European Socialists to sell EU constitution to the French

European Socialists to join campaign for EU constitution in France

Fearing the French will vote to reject the European Union's constitution, European Socialist leaders agreed Thursday to launch a campaign selling the treaty to voters ahead of the May 29 referendum in France.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament, said party officials believe they must come to the aid of the French Socialist party, which supports the treaty.

The constitution is meant to bolster the 25-nation bloc's role on the world stage and streamline its decision making process. But all EU members must ratify it, and a French rejection could leave EU in a political crisis.

Recent opinion polls putting the 'no' camp ahead in France has unleashed a frenzy of political activity aimed at bolstering the country's "yes" campaign.

"European Socialists will fight 100 percent for the European Constitution," Schulz told reporters.

Schulz said many in the 202-member Socialist group in the European Parliament would head to France, including Parliament President Josep Borrell, to help France's 'yes' campaign. The party is also ready to help campaign in the Netherlands, which holds its referendum June 1, he said.

Schulz criticized attempts by former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, a Socialist Party member, to campaign against the treaty on the grounds that it does too little to protect workers' rights.

"He represents an isolated minority" in the Socialist camp, Schulz said.

"Our 'yes' is a 'yes' to fight," said Jean-Marc Ayrault, Socialist leader in France's National Assembly, adding that he welcomed the involvement of Schulz as well as other European party leaders.

Dutch Socialist Frans Timmermans said, "France is a pivotal country in the EU, but I hope a majority of Dutch voters will say yes."

Socialist parliamentary leaders from across the EU attended Thursday's talks, meant to plan strategy to turn around growing opposition to the constitution.

Schulz said the party plans to hold a big rally in Paris, May 3, with the slogan "Europe is counting on France," as a way to start its campaign on French soil. The party and its French national member party plan to organize some 500 events around France ahead of the vote.

Associated Press

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