its national parliament must be defined by the constitution. However, the stated primacy of EU law over national law does not require such a change, nor does the inclusion in the EU Treaty of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The judges have decided that the treaty does not contradict the first article of the French constitution – that France is a "secular republic." (EUObserver.com)