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German finance chief faces tough task

German finance chief faces tough task

By Ben Richardson
BBC business reporter

Germany's new finance minister Peer Steinbrueck is a man whose hobbies are likely to help him in his day job.

A lover of chess and model ships, the 58-year-old is going to have to rely on his strategic thinking and eye for fiddly detail if he is to bring Germany's battered finances in order.

His most pressing problem will be cutting Germany's record budget deficit and bringing it back within European Union limits.

Tough choices

Voters are unlikely to want spending cuts at a time when Europe's largest economy is not very far along a very bumpy road to recovery.

He also will have to work within the first "grand coalition" government between the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats since 1969.

Speaking about his replacement, outgoing minister Hans Eichel said that he was sure Mr Steinbrueck would do "very well" in his job and would continue to implement his policies.

Analysts said Mr Steinbrueck is well equipped for the job and point to a reputation for plain-speaking, as well as a willingness to reform and compromise.

Until May of this year, Mr Steinbrueck was governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

While his ousting prompted former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to call the recent general election, his time at the helm was generally well received.

Training ground

The job should stand him in good stead as North Rhine-Westphalia has an economy that is larger than Australia's and is home to some of Germany's biggest companies including Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Poste.

Following his defeat in the regional elections, Mr Steinbrueck was quoted as saying that voters had not given his pro-business policies enough credit.

Analysts also point to an earlier attempt in 2003 at cutting Germany's bloated subsidy system, when Mr Steinbrueck joined forces with Roland Koch, premier of another German state and a member of a rival political party.

The son of an architect, Mr Steinbrueck was born and grew up in the northern port city of Hamburg, before moving to study economics and social sciences in Kiel.

Seen as a pragmatic methodical worker, he joined the Social Democrats of Willy Brandt in 1969 because of his admiration for the then Chancellor and worked his way up through federal and state governments.

Rapid rise

In 1998, he took on the job of economy minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, after a stint in the same position in a different region.

Two years later, he was finance minister and in 2002 took over the top job.

A man who thought about becoming a journalist before he entered politics, Mr Steinbrueck is known for his dry sense of humour.

Unless he can tame Germany's state spending, the father of three may find he has very little to laugh about.

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Analysis: EU views on Turkish bid

Most EU countries officially welcome the prospect of Turkish membership: albeit at least a decade from now and subject to consistent evidence of Turkey's commitment to democratic values.

In contrast, public opinion in most EU countries appears, with varying degrees of intensity, to oppose Turkish membership.

Reasons cited for opposition include: Turkey's large population (70 million and rising fast); its relative poverty and doubts about its cultural compatibility with Europe. The French, Germans and Austrians seem especially unhappy with the idea.

Here is a breakdown of attitudes in some of the EU member states:

GERMANY: Opinion polls say up to three-quarters of the population oppose Turkish membership. Of the two largest political parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) say they want a "modern Turkey in the EU"; the Christian Democrats (CDU) oppose membership - proposing instead a "privileged partnership". Angela Merkel - the CDU candidate for chancellor - has appealed to EU leaders not to "encourage" Turkey.

FRANCE: Has the largest percentage of Muslims (7%) in the EU. Officially backs Turkey's membership bid. But Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin says Turkey must first recognise Cyprus. However, Nicolas Sarkozy - leader of the ruling UMP party and likely future presidential candidate - is opposed. Only 20% of public opinion says Yes to Turkey joining. A leading political pundit, Guillaume Parmentier, says: "The Turkish elite has been European for centuries; but the vast democratic expansion of Turkey involves Anatolian peasants, who are not European by culture, tradition or habit". The French have been promised a referendum after the conclusion of negotiations.

AUSTRIA: Opinion polls show 75% of 15-24 year-olds opposed to Turkish membership; rising to 82% among people over 55. This is the highest No rating in the EU.

NETHERLANDS: Has the EU's second largest Muslim population in terms of percentage (6%) after France - and is struggling to cope with the issues of religion, immigration and integration - particularly after the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh. Remains strongly divided over Turkey.

BRITAIN: An enthusiastic supporter of Turkish membership. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says Turkey in the EU would become "a beacon of democracy and modernity"; and a Muslim country providing "a shining example across the whole of its neighbouring region" - ie the Arab world. Turkish membership would disprove the "clash of civilisations" theory.

