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Germany

Poll Says Germans Support EU Constitution

The German parliament will decide on the fate of the new EU constitution on Thursday. The latest opinion poll shows the document gets strong backing from the German public.

In France, a referendum campaign is underway

The latest survey carried out by the Infratest pollsters shows 59 percent of Germans back the new constitution. Only about 15 percent would vote against it if a referendum were held in Germany, will be the case in Britain and France.

But the overwhelming support for the pro-EU camp in Germany is somewhat tarnished by the fact that about a quarter of Germans say they feel they are not sufficiently informed about the new constitution. And, indeed, in spite of general support for the European project, the negative effects of the recent round of EU enlargement on German jobs appears to have unsettled many Germans.

Fear of change

When quizzed, some Germans say they feel the new EU states have come too quickly, and that the changes are too daunting. These emotions have been taken up by German euroskeptics, especially Germany’s conservatives.

Edmund Stoiber

The ultra-conservative leader of the Christian Social Union, Edmund Stoiber, for example, has demanded that conditions for the admission of Romania and Bulgaria, scheduled for 2007, be renegotiated. He fears that cheap labor from these countries would put additional pressure on German jobs, which have already been slashed -- partly as a result of low-cost competition from Eastern Europe.

This view is also shared by other conservatives such as the CDU state premier of Saarland, Peter Müller.

"The admission of 10 new countries has created a number of problems for the job market," Müller said. "Freedom to travel and to start businesses in the service sector all over the EU has intensified competition. Germans have been overwhelmed by this process and need more time to adapt to it."

Sure 'yes' vote

In spite of some conservative concerns, the EU constitution is not at risk of failing in the Bundestag vote on Thursday. CDU leader Angela Merkel said she would be able to convince about 20 party renegades to vote in favor. Most German campaigning on the issue is currently focused on France, where German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has been canvassing for a yes vote in the referedum to be held there at the end of May.

Following the vote in the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday, there will be a second vote in the upper house, the Bundesrat later in May. German politicians believe that clear parliamentary support for the EU charter would have an impact on the flagging pro-constitution campaign of their French counterparts.

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