In 2004 Chirac announced that France would hold a referendum on the new EU constitution. The announcement came a month after EU member states had agreed to the constitution’s final text, ending extensive negotiations. Chirac’s move signaled his confidence that French voters would support the constitution, as France was not bound by its own constitution to hold a referendum. Ratification of the EU constitution required approval by all 25 member states, either by popular referendum or by parliamentary vote.
Prime Minister Raffarin led the government’s campaign in favor of the EU constitution, holding firm to the official position that it would strengthen France’s position in Europe. Leaders of the UMP and the Socialist Party also supported it. Parties of both the far right and far left led the opposition campaign, joined by some trade unions, farmers’ groups, and antiglobalization activists.
They raised many doubts about the EU constitution, charging among other things that it would undermine national sovereignty and allow unrestrained free market policies. The possible accession of Turkey to the EU, widely opposed in France, also became a hot-button issue. In the referendum held in 2005, almost 55 percent of the French electorate voted against the proposed EU constitution. Analysts attributed the result to dissatisfaction with the government, particularly its handling of the economy, in addition to fears about the implications of an enlarged and more integrated EU. With confidence in the government badly shaken by the result, Raffarin tendered his resignation. In his place Chirac appointed a trusted protégé, former foreign minister Dominique de Villepin, who quickly formed a new government. Chirac announced the top priority of the new government would be to lower the country’s high unemployment. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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