Latvia ratifies European Union constitution

Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, has overwhelmingly ratified the European Union’s Constitution Treaty, giving EU officials some hope after the treaty’s recent defeat at the hands of voters in France and the Netherlands.

Latvia’s decision on June 2 brings to 10 the number of EU member states that have ratified the 25-nation treaty. The vote in the Saeima was 71 in favor, five opposed and six abstaining.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks welcomed the ratification.

“The members of parliament decided to align themselves with a dynamic, vital, competitive and egalitarian Europe,” he said in a press release.

The constitution’s defeat in France and the Netherlands is being viewed by many observers as a referendum on those countries’ governments, not necessarily on the European Union. In France, the defeat also led to the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Latvia, which became a member of the EU last year along with nine other eastern and central European nations, is the second Baltic state to ratify the constitution. Lithuania’s parliament ratified the treaty in November. Estonia’s parliament has yet to vote.

The EU constitution is actually a treaty. Its main purpose is to clarify and simplify some of the structures of the EU. It does not replace the national constitutions of the EU’s member states, but it can in some cases trump a nation’s laws.

Each of the 25 member states has to approve the constitutional treaty according to its own methods, which may be by a vote in its parliament, by a referendum, or a combination of the two.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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