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France's Chirac Announces EU Constitution Referendum


French President Jacques Chirac has announced he will hold a nationwide referendum on the European Union's constitution before the middle of next year.

In his televised New Year's Address Friday the French leader, who supports the EU constitution, told his compatriots they will, in his words, have Europe's future in their hands.

Mr. Chirac and other European Union leaders signed the constitution at a summit in Rome in late October, but most of the 25 EU member states still have to ratify it.

The document creates new top-level EU positions, such as a permanent EU Council Presidency and a Foreign Ministry. It also modifies the bloc's decision-making process.

In France, right-wing critics worry that it enhances EU powers at the expense of the member states, while left-wing opponents say it enshrines the rights of business to the detriment of workers.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, Reuters.