The upper house of Germany's parliament overwhelmingly approved the new European Union Constitution Friday, just two days before France holds a referendum on the pact. Many political analysts in Europe believe the fate of the constitution lies in the hands of the French voters.
On Thursday, French President Jacques Chirac made a dramatic last-ditch appeal to French voters, urging them to ratify the European Union's first constitution. "The decision before us goes far beyond traditional political divisions. It's not about left or right. It's not about saying 'yes' or 'no' to the government. It is about your future, that of your children, of the future of France and the future of Europe."
Recent public opinion polls find more than half the French are against the E.U. Constitution, although many French voters remain undecided.
A "no" vote Sunday could at least temporarily kill off the proposed constitution and its stated goal of closer integration among the E.U.'s 25 member states.
Political analyst John Palmer of the European Policy Centre in Brussels says the constitution is intended to streamline E.U. operations. "The new treaty simplifies, codifies the processes. It reduces the number of decision-making processes that had proliferated before."
It will also give the bloc a president and foreign minister.
But French opponents say the new constitution will lead to a loss of sovereignty and an influx of cheap labor.
European leaders agreed to the new constitution in October 2004. But political observers, including Simon O'Connor of The Centre in Brussels, believe politicians across Europe have done a poor job of explaining it to voters.
"We are seeing now that it is only in the countries that are holding a referendum that there is any public debate at all on this. Sometimes it is quite poorly informed. There are misconceptions but at least there is a debate going on and that is a positive thing."
A number of E.U. states have already ratified the constitution including Spain, Italy and Austria. All 25 E.U. countries must approve the text for it to take affect in 2006