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Turmoil as Chirac plots to disregard 'non' vote

By Philip Webster and Charles Bremner

PRESIDENT CHIRAC of France is preparing to throw Europe into confusion and put Britain on the spot by backing moves to keep the European constitution alive if it is rejected in Sunday’s referendum.

French diplomats say that M Chirac is expected to urge other countries to proceed with ratification because France does not want to be seen to be blocking the European project. Any attempt to persuade other countries to go ahead will dash the hopes of those in the British Government who believed that a French rejection would make a British referendum unnecessary.

British ministers argue that it will be impossible to hold a referendum next year because the final shape of the treaty on which the British would be voting will be unknown.

President Chirac was still insisting last night that renegotiation was out of the question if the French vote "no". British ministers believe that the only way that the French could get eventual approval would be to amend the constitution in a way that would make it unacceptable in Britain.

“We do not know if there is going to be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but a ‘no’ would create massive uncertainty about what we are supposed to be voting on,” a ministerial source said. M Chirac went on French television last night to deliver a dramatic last-ditch appeal for a ‘yes’ vote. He urged the French people not to punish his Government.

“The decision before us goes far beyond traditional political divisions,” he said. The choice was “about your future and that of your children, of the future of France and the future of Europe. On Sunday, everyone will have a share of the destiny of France in its hands.”

He argued that the constitution would strengthen France’s influence in Europe and reinforce the French social model. Rejecting it would create “divisions and doubts” in Europe when “we need a political Europe capable of bringing about a genuine European power”.

But the latest poll showed the rejectionists’ support growing to 55 per cent — the 13th poll in succession to put the ‘no’ camp ahead. With two days of campaigning left, the French political establishment was left hoping for a Liverpool-style comeback.

Even as M Chirac prepared to deliver his appeal last night the recriminations within his centre-right UMP party had begun, and he was said by colleagues to have accepted that he had bungled by calling a referendum.

A "no" vote would leave M Chirac seriously weakened. His rival Nicolas Sarkozy, the UMP leader who aspires to become president in 2007, was blaming the Chirac Government's policies for fuelling the voter rebellion. M Chirac is expected to react to a French "non" by promising to listen to the people before making a second attempt at ratification.

He and other "yes" campaigners have said repeatedly during the campaign that there is no “Plan B” if the treaty is rejected and that there would not be a second referendum.

But one option being discussed in senior diplomatic circles is for candidates in the French presidential election in 2007 to promise to ratify the treaty in parliament rather than by referendum.

Mr Blair is expected to respond to the French result on Monday morning from Italy, where he is spending the Bank Holiday weekend. He is reconciled to Britain's six-month presidency of the EU, which starts in July, being dominated by efforts to salvage key parts of the constitution if the French and Dutch reject it.



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The EU is the Turtle

France is the scorpion..

A scorpion needs to cross a river to get to his usual whereabouts, having been lost way out in the wilderness for quite some time. Scorpions can't swim, so it has to find another way across. There are no bridges or stepping stones in sight, and the river is far too wide to jump. Searching the surroundings, the scorpion meets a turtle. It asks the turtle for a ride across the big river. "Not a chance. You'll sting me, and I won't be able to swim, and then I will drown," the turtle replies. "I've got a family to take care of." The scorpion acknowledges the turtle's concern for his family, but assures him that he has nothing to fear. "You see, I would drown also, as you sink. It would be very stupid of me to sting you," the scorpion argues in a convincing manner.

So the turtle considers. After giving the situation some thought, it becomes pure scientific logic to the turtle. What can be more valuable than ones life, or the lives of your loved ones? The turtle asks the scorpion if it too has a family. "Certainly I have, and their well-being is more dear to me than anything else in this world." The scorpion pulls out a worn picture of his family and points out the family members to the turtle. The scorpion talks in a gentle voice, and by the look of its posture, it seems very sincere. "Please," the scorpion begs, "please help me to get back home." A desperate look spreads across the face of the scorpion as its thoughts wanders to its home soil. "There is no-one here but you to help me," the scorpion continues to argue. Touched by this concern for family matters, the turtle finally agrees to carry the scorpion across the big wide river.

Once in the water, the waves are tough on the newfound friends, but the turtle keeps the pace up with great effort not to let his passenger down. Halfway across, the turtle suddenly feels the scorpion's terminal sting in his neck. "Why, why," it gasps as the venom paralyses it, "why did you do it?" They both begin to sink into the dark waters. "Damned if I know. Guess it's just in my nature," the scorpion replies. In the last trembling moments of the turtle's existence, its life starts to play back like a movie in fast forward. As the movie reaches its last frame, it freezes on the old adage "to try is to fail - not to try is to surrender" as the river swallows both of them in an inevitable act of nature and the soul of the turtle rejoins its creator.

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Dutch say no

Dutch Voters Reject EU Constitution By ARTHUR MAX

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Dutch voters overwhelmingly rejected the European constitution in a referendum Wednesday, exit polls projected, in what could be a knockout blow for the charter roundly defeated just days ago by France.