ITALY: Another strong supporter of Turkish membership. The government stresses historical links between Italy and the "Near East"; the need to "anchor" Turkey in the West; and the commercial opportunities offered by the Turkish market. Public opinion, while not particularly hostile, appears less enthusiastic - actual support for Turkish membership standing at below 40%.

POLAND: The largest of the 10 "new" EU members, who joined in May 2004 - with more than half of their combined population. 54% of the public support Turkish membership. Officials say Turkey would strengthen pro-American attitudes within the EU and consolidate Western influence on the approaches to the Middle East and the Caucasus. Poles also cite a history of close bilateral relations going back several hundred years.

SPAIN: A poll showed 33% opposing Turkish membership, but 42% in favour - as is the government. Back in June, following the French and Dutch rejection of the EU draft constitution, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos suggested postponing the Turkish accession talks until a more advantageous time.

GREECE: was under Ottoman occupation for more than 400 years. Some Greeks still regard Istanbul as a "Greek" city. Another country where politicians and public opinion diverge. Opinion polls suggest only 25% of Greeks believe Turkey has a place in the European Union. The government, meanwhile, is keen to resolve bilateral tensions through Turkish integration. But it says the fate of Turkey's EU application depends, primarily, on the Turks themselves - especially where recognition of Cyprus in concerned. .

HUNGARY: was under Ottoman occupation for 150 years, in the 16th and 17th centuries. But there is little anti-Turkish feeling - around half the population supporting Turkish membership. However, like Austria, Hungary is also pressing the case of neighbouring Croatia: which, according to Foreign Minister Ferenc Somogyi, is "spectacularly further ahead" than Turkey on most accession criteria.

DENMARK: Strong public resistance to Turkish membership. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen - until recently supportive - has been heard talking of "special partnerships" as well.

SWEDEN: Strong popular resistance. However, the government sees Turkish membership in terms of "supporting Turkey's reform process and increasing contacts with Turkish society" - as well as Swedish business opportunities.

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Who are Nepal's Maoist rebels?

Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK

Just when it seems that revolutionary communism has all but disappeared in the world, Nepal's Maoist rebels seem to grow stronger and stronger.
It is estimated that they now have between 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, and are active across the country, with many parts completely under their control.

So how did the rebels transform themselves from a small group of shotgun-wielding insurgents in 1996 to the formidable fighting force they are today?

The disillusionment of the Maoists with the Nepalese political system began after democracy was re-introduced in 1990.

Shining Path

Many who are key figures in the rebel movement today played a role alongside mainstream political parties in over-throwing Nepal's absolute monarchy.

Although they participated in the country's first parliamentary elections, their disenchantment with ceaseless political squabbling - and their anger at the plight of the rural poor - prompted them to take up arms.

In doing so, there is little doubt that the two key rebel leaders, Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, derived their inspiration from Peru's Shining Path rebels.

Both men wanted to emulate the Shining Path's stated objective of destroying government institutions and replacing them with a revolutionary peasant regime.

As with the Shining Path, Nepal's Maoists deal with dissent ruthlessly. Human rights groups say that like the security forces, they are guilty of numerous summary executions and cases of torture.

The Nepalese Maoists have also made some "homegrown" modifications to Maoist ideology.

Caste resentment

They argue that what makes them different from other communist parties in the country is that they want a complete revamp of the multiparty democratic system as part of a programme aimed at turning the country into a Marxist republic.

But on this issue there is some ambiguity, because in the past Maoist negotiators have hinted that they will abandon this demand so that the peace process can be kick-started.

In fact the only area where they have stayed consistent is in their demand for an end to Nepal's constitutional monarchy.

Another key grievance of the rebels was the resentment felt by lower caste people against the authority wielded by the higher castes.

The Maoists say that the reason they have so much support is because most of their supporters have traditionally been treated as second-class citizens or worse.

Many analysts that this is the real explanation as to why such a seemingly anachronistic movement has made such dramatic headway.

Unquestionably there is a substantial number of people in Nepal who see the Maoists as the only genuine alternative to the old, repressive social order.

The first Maoist attack is believed to have taken place in 1996, when six government and police outposts were attacked simultaneously in mid-western Nepal. Similar attacks took place on a regular basis in the same area over the next few years.

Initially the rebels were not taken seriously at all by the government, diplomats, journalists or the all-pervasive aid agencies that dominate Nepal's economy. They were lightly armed and not considered a genuine military threat.

