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EU Constitution Still in Doubt Despite Luxembourg Approval

Luxembourg, one of the European Union's founding members, has become the 13th country to endorse the 25-nation bloc's proposed constitution, after a referendum Sunday gave the charter a solid majority in the tiny nation. But with the ratification process frozen following rejections in France and the Netherlands, the Luxembourg result is seen as little more than a symbolic step.

At EU headquarters in Brussels, officials said publicly that Luxembourg's approval of the constitution gives the beleaguered treaty a vital shot in the arm after its resounding defeat at the polls in France and the Netherlands. But, privately, they are less optimistic. One top EU diplomat says that the Luxembourg result provides a stay of execution for the constitution, but that it remains very much on death row.

Nearly 57 percent of Luxembourg voters said "yes" to the constitution, to the great relief of the small, prosperous country's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, who had threatened to resign if the vote had gone the other way.

Amid signs that the same skepticism about European integration that led French and Dutch voters to reject the charter was creeping into his country, Mr. Juncker campaigned strenuously for a "yes" vote.

Mr. Juncker, who is the longest-serving EU leader, thanked those of his fellow citizens who voted "yes," and said it took courage to do so after the French and Dutch rejections of the document.

He says Europe is still in a political crisis, but that it is in a crisis that allows its citizens to look at a more optimistic horizon.

Despite Mr. Juncker's modest cheer and his insistence that the constitution is not yet dead, most EU experts believe it will be difficult to revive the project, after the French and Dutch "no" votes six-weeks ago.

The constitution needs the approval of all EU countries to go into effect. After France and the Netherlands rejected it, EU leaders decided to put approval of the treaty on hold to allow time to rebuild citizens' faith in the union.

Diplomats say that there is only the slimmest of possibilities that the treaty can be resurrected during the next few years. They say it depends on whether the French and Dutch governments agree to hold new referendums, which is unlikely in the near future.

Such countries as Britain, Ireland, and Poland have also postponed indefinitely their plans to hold referendums on the constitution.