An exit poll projection broadcast by state-financed NOS television said the referendum failed by a vote of 63 percent to 37 percent. The turnout was 62 percent, exceeding all expectations, the broadcaster said.

Although the referendum was consultative, the high turnout and the decisive margin left no room for the Dutch parliament to turn its back on the people's verdict. The parliament meets Thursday to discuss the results.

The constitution was designed to further unify the 25-nation bloc and give it more clout on the world stage. But the draft document needs approval from all the nations to take effect in late 2006, and the "no" vote in both France and the Netherlands — founding members of the bloc — was a clear message European integration has gone awry.

When voting began, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was optimistic the electorate would defy the pollsters and vote on the merits of the constitution rather than their general feeling of malaise.

"The question is: Do we want to have progress today or do we choose a standstill, and for me the choice is obvious," he said.

But voters marking paper ballots with red pencils or pushing electronic buttons appeared to have a different view.

At an Amsterdam school, where about a dozen people waited to vote, a reporter had difficulty finding anyone in favor of the constitution. One said the charter would bolster Europe: "I think it's a good thing if there's a strong Europe," said Jaena Padberg. "It's good that our rights will be secured."

Some voters said that they were undecided up to the last moment and that it was one of the toughest choices they had faced in a polling booth.

"I can't decide because I don't feel I have enough information," said waitress Flora de Groot, who was determined to vote anyway. "At first I thought, yes, definitely. But now, because what I've heard from other people, I'm leaning toward no."

Opponents said they feared the Netherlands, a nation of 16 million people, would be overwhelmed by a European superstate even though the Dutch pay more per capita than any other country into the collective EU kitty.

Nicolas Ilaria, an immigrant from Suriname, said he was voting no. "In principle, I'm against bureaucracy and I don't believe everything is working well now," he said as he read a newspaper at an Amsterdam cafe.

Like many others, Ilaria voiced an underlying mistrust of Dutch politicians. "The government is not telling the truth about what is in the treaty," he said.

Others were concerned a strengthened Europe could force the liberal Dutch to scrap policies such as tolerating marijuana use, prostitution and euthanasia. Still others said they felt cheated by price increases after they traded in their guilders for the EU's common currency, the euro, in 2002.

"Things are going too fast," said Maarten Pijnenburg, in the "no" camp. "There's not enough control over the power of European politicians" under the new constitution.

The Dutch vote was not expected to have the same dramatic result for domestic politicians as France's referendum Sunday — a loss that was a public humiliation for President Jacques Chirac and resulted in Jean-Pierre Raffarin's resignation as prime minister.

Balkenende said before the vote that there would be no political resignations, no matter how the vote went.

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I must admit I don't really know what's in this new Constitution, but it seems funny from my perspective.

I tend to check Groklaw every few days, and one side-thing they've been covering involves the EU's attempt to get a law passed allowing pretty wide pattents on software.

Aparantly, they have this rule where a committee (any committee) of Parlament can simply pass a law and label that law as an "A" items (which, aparantly, means it's routine), and send that law to Parliment, where it automatically passes without a vote, unless someone manages to object during some ridiculously short window.

They've supposedly attempted to pass this pattent law that Microsoft wants them to pass, without a vote, about a dozen times. They've supposedly ignored two votes of the Parliment to "reset" the measure, and have at least once tried to claim that the objection wasn't in the right form, so therefore it passed.

(Also, aparantly, at least a few members of the EU parlament have ignored voted of their countrie's Parliment, ordering them to reject the proposal.)

I feel like I'm watching a soccer game, and can't figure out the rules.

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I just spent a week in the Netherlands and a few days in Paris. The overall feeling I got from the people in France was that one they don't want to lose there 35 hour work week, they don't want anybody from places like Turkey and Hungary coming to their country and taking their jobs and getting all the benefits that they feel only a French national should be entitled to. And thirdly and most importantly they are really PO'd at Jacques Chirac and his administration and it seems like many voted NO just to spite him and to make him look like a fool in front of the leaders of the other EU nations.

The Dutch people feel like their country already has to many foreigners and they are afraid that their countries proud heritage will be lost if more foreigners and prostitution.

Either way this good news for us and our dollar. I can't tell you how much more expensive it was over there this year then it was 3 years ago. Hopefully the Euro will decline as a result of these 2 votes, at least I'm hoping it does.

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Historically the EU started as the EEC, European Economic Community, however over the years the influence of France & Germany dominated it, and it gradually turned Political rather than just Economic. Its expanded during the 70's when theUK joined, we werent happy with the way it was going, and Margaret Thatcher, kept a tight rein on any further Political intrusions into individual countries affairs, but when Blair got in, he's all for it, but here in the UK the people are not, because we dont like laws made in Brussels affecting out laws here. With theFrench & Dutch already voting NO, and Luxembourg likely to follow suit, the Constitution is dead in the water. Also the UK does not have a written Constitution, so we're not likely to vote for it either, assuming of course, that Blair has the guts to call a referendum on the subject

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