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Luxembourg Political Parties Back European Constitution Referendum


Luxembourg's political parties have decided to go ahead with a planned July 10 referendum on the European constitution, despite recent French and Dutch "no" votes. The decision puts a lot of pressure on the Grand Duchy at a time of political crisis in Europe.

Leaders of Luxembourg's political parties made the decision they say has the unanimous support of all the parties in parliament. The July 10 vote had already been approved by the lawmakers, but the timing was thrown into doubt after a European Union summit last week extended the deadline for approving the constitution. EU leaders said Europe needed time to pause and reflect in the wake of the Dutch and French no votes.

Henri Grethen, of Luxembourg's opposition Democratic Party, says the tiny nation of 460,000 must move ahead.

"We have legal obligations," he said. "We decided as a parliament to fix this referendum on the 10th of July and it would be legally very difficult to abort it, and it would be politically difficult to abort it. We will ask the opinion of the Luxembourgers on the 10th of July."

Political sources say most party officials decided it is too late to reverse course because it would take a new law to postpone the vote. In addition, absentee ballots have gone out and the process is underway. Other supporters of the referendum thought it should go ahead to give the people their proper voice in the decision.

There is a lot riding on the Luxembourg referendum. Prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker has said he will resign if the constitution is defeated. Luxembourg holds the rotating EU presidency, and at the EU summit last week Mr. Juncker said countries planning a referendum might need more time to persuade their citizens about the benefits of the treaty.

Ten nations that make up about half of the EU population have approved the constitution, but only one, Spain, did it in a referendum by the people. EU leaders have said Europe is in a crisis following the "no" votes by France and the Netherlands, which are founding members of the European Union.