“Jo” Or “Nee”

Luxemburg’s 223,000 voters decide tomorrow about the fate of the European Union. After the rejection of the European Constitution by the French and the Dutch six weeks ago, all countries where constitutional referendums were scheduled for later this year and in 2006, decided to postpone them indefinitely. All except Luxemburg, where Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in a fit of hubris, refused to. Before the French and Dutch referendums Juncker, who chaired the EU-council until 30 June, had said: “If the vote is yes, we will say: we go ahead; if it is no, we will say: we continue!” After the European summit three weeks ago, a frustrated Juncker quarrelled with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his successor as president of the EU Council, blaming Blair for the failure of the summit to reach an agreement on the EU budget.

The general expectation until late May was that the Luxemburgians would vote overwhelmingly in favour of the Constitution. During the past weeks, the situation has, however, changed dramatically with polls indicating a rise in the “Nee” camp from 32% to 38% while the “Jo” camp stands at 46% and 16% is undecided. All the political parties have exhorted the voters to say yes but there is a real possibility that the undecided may tip the balance in favour of the no-vote.

Jean Asselborn, the Luxemburgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, warned his compatriots earlier this week that they should not become “the gravediggers of the EU-Constitution.” Today, Juncker stressed in an interview in the newspaper Luxemburger Wort that the Constitution is not dead yet, in spite of the French and Dutch referendums but he conceded that “it will definitely be finished” if the Luxemburgians vote “no.” Juncker has already announced that in the latter case he will resign.

This week, the Franco-German politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the president of the European Greens in the European Parliament, came to Luxemburg to support Juncker and campaign in favour of a “yes.” He warned that “Luxemburg decides about the European dream.” Cohn-Bendit was a leader of the leftist students during the Paris student revolts of 1968 and a co-founder of the German group Revolutionärer Kampf (Revolutionary Struggle), where he met Joschka Fisher, the present German Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom he later followed to the German Green Party. It is said of the German Greens that they are like water melons: green on the outside and red on the inside.

It is unlikely that Cohn-Bendit’s appeal will have a large impact in Luxemburg. The country is the richest in Europe. However, with its 350,000 inhabitants it has always benefited from the EU, which allows it to play a role on the European political scene which far exceeds its size.

Vote for Jo

So Juncker will resign if the referendum is lost? Let's hope Jo wins then. We can use some light relief at the moment.

Strangely enough the referendum is not playing very big in the UK's press today.

Bob Doney