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Europe

EU Parliament Approves Constitution

The European Parliament has sent an important signal of unity by overwhelmingly endorsing the EU's proposed new constitution. Now, it is up to the bloc's 25 member states to ratify the historic treaty.

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A small minority of right-wing lawmakers made their protest heard

There was a standing ovation in the European Parliament in Strasbourg as the results of Wednesday's poll were announced: 500 votes in favor to 137 against, with 40 abstentions -- a massive show of support for a resolution backing the constitutional treaty.

"The result of the vote leaves no room for doubt about the support that this European Parliament has expressed for the constitution," parliament President Josep Borrell said.

While all the mainstream parties in the parliament supported the text, a few dozen right-wing and nationalist lawmakers jeered and waved banners proclaiming "Not in my name."

"In the name of the 25 heads of state of the European Union who signed the constitution in October, I would like to express my great joy," retorted Luxembourg's prime minister and current EU president, Jean-Claude Juncker, following the vote.

Attacks from left and right

The new constitution will boost the assembly's powers, create a long-term president of the European Council of EU leaders and an EU foreign minister, as well as streamline decision-making. But the far left reject it as a global capitalist charter without adequate social protection, while the far right and nationalists have attacked it as a blueprint for a European "superstate" that would give too much power to Brussels -- views that are far from reality, according to German EU parliamentarian, Elmar Brock.

“It brings European countries together in order to make them strong enough to survive as democracies in this global environment," Brock said. "It gives Europe not only this efficiency, but also the transparency so that people can check the policy – and also the competence order, which makes sure that the European Union cannot grow as it wants, but that the competence is given by the member states. And therefore it’s just the opposite of a superstate.”

The constitution still faces a long and bumpy ride. Two countries, Lithuania and Hungary, have ratified the charter by parliamentary vote so far. But its fate will be sealed in referendums in countries including France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Poland and above all Britain, where approval is far from certain. A rejection in just one of the countries would be a major blow as it would send the constitution back to the drawing board and start an entire new round of negotiations.

Juncker has urged national parliaments and EU citizens to support the ratification process, which could take as long as two years.

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