Rebel abductions

But since then they have become one of South Asia's most potent rebel groups, rivalling the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka.

Today the Maoists are well organised, and the firepower at their disposal greater than ever.

Rifles and explosives have been stolen from captured police outposts and it is believed that the country's open border with India has made it easier to smuggle arms and money.

So powerful have the Maoists become that few dare defy them when they call a general strike in Kathmandu. The rebels' threat to cut off the city from the rest of the country can no longer be considered an idle threat.

Only a few weeks ago, the rebels abducted hundreds of school children for a week long "re-education" course on Maoist ideology right under the noses of the security forces on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

The Maoists may not yet have the strength to win their "People's War" but they are too strong to lose it.

As one analyst put it, the government appears to be caught in a classic catch-22 situation.

Until there is substantial social and economic development in the areas of the countryside where the Maoists hold sway, the insurgency will continue.

But development cannot happen until the government gains even limited access to these areas, and access can only be achieved by using highly unpopular and potentially counterproductive military means against a well-organised guerrilla army.



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Q&A: Iraqi election

Iraq's landmark election was held on 30 January 2005.
What did Iraqis vote for?

Iraqis voted for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly.

The election treated the whole country as one constituency. Political parties submitted lists of candidates, and every third name had to be a woman's. Candidates were had to be at least 30-years -old.

Parties or groups with militias could not run for election and nor could current members of the armed forces. Also barred from standing were former senior members of the Baath Party, the political instrument of Saddam Hussein's rule.

The seats will be allocated by exact proportional representation, which means that each party or grouping will get the same proportion of seats in the assembly as it gets for its list in the popular vote.

What powers will the assembly have?

The assembly will have law-making powers. But first it must elect a state presidency council made up of a president and two deputies. The council in turn will choose a prime minister who will select ministers. The assembly will then vote on the make-up of the government. The prime minister will be the key figure, having control over the armed forces, for example.

The assembly's other main role will be to write a draft constitution by 15 August and submit this to referendum by 15 October. Parliamentary elections are due in December.

When will the results be known?

It could be four or five days or even a week until the votes are counted. Then the independent electoral commission is expected to take until about 20 February before it certifies the result. At that stage the seats won by each party will be confirmed.

Will any foreign observers monitor the poll?

Iraqi electoral officials have said as many as 120 international monitors will be in Iraq to help supervise the election. Despite speculation that there would be no international monitors because of the security situation, the head of the electoral commission told the BBC the US and British embassies would provide staff to act as monitors, as would the Canadian, German and Romanian embassies.

He said there would also be monitors from Indonesia, Mexico, Panama and Albania, and added that some of the monitors would be supervising the vote outside Baghdad.

Some international monitors will be operating from Amman in Jordan because of security considerations.

How long before a government is formed?

The assembly first has to choose the presidency council. The council has two weeks in which to select a prime minister who has four weeks to nominate a government. There then has to be a vote in the assembly.

The whole process could go on until the end of March or the beginning of April, though if deals are done quickly, this timeframe could be shortened.

In the meantime the current interim government continues in office.

What about security?

This is a major problem. The US military increased its strength from 135,000 to 150,000, but much of the protection work at voting places was carried out by the Iraqi security forces, whose ability remains in doubt.

Iraq's land borders were sealed for a three-day period around the vote - an apparent effort to stop insurgent infiltration.

Vehicles without permits were not be allowed onto the roads over the same period, and existing curfews were be extended in the hope of preventing bomb attacks.

The three days over the election were declared a public holiday, with all shops and offices staying shut.

On the day, a series of bombings and mortar attacks killed 36 people, but turnout was higher than expected.

Will all parts of Iraq vote?

The interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has admitted violence would prevent "pockets" of Iraq voting in the election.

This will have an impact on whether the poll will be regarded as valid, especially if the "pockets" prove to be large ones.

A US general has said the lack of security could deter many voters in four of Iraq's 18 provinces that hold nearly a quarter of its total population.

The provinces include two of Iraq's largest three cities, Baghdad and Mosul, as well as Falluja and Tikrit in the country's Sunni Arab heartland.

Correspondents say there was a marked division in voting - high in Shia and Kurdish strongholds and much lower in Sunni Arab areas.

Who is likely to win?

Since Shia Muslims form about 60% of the population, parties representing them are likely to win the most seats. These parties have united in a list called the United Iraqi Alliance.

