European voices urge French to back treaty

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WITH FIVE days to go before the French referendum on Maastricht, political leaders of all persuasions yesterday rallied to the pro-Europe cause in exhorting the French to vote 'yes'.

Tristan Garel-Jones, the minister of state at the Foreign Office, addressed the European Parliament's 40th birthday celebrations, and gave the Maastricht treaty a ringing endorsement. Though preaching to the converted, his message was clearly intended for the British audience and all those who doubt the strength of the Government's commitment to Europe.

'It's a good treaty. It builds on a framework - a unique framework for which there is no constitutional precedent in the world. Not a superstate. Not a mere loose association of nations. But a union of free nations, of free men and women, finding new ways of working together to preserve and promote peace for themselves and others,' Mr Garel-Jones said.

Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission took up the refrain. He predicted the end of a period of 'gentle tyranny' of the European institutions - not just the Commission - 'which can decide against a background of public indifference and sometimes with the cowardly complicity of governments who, rather than get involved themselves, say 'the fault lies with Brussels'.'

He spoke of the need for two expressions of popular sovereignty, the one through the European Parliament with its reinforced powers, the other through national governments. 'The big lesson to be drawn, not only of the referendum campaigns, is that those two concepts of sovereignty have to be reconciled in a way that is rational, simple, accessible. It has to be organised in a way that is more meaningful to the ordinary citizen,' he said, with an insistence that suggested criticism of the workings of the European Community has finally hit home.

'Either Europe must become more and more democratic, driven by citizens who know that they belong not just to a country but to a group adventure, or Europe will cease to exist,' he warned.

Mr Garel-Jones, similarly, talked of the need 'to promote more clearly to all the citizens of the Community the benefits of working together. Our Community must be seen not as a maze of Euro-jargon and seemingly restrictive legislation, but as a benefit to all citizens.'

(Photograph omitted)