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French and Dutch Reject EU Constitution (Part A)
It's been a momentous week for Europe with the rejection -- in two referendums in France and then the Netherlands -- of the European Union's new constitution. Many EU leaders say the process of ratification should go on until every country has had its say. Others aren't so sure. Ten out of the twenty-five countries have already ratified the constitutional treaty, but the French and the Dutch have shocked Europe's ruling elite. Chris Morris, in Brussels, has been watching the constitution develop since the idea was first born.
I can remember pretty clearly the first TV interview I did from a European summit here in Brussels. It was nearly four years ago, early in the morning, with the temperature below zero, and the Atomium -- one of Belgium's most famous landmarks -- looked like it was growing out of the back of my head.
"This idea that they'll call it a constitution..." the presenter in London said, "Surely that'll never get off the ground..."
I seem to remember that I tried to snort dismissively, but I was too cold to manage much more than a subdued grunt. A European constitution? Do me a favour！All I wanted was a cup of coffee.
Later that day, with the sun finally up, EU leaders launched the great consultative process that was to dominate much of my time here in Brussels. First a convention, to talk about lofty aims, legislative details and lengthy preambles. And then the document itself... and yes, they did eventually call it a constitution. Don't worry, we were told, even a golf club has one of those -- it's just a name.
Back on that first day they picked a blast from the past to guide Europe into its brave new future.... the veteran former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. Never a man to be shy about his own abilities, he thought he'd managed to craft a masterpiece -- the only constitutional treaty which everyone could accept. How wrong he was.
First of all it was the focus of lengthy haggling between EU leaders, and one grumpy failed summit, before a compromise text was grudgingly agreed. But over the past week the document they all helped coax into life has been hit by a barrage of medical metaphors -- depending on who you talk to it's either dead, or on life-support, or being wheeled hurriedly into intensive care.