10/07/2005 - D-7
On 20th June the Chamber of Representatives in Luxembourg decided to maintain the referendum date on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe that will take place in the Grand Duchy on 10th July next. This decision was partly a surprise since Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker did not hide the fact that he preferred a postponement of the popular consultation in the wake of the negative votes on the part of the French and the Dutch. The Prime Minister, who was also President of the European Union at the time called for an extension of the ratification process in the Member States in order for political leaders to take the time to sound out their populations and to explain to them the content of the Constitutional Treaty. Luxembourg MP's said that by maintaining the referendum they wanted to "respect the citizens", pointing out that postal voting slips had already been sent out to voters. According to an opinion poll undertaken by Ilres and published on 9th June last nearly three quarters of Luxembourg citizens (82%) say they were in favour of the referendum on the date that had been set versus only 15% who thought the contrary.
On 28th June the Chamber of Representatives unanimously approved, on its first reading, the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The fifty-five MP's present voted in favour of the text, the five representatives of Action for Democracy and Justice in terms of Pensions (ADR), who are against the European treaty, did not take part in the vote. "More than any other country of the European Union Luxembourg needs the treaty," declared Ben Fayot (POSL/LSAP), the rapporteur of the draft law on the Constitution, "By voting "yes" to the constitutional treaty we are saying "yes" to the continuation of European integration and to more efficient co-operation. A "no" means the launch of an adventure whose outcome no one knows ... A massive "yes" on the part of the Chamber today is the best answer that we can give to our citizens in these difficult times," he added. "There is no other possibility but to maintain the referendum and to say "yes" by a wide majority," declared Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker from the rostrum to the Chamber, adding, "I am confident once again that Luxembourg will make the right choice." He made a point of saying that in the event of a renegotiation, a possibility that he considered to be "improbable", and "those who said "yes" will be the strongest".
Although in Luxembourg the adoption of the European Constitution is subject to a dual ratification, both parliamentary and popular, MP's have committed themselves to respecting the result of the popular vote on 10th July. The final ratification on a second reading will only take place if the "yes" vote wins in the referendum.
In the Grand Duchy the publication of opinion polls is prohibited during the month prior to the election. According to the last survey undertaken by Ilres and published on 9th June last the "yes" vote lay at 55% and the "no" vote at 45%, i.e. four points more than during the previous poll. Those in favour of the European Constitution are mainly to be found amongst executives and liberal professions, opponents being greater in number amongst employees, workers and the young. 16% of Luxembourg citizens have still not made their choice. "The extrapolation of our survey enables us to say that two thirds of the undecided votes will go to the "no" vote and one third to the "yes"," said Charles Margue, managing director of Ilres who forecasts a "very tight" vote.
The enlargement of the European Union is the primary reason why people will be voting "no"; seven opponents to the European treaty in ten say they are about to vote "no" because they believe that the Union has grown too quickly and without them having understood the consequences of this change. The Chamber of Representatives has organised thirteen information meetings on the European Constitution around the country offering to all of those who so wish the opportunity to express themselves publicly on the text. These meetings attracted a full crowd bringing together three to four hundred people whilst normally less than one hundred people attend this type of event. For its part the "NO" Committee that rallies militants from two political parties that are not represented in parliament, the Communist Party (PCL/KPL) chaired by Aly Rickert, and Dei Lenk-The Left (DL) as well as associations from the social movement continues its campaign against the European text. On 1st July last the Socialist Worker Party (POSL/LSAP) protested against the invitation offered by the NO committee to the Frenchman Henri Emmanuelli (Socialist Party) to join a demonstration against the European Constitution. The party's chairman, Alex Bodry, found it "inadmissible for a leader from the French Socialist Party to come to Luxembourg to defend a position that was contrary to that democratically adopted by the Luxembourg Socialists." In an open letter he denounced "an act contrary to the basic rules of solidarity and co-operation between brother socialist parties." "During its last national congress the Socialist Workers Party said that it was in favour of the yes by more than 90%," he indicated, saying that "it was a shame to see some socialists taking pleasure in flaunting the basic rules in the running of a democratic party, ie the respect of decisions taken by the majority." Finally Alex Bodry accused Henri Emmanuelli of having "expressed himself in an inappropriate and deeply evil manner about Luxembourg."
On several occasions during the electoral campaign Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker maintained that he would resign from his position if the "no" vote won in the referendum. "I signed after having negotiated the Constitutional Treaty on behalf of my country. If the citizens inform me that I should not have done this I believe that I have to respect universal suffrage and the citizens and suffer the consequences," he declared. This possible resignation would lead to a serious political crisis in the Grand Duchy.
Jean-Claude Juncker believes that the leaders of the European Union have "all committed an enormous error in talking insufficiently about Europe and especially of not having explained about Europe when things were going well (...) We did not explain sufficiently to the French and the Dutch that this Constitutional Treaty was the fruit of a great amount of work, whose merit lay in the fact that it came to realisation since achieving the agreement of 25 governments is not an easy task," he emphasised, adding that, "some governments added a second error to the first one – by making the European Union responsible for all the difficult decisions that had to be taken on a domestic level." The Prime Minister also declared that the present crisis was linked to the opposition of "two sensitive trends in public opinion (...) there are those who believe that today European integration has gone too far already, that Brussels dictates too much if not everything and then there are those, and that includes me, who believe that integration still has far to go. Both of these trends of opinion are incapable of communicating with each other sensibly and therefore political activity must comprise building a bridge between them." In an interview on Belgian TV RTL-TVI, Jean Claude Juncker said that he continued to "have major ambitions for Europe". "I am not fed up with Europe", he emphasised that he was just "sad" that the leaders of the 25 "had not been able to rise to the occasion" at the European Council on 16th and 17th June last.
During the entire electoral campaign the Prime Minister continued to mention what Luxembourg owed to the European Union. "On 10th July next everyone will be looking at Luxembourg," he declared calling for people, "to vote yes for Europe and yes for Luxembourg, yes to be at peace with ourselves and with what we have achieved in the past."