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Europe

Leaders Use Summit to Urge French "Yes"

The leaders of Germany and Poland joined French President Jacques Chirac in lobbying French voters to approve the EU constitution, during their three-way summit in eastern France on Thursday.

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The three also want to do away with Britain's EU budget rebate

The chances that French voters will reject the document that plots out the direction the future Union will take have increased in the past days. Recent polls put the "no" camp, made up mostly of left wing voters, winning with between 51 and 54 percent of the vote.

The constitution, which aims to simplify decision-making in the expanded EU, must be approved by all 25 EU member states. A rejection in France in a few weeks would have enormous repercussions, both within the country and across the European Union.

"France assumes a big responsiblity, the responsibility not to let down us other Europeans over the constitution," Schröder told a news conference in the city of Nancy, France.

Schröder has already made a trip to France to help Chirac lobby French voters into the yes camp. Last week, Germany's Bundestag approved the constitution. On May 27, two days before the French referendum, Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, is expected to do the same.

Fischer: left should be in favor, not against

Ahead of the trip, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, told the French newspaper La Croix that left wing voters in the no camp should see the constitution as a chance to defend social democratic ideals.


"The left should defend the prospect of a social Europe, and that should lead it to act in favor of Europe, not against Europe," he said in the interview, according to Reuters.

Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, whose country makes up the third partner in the so-called Weimar Triumvirate, joined Chirac and Schröder in their plea.


"I wish for myself, for France and for all of us, that this constitutional treaty will be adopted here on May 29. That will be a very important sign for the Polish referendum," he said, which will take place in September.

Leaders to discuss budget as well

Kwasniewski also joined Chirac and Schröder in supporting a repeal of the special budgetary status British has enjoyed in the European Union since 1984. Great Britain gets back 4.32 billion euros ($5.45 billion) on its annual contribution to the EU budget, a clause negotiated by Margaret Thatcher at a time when the economy was performing poorly. The rebate also reflects the small amount of agricultrual aid Brussels hands out to Great Britain.

A majority of EU leaders have come out for a change in Britain's special status when the Commission begins discussing the budget for 2007-2013.

The one day summit is the continuation of a meeting first held on the top level in 1998. The German government helped organize the Weimar group following the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990, as part of the postwar reconciliation process with both France and Poland.

Besides the EU constitution, the three will resume another hot topic of discussion in the 25-member Union at the moment: the planning of the EU budget from 2007 to 2013. Germany and France, especially, are eager to find a common line on how they think the EU budget should be divvied up in the future.

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