French Socialist heavyweight, Laurent Fabius, said he would only support the EU constitution if President Jacques Chirac pushed through a series of modifications to compensate for the constitution's "grave shortcomings." Speaking on prime time television on 9 September, Laurent Fabius said: "I am fixing one condition for the president: I want a new employment policy put in place that guards against jobs going abroad," adding that otherwise he "will say no."
He said Chirac should convince EU partners on four points:
- to reform the EU's Stability and Growth Pact which holds down levels of public spending and borrowing
- to increase EU budget for research, training and investment
- to ensure tax harmonisation across the 25 members to stop delocalisation across the EU
- to adopt a directive protecting public services.
If Chirac does decide to push for such reforms, he will face an uphill task to convince the 24 EU Member States. Fabius rivals in the French socialist party are accusing him of putting at risk a treaty that aims to streamline the newly enlarged European Union for his own political benefit. Throwing his weight behind the party's 'no' camp allows him to differentiate himself from other potential socialist candidates for the 2007 presidential election and turn the party's internal vote in November on where they stand on the constitution into an effective leadership contest.
The EU Constitution must be formally adopted by the 25 EU Member States, either by a referendum or a parliamentary vote, before it can come into force. France's position is crucial, because while EU officials say the process could survive if one or two smaller countries reject the text, rejection by a big Member State would lead the Union into uncharted territory.