- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 30, 2005

PARIS (AFP) — French voters would approve the proposed European Union Constitution in a referendum next month, the first opinion poll to indicate a swing in favor since mid-March showed yesterday.

The TNS-Sofres-Unilog poll for the RTL radio station indicated 52 percent of decided voters surveyed would back the constitution in the May 29 referendum. However, nearly a quarter of the 1,000 persons questioned said they had still not made up their minds.

In recent days, three opinion polls have shown the “no” lead dropping from a high of 58 percent on April 21, as alarmed top French and European politicians scrambled to secure the constitution’s future.

If such a heavyweight EU member as France rejects the constitution, many observers believe it effectively will be killed off.

The latest poll was taken after an unsuccessful television appearance by French President Jacques Chirac but before an intervention Thursday night by former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin urging a “yes” vote.

It showed that supporters of the divided opposition Socialist Party were changing their minds, with only 51 percent against the constitution, compared to 63 percent opposed in a survey by the same organization published on April 20.

All 25 EU states must approve the constitution for it to take effect.

So far, six of the 25 EU member states have done so, by referendum or votes in their respective parliaments. France’s referendum on May 29 will precede the Netherlands on June 1.

The Dutch are also on a knife edge but, unlike the French, their referendum is consultative and not binding on the government.

Other EU states, including Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal, appear determined to hold their referendums, whatever the result of the French vote. There have been suggestions that Britain and Poland may reconsider their referendums.