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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: « Le peuple a voté en pleine conscience »

by Sébastien Crépel

“The people knew perfectly well what they were voting for”

Translated Friday 18 January 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Interview with Pierre Lequiller (UMP), president of the French National Assembly delegation for the European Union treaty.

Doesn’t democracy require that the people be consulted to validate the new treaty?

Pierre Lequiller: Not at all. Throughout the election campaign, Nicolas Sarkozy kept saying that he would propose a simplified treaty, and that it would be ratified by the French parliament. He said this in the speeches he made in Brussels and Strasburg, on television, and in the debate with Ségolène Royal... The people knew perfectly well what they were voting for. At a time when everyone agrees that it is necessary to renew parliament’s prestige, it’s paradoxical to suggest a another referendum.

But just the same, the other candidates, who pledged themselves to another referendum, got nearly 70% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election...

Pierre Lequiller: (Laughs.) There are two rounds in French presidential elections, and Nicolas Sarkozy was elected on the basis of his program! I’m sorry, but that’s democracy, whatever the quibbling of this or that individual. Moreover, there are lots of left-wingers who think that parliamentary ratification of the treaty is a good option. Pierre Moscovici even stated that that’s the way it should have been done the last time round...

This treaty being the twin of the previous one, doesn’t this amount to going back on a sovereign decision made by the people?

Pierre Lequiller: If the treaties were twins, why would the countries that had already voted “yes” the last time have to vote again? The new treaty doesn’t have the status of a constitution, which, by the way is something that I regret, but we’ve got to take the French people’s choice into account. The previous treaty compiled and replaced all the other treaties, and this is no longer the case. The third part has been eliminated, as have the symbols of the European Union. The rule regarding a double majority, which was to have come into force immediately, will come into effect after a ten-year delay, in accordance with Poland’s request. Because of the “no” vote, we’ve had to agree that the charter on fundamental rights will not apply to the British and the Poles. On the other hand, the French president has obtained new advances on social issues. As a result, the infamous “free and undistorted competition” is no longer an objective, the role of Europe in protecting its citizens against globalization is better recognized, and a protocol on national public services has been added, etc.

When you say that the third part has been eliminated, you’re just playing with words. It’s all put back in, in the course of the amendments to the new treaty...

Pierre Lequiller: The referendum debate was on the free-market vs. social nature of the treaty. Now the treaty has become a purely institutional document, with, in addition, social advances. As to the rest, one finds institutional advances that were contained in the old treaty, but ones that were not contested.

If the treaty is as good as you say it is, what risk is there in putting it to a referendum?

Pierre Lequiller: This choice has nothing to do with being “afraid” of a referendum. But people have seen that there was no “Plan B.” It was necessary to work fast, to not let things degenerate, so as to get Europe out of the break-down and the institutional crisis quickly. After the “no” vote, the Europeans said to us: “France was the trail-blazer for Europe, today that’s all over.” Now France is back on the European scene, and I’m proud that my country will be one of the first to ratify the treaty.

What will happen if the left manages to garner the two-fifths vote necessary to prevent the treaty from being ratified?

Pierre Lequiller: You’ve got to ask the Socialist Party that question. From what I understand, they’ve decided to abstain. We’ll see what the outcome is. But the way things are going, I think we’ll get a positive vote from the French congress.

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