An impassioned French President Jacques Chirac stressed on Thursday in the eastern French city of Nancy that his country would not get a second chance to vote on the document, seeking to dispel confusion among voters over whether leaders could go back to the drawing board.
“We will not renegotiate,” Chirac stated. “How can you think for a second that because France says no, that our partners will say: ‘Oh, all right, let’s start over.'”
“We can say yes or no. We cannot say we are going to renegotiate,” Chirac told a news conference, in answer to a question.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said it was “pure illusion” to think the 25 EU nations would modify the text if France votes “No”.
“France has a big responsibility not to let other Europeans down,” Schroeder said, standing alongside the two other leaders in Nancy. “If we want to develop Europe, we need everyone. But we especially need France.”
All 25 nations must approve the proposed treaty for Europe’s first constitution for it to take effect.
French polls show that the “No” camp, after falling back, is again gaining ground.
All 25 nations must approve the
Standing side by side, the three leaders sought to counter the main arguments raised by the “No” camp against the constitution, rebutting the idea that a larger Europe would eat away at French jobs and social benefits.
Chirac said the constitution “expresses a certain vision of the social model we are attached to”, adding that he would not have accepted the treaty any other way.
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski pointedly refuted a French fear that jobs will be eaten away by cheaper labour flooding in from Poland.
“It’s not true,” Kwasniewski said, that Polish or other workers will inundate richer EU nations in search of jobs. Poland is the largest of the 10 mostly former communist nations that joined the EU last year.
The leaders also sought to send the message that a unified Europe will bring greater prosperity and economic dynamism to the entire bloc.
“Europe, when it speaks with one voice, is stronger than if everyone speaks alone,” Schroeder said, adding that the constitution sets out the framework for making Europe stronger and more unified.
“We can say yes or no. We cannot say we are going to renegotiate”
French President Jacques Chirac
Kwasniewski said Poland’s first year in the European Union had been a success story that needs to continue.
“I wish for myself, for France and for all of us, that this constitutional treaty will be adopted here on 29 May,” Kwasniewski said.
“It will be a very important sign for the Polish referendum,” Kwasniewski added. He said he hopes the Polish vote will be held later this year. “We in Poland need France … as an architect of the 21st century.”
For many French, the referendum has become a vehicle to express concerns over a growing Europe as well as discontent over other issues unrelated to the constitution, like admitting Turkey to the EU, France’s 10% unemployment rate and unpopular reforms of Chirac’s conservative government.
Chirac urged voters not to mix the referendum with domestic politics, adding that a rejection of the treaty would isolate France from the 25-nation bloc.
“Do not give in to the temptation of turning inwards,” Chirac said.
The ‘No’ camp is gaining ground
The Nancy meeting – the sixth summit of the so-called Weimar Triangle – was planned previously to discuss a range of EU issues.
The leaders also discussed the Middle East peace process, Iraq, the EU’s desire for China to curb its surging textile exports and a variety of EU economic concerns.
German lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the constitution in a parliamentary vote earlier this month. The charter is expected to pass its final legislative hurdle with an upper house vote on 27 May, two days before the fiercely contested referendum in France.
Governments had the option of submitting the decision of whether to ratify the treaty to parliaments or the people.