On the other hand, the Sunni Muslims, with about 20% of the people, are either boycotting the election or will find it hard to vote because of the violence which mainly affects their areas.

Mr Allawi has his own list, and the Kurds in the north have formed a united front.

If the Sunnis do not or cannot vote in large numbers, there will be the problem of how they are to be represented in the constitutional talks.

Will Iraqis living abroad be allowed to vote?

Yes. The International Office of Migration has set up voting places in 14 countries that have a substantial expatriate Iraqi population.

A total of 280,303 Iraqi exiles in 14 countries have registered to vote - roughly one in four of those eligible to do so.

Voters had to prove Iraqi citizenship and be born before 31 December 1986. They must vote in person from 28 to 30 January.

What about the future of foreign troops?

According to UN Security Council Resolution 1546, the mandate of the foreign troops in Iraq will cease when the new fully constitutional government takes office, though the troops could then be asked to stay by the new authorities.

However, there will also be a review before this, in June, and at any stage the troops could be asked to leave.

When will there be a fully constitutional government?

If the constitution is approved in October, an election will be held by 15 December and a fully constitutional government will take power by 31 December. If the constitution is rejected, there will be a new assembly election by 15 December, and a further year is then allowed for the whole process.

There is also provision for a delay of six months if not enough progress is made on the constitution by 1 August.



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EU Constitution: Where member states stand

The European Constitution will be signed on 29 October at a ceremony in Rome, but before it can be adopted it must be ratified by all 25 EU member states, either through a referendum or by vote in the national parliament.

Use the clickable map to find out how each country will try to ratify the constitution, and what issues are most important to their voters. You can also find out the results of the most recent Eurobarometer poll, which asked participants in each country to respond to the statement: "The European Union must adopt a constitution."

Former Prime Minister Jose Manuel Barroso, who resigned in July to become head of the European Union Commission, told parliament in June that his government would hold a referendum. His successor, Pedro Santana Lopes - after a period of silence on the issue - has reaffirmed that commitment. April has been mooted as a possible date.

Concerns have been expressed by some politicians that the constitution will mean Portuguese interests are swept away by larger countries in the name of efficiency. Among those hoping that the constitution will be passed, there are fears that low turnout in a referendum could lead to rejection.

Eurobarometer: 81% rather agree, 7% rather disagree

Portugal vague on EU referendum

Ireland will hold a referendum on the constitution in late 2005, or early 2006.

The debate, to the extent it exists, focuses on the impact the constitution might have on the country's neutrality, as well as on social issues such as abortion. As with other small countries, there are also concerns that Ireland may find itself trampled upon by the larger countries.

If Ireland votes no in the referendum, it would not be the first time. Voters rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001, narrowly approving it when it was re-presented a year later.

Eurobarometer: 81% rather agree, 12% rather disagree

Irish Yes vote not a done deal

Spain will be the first country to hold a referendum on the constitution, having already set a date of 20 February, 2005.

All of the country's major parties are set to back the campaign. However former conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, going against the official line of his People's Party, has attacked his Socialist successor's decision to relinquish Spain's favourable voting weights, and urged Spaniards to think carefully before voting in favour.

There is also opposition to the constitution emanating from regional parties in Catalonia who want Catalan recognised as an official EU language and representation of the region within the European Union's institutions. This would be Spain's first referendum on European affairs.

Eurobarometer: 93% rather agree, 5% rather disagree

Spain rallies to EU Constitution

The UK last held a referendum nearly 30 years ago. It was on whether to stay in the European Community - and on that occasion over 60% thought the country should.

In this referendum, antipathy towards Brussels among some citizens and a lack of interest in its activities among others is likely to make a pro-constitution campaign difficult.

Britain's primary concerns relate to a feared loss of sovereignty and anxiety that a European superstate is in the making. The UK government has not yet specified a date, but it is thought highly unlikely that one will be held before the next general election - which many anticipate will take place in May.

The more Eurosceptic Conservative Party has promised a prompt referendum if elected.

Eurobarometer: 51% rather agree, 34% rather disagree

Uphill EU battle for Blair

The last time European issues were put to a referendum in France, the country only narrowly voted in favour. The Maastricht treaty was passed by a margin of just 2%. Recent polls nonetheless suggest that the broad majority of people in France support the constitution.

