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Europe

EU Politicians React to French "Non"

Politicians from across the spectrum were quick to comment on the defeat in France of the proposed EU constitution. After a bitter campaign, opponents to the charter garnered 55 percent of the vote on Sunday.

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The vote's outcome was not what the French president had hoped for

French President Jacques Chirac, who invested much political capital in the "yes" campaign, noted in a broadcast after the polls closed that the French people had indeed spoken.

"You have rejected the European constitution by a majority," he said. "It is your sovereign decision and I take note of it. Nevertheless, our ambitions and interests are profoundly linked to Europe. France, a founding member of the union, remains, naturally, within the union."

Michele Alliot-Marie

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot- Marie

The French rejection of the EU constitution is "a defeat for France and a defeat for Europe," French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said Sunday after a historic referendum won by opponents of the treaty.

Her colleague, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called the result a "real disappointment," although said those who voted "yes" should remain proud of their vote.

"It is a test for our country because, and I've said this before the referendum, it's going to be tougher and it is going to be tougher for our country to defend its interests," he said.

The vice-president of the European Commission, Jacques Barrot, said the vote reminded him of the rejection of the European Defense Community in 1954, although he added: "Once a project has been launched, you cannot abandon it."

Voices from new states

Polish foreign ministry official Pawel Swieboda called the decision a defeat for France.

"It means it is choosing the past and not the future and risks losing its natural role as a political leader in Europe," he said.

Artis Pabriks, foreign minister of another new member state, Latvia, said the vote meant EU politicians had to look closely at the signals voters were sending their way. She urged her own parliament to go ahead with their scheduled vote on Thursday and vote the constitution through.

"I am convinced that we should stick to the idea of the constitution," he said. "We can not turn back. It would be a disaster."

Germany : Setback for Europe

German politicians from across the political spectrum described the "no" in Sunday's referendum on the EU constitution in France as a step backwards and a setback for Germany's attempts to unify Europe.

"This is a setback for Germany's aim to promote the unification of Europe," said Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Christian Wulff, the Christian Democrat leader of the state of Lower Saxony, said he greeted the news that the French had overwhelmingly rejected the treaty "with great disappointment."

Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin and a member of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's ruling Social Democrats, described the outcome as "a step backwards."

Schröder

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a key ally of Chirac
and the other half of the Franco-German motor behind much of the EU integration drive, said the vote was "a setback" but did not mean the end of the road.

"The outcome of the referendum is a setback for the process of ratifying the constitution, but not its end," Schröder said.

Germany, which with France forms the key axis at the heart of the European project, last Friday became the ninth country to ratify the constitution. The treaty was overwhelmingly approved by both houses of the German parliament, but a referendum was not held.

Not all are sad

But there are voices among the opposition camp who are more than pleased with the outcome, including Phillipe de Villiers, who played a visible role in the "no" campaign in France.

"Europe has to be rebuilt. The constitution is no more," he said. "The people have said no massively. There is no more constitution."

EU-Referendum Frankreich Reaktionen Jubel bei Gegnern

Leftist constitution opponents celebrate their victory on Sunday

He said France was now confronted with a major political crisis which could only be solved by the president. He advised Chirac to either resign, or to dissolve the national assembly.

According to Gerd Langguth, a political scientist at the University of Bonn in Germany, the vote in France was a vote against Jacques Chirac, but also against an EU that was going too fast for many.

"For a few years the EU will be in a crisis situation," he said. "There will be an attempt to build things up again, but France is one of the founding members of the European Union and so this "no" is a challenge that will not easily be overcome."

Dutch voters will be the next to decide on the costitution in a referendum on Wednesday.



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