German Bundesrat backs EU treaty

Last updated at 15:52 27 May 2005

Germany has given an overwhelming endorsement to the new European Union constitution in a parliamentary vote timed to encourage wavering French voters to do the same in a referendum on Sunday.

Former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the architect of the charter, was in the chamber of the upper house, the Bundesrat, to witness the vote and made a last-minute appeal to French voters.

"Germany is preparing to ratify the new European

Constitution. That is an historic event," he said in a speech that underlined the importance that the political classes of both France and Germany attach to the charter.

"The day after tomorrow, I hope with all my heart, the French will in their turn ratify the constitution in a referendum."

The Bundesrat vote, which made Germany the ninth

country to back the charter, was a formality given the support for the constitution from the main political parties. The lower house had already given its consent.

But on Friday, conservative member of parliament Peter Gauweiler, one of a small group of German opponents of the charter, said he had filed a legal challenge that could hold up formal ratification by the German president.

The Bundesrat vote was deliberately timed to encourage the supporters of the charter in France. But recent polls suggest it will not be enough to win over French sceptics who fear the charter will entrench an "ultra liberal" economic model that puts market interests ahead of social concerns.

In Brussels, a European Commission spokesman said the fact that member states covering almost half the EU population have now backed the charter was a strong argument for continuing the ratification process, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

"It's clear that all governments and institutions remain united in the desire to see the constitution enter into force eventually," spokesman Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told reporters.

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