However many are deeply opposed to Turkey joining the union, and in order to stop the referendum on the constitution becoming a vote on that, Mr Chirac has offered a separate plebiscite on Turkey's membership. But even with this concession, pro-constitution campaigners still face a rough ride.

There are concerns within the mainstream parties that the constitution does not allow for deep enough integration, while members of the French left feel that the document gives too much weight to liberal Anglo-Saxon economic and social policies. Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius has declared the text insufficient for the creation of a "social" Europe.

The Socialists are due to decide a common position in December. A referendum could be held as early as May 2005.

Eurobarometer: 85% rather agree, 8% rather disagree

France cools towards EU project

This would be the first nationwide referendum on any subject, but would not actually be binding.

The referendum, likely to be held early in 2005, is widely expected to return a yes vote from a nation which is, on the whole, in favour of closer integration but which does have concerns about the democratic legitimacy of the EU.

The Netherlands is also the biggest per capita contributor to the EU budget and has become irritated by the club's costs and the flouting of the eurozone's stability and growth pact. As the vote is purely consultative, even if the Dutch people rejected the constitution, parliament would still be able to ratify it.

Eurobarometer: 72% rather agree, 25% rather disagree.

EU faces Dutch grudge test

This is a non-binding referendum, as the Belgian constitution does not recognise the power of referendums. However it is unlikely to be rejected - despite the opposition of Flemish nationalists to what they see as the creation of a federal superstate.

The debate so far has focused more on the referendum itself. Former Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene is opposed to a popular vote: "A referendum is not the zenith of democracy," he argues, claiming that nine out of 10 people will not bother to read the constitution. It was said that the vote would be held within 50 days of the final text being agreed, which, in principle means it could take place before Christmas. This, however, seems unlikely.

Eurobarometer: 86% rather agree, 10% rather disagree.

Luxembourg's referendum will be the first since 1936 in the tiny duchy, one of the six founding members of the EU.

Although there are concerns that the constitution is not wholly advantageous for smaller states, the 500,000-strong country is thought likely to approve it in 2005.

Eurobarometer: 88% rather agree, 8% rather disagree.

EU apathy reigns in Luxembourg

Denmark rejected the Maastricht treaty in 1992, adopting it after winning opt-outs in 1993.

It could well be one of the countries that rejects the constitution when its referendum is held in late 2005, amid general concerns about declining Danish sovereignty and the ceding of powers to Brussels.

Eurobarometer: 62% rather agree, 24% rather disagree.

The principal point of contention so far has been whether Germany could hold a referendum at all. Plebiscites, abused by the Nazis to consolidate power, are banned under the current German constitution, but this could be changed by a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The opposition conservatives are divided on the issue, and there are also reservations among members of the ruling Social Democrat and Green parties. Should the legislation be passed, a referendum could be held in autumn 2005. It would likely be approved by Germans, who are overwhelmingly pro-European.

Nonetheless, there are fears that the referendum might be used as an occasion to voice anger with the deeply unpopular domestic reforms of Chancellor Schroeder's government, particularly by voters in the east.

Eurobarometer: 81% rather agree, 14% rather disagree.

German EU referendum dilemma

Italy had suggested that it might hold a referendum on the issue: several senior politicians backed such a move and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi himself said that he could not see any obstacles to a public vote. However, the foreign minister has since announced that it will be parliament which ratifies the document, and indeed that the house would be asked to provide its approval before Christmas.

Mr Berlusconi may face a revolt within his own coalition from the right-wing Northern League party, which fears the erosion of national and regional sovereignty, but he is likely to win the support of centre-left opposition parties.

The Pope's denunciation of the treaty for failing to include a reference to Christianity does not seem to have come into play.

Eurobarometer: 94% rather agree, 5% rather disagree

EU drama overshadows Italy's plans

The Maltese government has ruled out a referendum arguing that there is no legal basis and that the March 2003 accession referendum was decisive.

Malta had the tightest poll on joining among all the accession states, with 54% voting in favour and 46% against.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party had said at the time that he would not sign the accession treaty if elected.

The party, which has 30 seats in the 65 member house, has not yet declared what position it will take on ratification.

Eurobarometer: 75% rather agree, 11% rather disagree.

In the last referendum they held, the Swedes rejected the single European currency. The constitution will not be put to a popular vote. A bill on ratification will be presented to the Swedish parliament by September 2005 with a view to adoption in December 2005, according to the plan.

