Luxembourg Backs EU Constitution | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.07.2005
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Luxembourg Backs EU Constitution

Luxembourg voters approved the EU's constitution Sunday, according to official results of a referendum, perhaps giving the moribund charter a new lease on life.


Will tiny Luxembourg decide which way the EU wind blows?

Complete results showed that 56.52 percent of voters had backed the treaty and 43.48 percent had rejected it. The vote, which had been billed to be a tight race, makes the tiny country the first to back the constitution in a referendum since French and Dutch voters rejected it a little over a month ago.

It also marks a victory for Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who had promised to step down if voters said "no" to the constitution, which he promoted tirelessly during Luxembourg's recently ended EU presidency.

Lines were short at polling stations, which closed at 2pm (1200 GMT), even though voting is compulsory here, where the question of whether they wanted the constitution was put in French, German and their own local Luxembourgish dialect.

Caught off guard

Support for the constitution in this traditionally staunchly pro-EU country slid in recent months, especially after the French and Dutch votes, which caught Luxembourg's political class off guard. The referendum came as the political crisis that engulfed the European Union following French and Dutch rejections became overshadowed by the deadly terror attacks in London's transport system on Thursday.

Juncker, who won his high stakes gamble, said after the vote the constitution was not yet ready for the dustbin. "The message that has come out and which is adressed to Europe and the world is that the constitution is not dead after the votes in France and the Netherlands," he said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the result with "great satisfaction".

"It's a strong signal because it means that a majority of member states consider that the constitutional treaty responds to their expectations by opening the way for a more democratic, more transparent, more efficient and stronger Europe on the world stage," Barroso said.

EU leaders declared a "period of reflection" last month to try to figure out what to do with the constitution after its rejection by the French and Dutch, leaving individual countries the option to push ahead with the ratification process.

Junker's reputation on the line

Although a "yes" vote from the Grand Duchy's 223,000 registered voters could have little more effect than providing a sign of support for the beleaguered constitution in trying times, a "no" vote might have sounded its death knell.

Jean Claude Juncker EU Parlament

Luxembourg's Prime Minister and President of the EU Council Jean Claude Juncker addresses the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, June 22, 2005. European Union leaders on Wednesday bitterly criticized Britain for showing little solidarity with other EU nations and deepening the political crisis triggered by the rejection of the bloc's first constitution by French and Dutch voters. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

Juncker, who after 11 years in power is Europe's longest serving head of government, had staked his considerable popularity and his job on the line in the vote, promising to quit only a year into his current term.

Speaking at his final campaign meeting on Friday, Juncker said there was no guarantee of a 'yes' vote although he hoped that his country would give a new breath of life to the ailing constitution, of which he was a tireless supporter during Luxembourg's recent EU presidency.

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