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The French socialists are facing divisions on what is the best approach to take when it comes to ratification of the newly agreed EU treaty, with an abstention from the vote in parliament appearing to be the likely option.

Many are considering abstaining from the ratification vote as they believe the new text "lacks ambition", Le Monde writes.

It does not offer all the improvements the socialists had hoped for and the opt-out of the UK from the fundamental rights charter goes against the European spirit, French socialist MEPs Pierre Moscovici and Bernard Poignant have written in today's (24 October) Le Monde.

Nevertheless, the two euro-deputies say the French socialists should opt for a "critical yes" and ratify the new treaty, rather than abstain or refuse to vote.

"Rather than vainly dividing themselves on the institutional instrument, we would like that the socialists concentrate on the project of a political, social, economic, environmental, internationally powerful Europe", they write.

"We think that the right position of our party is, despite everything, despite the text's insufficiencies (_), a critical yes rather than a constructive abstention", they conclude.

Another problematic point for the socialists besides the text itself is the way of ratification - they would have preferred a referendum rather than a parliamentarian vote to ratify the document.

"What right does the president of the Republic have to substitute a parliamentarian vote to the French people's vote?", asked Henri Emmanuelli, one of the campaigners against the EU constituion in 2005.

Segolene Royal, the socialists' presidential candidate during the spring elections, had promised in her campaign that a popular vote would take place on the new treaty.

But in an interview with daily Liberation earlier this week, Ms Royal said the referendum was not "a question of principle".

She said the new treaty should be ratified as fast as possible in order to move forward to a next level - preparing a European social treaty.

"We don't have time to waste in dividing [on the matter]", she said, adding that "even imperfect", the document agreed by EU leaders last week could put Europe back on track.

A common position

The French socialists were already divided three years ago on whether they should vote "yes" or "no" to the failed European Constitution.

They even held an internal referendum on the issue in December 2004 - the yes side won by 59 to 26 percent - after which two camps formed within the party, campaigning for and against the constitution.

Today, most of the former "no" campaigners are considering abstaining from the vote on the new treaty. Some would even vote against it.

But unlike 2005, the socialist party wants this time to agree on a common position by the time of the ratification vote and this position would be either a yes vote, or an abstention, according to Mr Le Foll.

A socialist vote against the text does not seem like a realistic option.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy would like to submit the new treaty to the country's Constitutional Council as early as 14 December - the day after it is set to be signed off by EU leaders.

He wants the parliamentarian ratification to be finalised in the beginning of 2008.

"I would be very happy if France could be one of the first European countries to ratify this simplified treaty", the president said on Friday (19 October) in Lisbon after the text received initial political approval.

He added that after having rejected the EU constitution two years ago, France should now set a new example.

Commenting on the socialists' divisions, Mr Sarkozy said that "the socialist party will have to take its responsibilities. It will have to assume a choice for Europe or against Europe"


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