French Voters Reject EU Constitution
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
France has insisted once again on its unique status among nations. French voters rejected a proposed European Constitution yesterday. They defied European leaders, including their own president, who wanted to bind the continent more closely together. This may be only the first blow to that ambitious plan, as we'll hear in a moment. We'll start our coverage with Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
(Soundbite of news broadcast)
Unidentified Woman: (French spoken)
Unidentified Man #1: (French spoken)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY reporting:
At the end of a long and suspenseful day, television networks announced that France had overwhelmingly rejected the European constitution. With unprecedented voter turnout, 55 percent of the French electorate said `Non.'
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BEARDSLEY: Across Paris the crowds of `no' voters were jubilant. At Place de la Bastille, members of left-wing political parties like Communist Lelya Lema(ph) celebrated the defeat of what she called an ultracapitalist vision of Europe.
Ms. LELYA LEMA: I think we are happy because we stopped this European constitution. It's like the people are winning today.
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Unidentified Crowd: (Chanting in French)
BEARDSLEY: As chants went up calling for President Jacques Chirac to resign, teacher Martin Beriby(ph) said Europe should be about building solidarity between nations, not fostering competition.
Mr. MARTIN BERIBY (Teacher): We don't think that's the policy that's going to enable us to build the real Europe, integrating the poorest countries and integrating the people of Poland, of the Eastern countries. And, being European, they persist to build another superpower whose aim is to compete with the United States on the same basis. That's not our choice.
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Unidentified Man #2: (French spoken)
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BEARDSLEY: At headquarters for the right-wing sovereignty party, revelers were just as happy, if for different reasons. Mark Bono(ph) explains why he voted no.
Mr. MARK BONO: I say no to a supranational, super state from Brussels which would overthrow the French Constitution and the French laws, and that's not acceptable.
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President JACQUES CHIRAC (France): (French spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Shortly after the results were announced President Chirac went on television to concede defeat. The vote was a personal blow to the French president, who had staked his political legacy on the referendum passing. Many say it will now be harder for France to wield influence in Europe. Dominique Moisi of the French Institute for International Relations says it's a black day for France and Europe.
Mr. DOMINIQUE MOISI (French Institute for International Relations): What it means is a weakened France in Europe and a weakened Europe in the world. But, of course, the people who said no to the constitution didn't want that, but they voted with their emotions and they acted probably irrationally. They vented their anger, their fear, their frustration. Now they will have to live with the results.
BEARDSLEY: One of the immediate results of the French no, says strategic analyst Bruno Tertrais(ph), is that France's relationship with Germany, which voted for the constitution, will suffer.
Mr. BRUNO TERTRAIS (Analyst): What changes, however, is not legal terms but in political terms and in psychological terms. It is clear in particular that the French-German couple will have more difficulties to function, and there is a symbolic breakdown, with the French no, between France and Germany.
BEARDSLEY: Many predict the Dutch will follow the French and vote no to the constitution on Wednesday. With two of the European Union's founders rejecting the treaty, it will leave the continent's political future in question. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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