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Europe

A "Non" to the EU from Luxembourg?

Luxembourgers head to the polls on Sunday to vote on the proposed EU constitution. After Dutch and French voters recently rejected the document, the outcome in the grand duchy is less than certain.

Not so EU-friendly any more?

At first glance, Luxembourg looks like it always does to any visitor: well-kept, European flags fluttering on numerous buildings, fresh geraniums planted in tidy flower beds. But below the veneer, trouble is brewing in Europe's most pro-EU country.

On July 10, voters go to the polls to decide the fate of the proposed European Union constitution. Lately, the most ubiquitous presence in the country are the pamphlets and posters of the anti-EU camp. Ask the pedestrians and you will discover that Luxembourg is no longer as Europe-friendly as it has been in the past.

"Nee" for "No" to the EU constitution on a wall in The Hague in May

"I'm planning to vote 'no,' because if Turkey joins we'll have cheap labor in Luxembourg and rising unemployment," one man said. "I would have liked the constitution changed before voting on it. The French and the Dutch are not dumber than we are and we can say 'no,' too. Things aren't always the way Mr. Juncker explains them."

"No" gathers momentum

In Luxembourg, opinion polls, by law, cannot be conducted beginning four weeks before a vote. The last survey in mid-June put opponents of the EU constitution at 45 percent, which is astounding considering that a few months ago more than 70 percent of voters in Luxembourg were going to vote "yes."

Guy Gibéryen from the populist Party for Democracy and Pension Equality, explained why he and his organization are opposed to the EU constitution.

Luxembourg led the EU for the first half of 2005

"Luxembourg is a victim of its success," he said. "We create 6,000 to 10,000 jobs a year, but 80 percent of these are filled by people living in neighboring countries. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is steadily rising. Wages are under pressure and dropping, and people don't earn enough to buy a home."

Explaining opposition

Luxembourgers, in increasing numbers, are echoing the same arguments used in France and the Netherlands to explain their opposition. André Kremer, from the Luxembourg Committee for a No-Vote, stated the reasons.

"Our criticism is based on four points," he said. "The first point is that the constitution was not conceived in a democratic way and is not democratic. Point two: it is not socially equitable. Thirdly, it is neoliberal and aims for totally open markets. And fourthly, it will militarize Europe."

A woman walks past campaign posters in reference to the referendum on the EU constitution in a street of Aix-en-Provence, southern France in May

It is still an open question whether the "no" camp will win on July 10. All the political parties are actively waging campaigns for their respective standpoints. The "yes" camp argues that voting "no" means voting against Europe as the whole world looks on. It's a view that annoys many voters, Gibéryen said.

"One would expect in a democratic country that the 'yes' and 'no' camps have the same resources," he said. "But that is not the case in Luxembourg. The 'no' camp gets nothing, while the government uses taxpayer's money for its massive 'yes' campaign. I'm convinced that this brainwashing will not work."

Blackmailing the electorate?

Juncker has threatened to resign

Prime Minister Juncker has announced that he will step down if the electorate votes 'no.' For some that is the logical consequence of his support for the EU constitution, but for others, it smacks of blackmail, said a café owner in the capital.

"The prime minister says he will resign," he said. "That's crazy. That, in itself, is a reason to vote 'no.' It's not about him. It's about Europe. I am deeply disappointed."

Viviane Reding

Luxembourg's EU Commissioner in Brussels, Viviane Reding, is one of the few who are convinced that voters are aware of their historic responsibility and will therefore cast a "yes" ballot next Sunday.

"For Luxembourg, there is no way around Europe," she said. "It is vital to be in the middle of Europe and participate in it."

DW.DE