A majority in the current Swedish parliament is in favour of the constitution, although the Swedish Green Party and the Left Party are keen that a referendum be held.

Sweden has the lowest level of popular support for a constitution across the 25-member bloc, according to Eurobarometer.

Eurobarometer: 50% rather agree, 26% rather disagree

Prime Minister Stanislav Gross has said that a referendum on the constitution could be held in June 2006, at the same time as the country's general elections, in which the more Eurosceptic, pro-American Civic Democrats are expected to do well.

Whether by parliament or referendum, the ratification process is not expected to be an easy one.

Eurobarometer: 65% rather agree, 15% rather disagree.

Czechs delay constitution vote

A referendum is deemed highly unlikely. A two-thirds majority is needed in parliament for the constitution to be passed.

Austria's particular concern has been the country's neutrality, and how that may be affected by the suggestion of mutual defence. However it is widely expected that the constitution will get the support it needs for ratification.

Eurobarometer: 78% rather agree, 14% rather disagree.

There have recently been changes at the top in Slovenia, with the right-leaning Social Democratic Party making a breakthrough in elections amid reports of rising Euroscepticism.

The party's leader, Janez Jansa, has, however, vowed to continue with the country's pro-Western stance.

A referendum is thought highly unlikely.

Eurobarometer: 87% rather agree, 4% rather disagree.

Poland is regarded as one of the more sceptical countries on the constitution, and tough debate is expected before the referendum. Supporters and opponents within the political establishment are about evenly divided.

Key issues for the Poles are the reduction of voting powers implicit in the Constitution, compared to the structure set down at Nice, as well as the broader sentiment that the country got a "bad deal" when it joined the EU - particularly in terms of agriculture. There are also concerns about German domination.

The poll could be held in Autumn 2005 to coincide with the presidential elections, so, as the incumbent Aleksander Kwasniewski has declared, voters can see "which presidential candidates are supporters of a Europe united in its diversity".

Some 77% of Poles approved of the country joining the EU in 2003.

Eurobarometer: 71% rather agree, 22% rather disagree.

Slovakia looks increasingly unlikely to hold a referendum on the constitution.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has won the support of the two most significant opposition leaders, Robert Fico and Vladimir Meciar, for ratifying the constitution through parliament, rather than public vote. "It is better to have bad rules, than none," Mr Meciar said after the meeting.

Eurobarometer: 70% rather agree, 11% rather disagree.


Hungarians are among the more pro-European of the new members. According to reports, there is little substantial debate on the constitution in Hungary, where parliament is expected to easily pass the treaty at some point in 2005.

Eurobarometer: 90% rather agree, 5% rather disagree.

Greece has a tradition of ratifying treaties through parliament, and the constitution will not be no exception.

As well as the support of the government, the constitution also has the backing of the main opposition party, the recently defeated socialists Pasok.

Eurobarometer: 89% rather agree, 9% rather disagree.

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen has ruled out the need for a referendum, saying that the EU would not change so much under the new constitution that a referendum would be needed.

However, there has been disagreement from a number of prominent Finnish politicians, including Minister of Trade and Industry Mauri Pekkarinen as well as Justice Minister Johannes Koskinen, who suggested a public vote should be held together with the next Finnish presidential elections in 2006.

Eurobarometer: 76% rather agree, 15% rather disagree.

Estonians are among the more Eurosceptic of the new members.

The Estonian government has decided not to have a referendum on the constitution - a decision the majority of the country's parties agree with. The final decision on ratifying the treaty will be taken by the parliament.

Eurobarometer: 57% rather agree, 8% rather disagree.

Latvia will ratify the treaty in parliament.

The country is currently holding out for a separate declaration to accompany the constitution which would allow it to keep its own spelling of euro. However it has said that this reservation will not stand in the way of the signing.

Eurobarometer: 76% rather agree, 9% rather disagree.

Lithuania became the first country in the EU to ratify the new EU constitution on 11 November, passing it by 84 votes to four with three abstentions.

It was argued that a referendum was unnecessary given that one had been held on joining the EU in the first place in which 91% voted yes.

Eurobarometer: 76% rather agree, 9% rather disagree.

Cyprus did not have a referendum on joining the EU and will not hold one on the constitution.

Eurobarometer: 83% rather agree, 8% rather disagree.



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