The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No oui, only ouch for EU

Brussels, May 30: Reeling under the impact of a French electoral earthquake that has pushed the European Union towards potential paralysis, the bloc has convened a meeting of its leaders in Brussels on June 16 to decide the future course.

“The French electorate has chosen to say no to the ratification of the constitution treaty. We take note of this act,” the European Union said in a statement.

Since all 25 member states need to ratify the constitution, designed to streamline EU leadership and make decision-making more efficient following the bloc’s enlargement, the prospects for its entry into force look dim.

The French refusal to say oui (yes) is being seen as a backlash against domestic woes ' unemployment is above 10 per cent ' as well as the economic model enshrined in the constitution, which critics say is too “free-market” and does not offer workers enough protection.

The Dutch will hold a similar referendum on Wednesday. Most voters in the Netherlands are expected to oppose the common constitution. The emphatic French rejection 'nearly 55 per cent have voted “No” ' may strengthen Dutch resolve to throw out the treaty.

So far, among the European big guns, only Germany has voted in favour. After the French “No”, the EU leaders are not sure how many more will stay on course and ratify the constitution.

“We regret this choice, which comes from a member state that for 50 years has been an essential driving force in the construction of our common future,” the President of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country has the chair now, said.

Some in the EU are of the view that the process of ratification should be allowed to continue as each member country must be given the chance to express its view. But others feel that it should be stopped now and resumed after the constitution is explained better to the voters.

“Europe needs its people, but each one of us also need her. Europe is, above all else, a venture of hope,” Javier Solana, the EU high representative for the common foreign and security policy, said.

He said consultation among member states would soon start.

If four-fifth of the member states ' 20 of the 25 ' say “Yes” to the proposed constitution, there is a faint hope for the treaty. The heads of member states will then meet and decide what to do. But a Dutch rejection would make it harder for EU leaders to call repeat votes in countries that oppose the charter.

Though a French slap was expected, many in the EU could not help but betray a “sense of shock” as Paris had been in the vanguard of every step in European integration.

The French result drove the euro down to a new seven-month low against the dollar.

While the outcome was not seen as jeopardising the monetary union that underpins the euro, many fear that the expected political uncertainty could hit investment and reform efforts.

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