PM announces EU vote

Portugal has announced that it will hold a referendum on the new European constitution. The new constitution, agreed by the 25 EU leaders recently, must win approval in each member state, either by a vote in parliament or by public referendum.

The constitution sets out the powers of the national governments of the member states and the EU’s various institutions, as well as a charter of fundamental rights. It also details how the union will conduct a wide range of internal and foreign policies.

Prime Minister Durão Barroso said the referendum would be held at the beginning of next year. “I have always said that a referendum should be held if two conditions are in place: firstly, if there is a new constitutional treaty and, secondly, if that treaty brings truly relevant new matters for the future relationship between Portugal and Europe.”

It is understood that Barroso and President Sampaio agreed to hold the referendum during a private meeting last week. Although Sampaio had given private indications of being against the referendum, he has never voiced his opposition in public. The opposition Socialist Party has already confirmed its intention to vote in favour of the new constitution. Only the communists and other far-left parties are expected to vote against.