Spanish football fans will get copy of EU constitution

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The Independent Online

The Spanish government has kicked off an advertising blitz to publicise the EU's proposed constitution with a flamboyant gesture aimed at the heart of the nation - a free copy for every fan who attends Madrid's football derby at the weekend.

The Spanish government has kicked off an advertising blitz to publicise the EU's proposed constitution with a flamboyant gesture aimed at the heart of the nation - a free copy for every fan who attends Madrid's football derby at the weekend.

The half-time entertainment at Sunday's match between La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will be devoted to a celebration of the document before Spaniards vote on it in a referendum on 20 February.

"The first with Europe" was the slogan beside the Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, as he unveiled the campaign yesterday.

"Polls suggest Spaniards' knowledge of the constitution is not detailed enough and they want to know more," Mr Moratinos said. "Our aim is for the broad range of people to be better informed."

Spain is the first EU member to submit the document to the popular vote, albeit a non-binding one.

Spaniards have been pro-European, ever since membership in 1986 brought the country back into the fold of Europe's democracies after the isolation during Franco's dictatorship. The campaign will stress the benefits to Spain of the past 18 years. Polls predict that 75 per cent will vote, with 43 per cent expected to vote "yes" and only 4 per cent "no".

But a survey conducted late in December found that up to 90 per cent of Spaniards have little idea what the constitution says. Hence the decision to sign football stars, radio personalities, television actors and pop singers to bring the document's prose into the nation's living rooms.

Starting from Friday, personalities whose faces are familiar to millions of Spaniards will read the text in broadcasts at noon every day. They include the footballers Johann Cruyff and Emilio Butragueño and the radio journalists Luis del Olmo and Iñaki Gabilondo.

The presentation is hardly razzmatazz - a monochrome view of a man reading platitudes from a black book. But, for most Spaniards, the intoning of noble abstractions like tolerance, justice and freedom of expression is unlikely to provoke the scepticism it might among Britons. Spaniards fought for those rights, and remember what it was like not to have them.

A rock star, Loquillo, and a couple of child actors from a TV soap add their voices to the publicity spots but there are no female readers. Five million summaries of the constitution will be sent out with the Sunday papers on 16 January, and millions of leaflets will be distributed throughout the country in the run-up to the vote.

Spain's enthusiasm for Europe has waned in recent years, but the socialist Prime Minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, argued strongly before his election victory in March that Europe - rather than the US - was Spain's natural ally. Most Spaniards agreed with him.

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