Auteur: | By Lucia Kubosova
Slovenia is the third country to have ratified the European Constitution, following overwhelming vote of approval in its parliament on Tuesday (1 February).
Seventy-nine MPs in the 90-seat chamber voted in favour of the treaty, with only four rejecting it and seven abstaining. A two-thirds majority was required for the ratification.
Ljubljana has followed Lithuania and Hungary in giving the go-ahead for the document, expected to come into force in 2007 if all 25 member states ratify it.
Italy's lower house of parliament voted in favour of the treaty a week ago but the upper house still has to ratify it.
Several other countries are planning to conduct a referendum on the Constitution - the first one will be held in Spain on 20 February.
A recent survey by the European Commission showed that 49 percent of EU citizens are in favour of the constitutional treaty, but a large majority has very little knowledge of its content.
Happy to be frontrunners
Before the vote in Ljubljana, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa reminded the legislators that their support of the Constitution would allow the country to lead the ratification process in the EU and move the treaty a step closer to its implementation.
"That way, Slovenia will meet its great responsibility towards the common future of Europe," Mr Jensa was reported as saying.
EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom welcomed the news, saying in a statement, "Slovenia gives a strong signal to other Member States on the
benefits that the Constitution brings".
However, several opposition MPs criticised the government in its rush for early ratification.
Bogdan Barovic of the nationalist opposition Slovenian National Party urged lawmakers to reject the document and protest the hurried way it was being ratified.
"Instead of having a debate on the bill and then approving it, we are first approving it and later we are supposed to debate on it," Barovic was quoted sa saying by the AFP agency.
A majority of Slovenian citizens (54%) support the new EU treaty, according to an opinion poll by Ljubljana's Social Sciences Faculty published last month.
However, just like at the European level, in-depth knowledge of the text is an exception.
French MPs paved the way for the treaty
The French Assemblee Nationale voted by a very large majority yesterday to adapt the French Constitution to allow the ratification of the European Constitution.
There were 450 votes in favour and 34 against. There were 64 abstentions, mainly from Socialist party members (56) opposed to the Constitution.