Richard North, 05/12/2004  

That is the view of Italian minister of justice Roberto Castelli, who is convinced that the EU constitution should be approved in Italy with a popular referendum. He is sure it would then be approved.

"The road to the EU Constitution,” he said on Radio Padania Libera, "was concluded in Rome last month, having started with the referendum in 1989. Perhaps the Italian people did not completely realise back then exactly what they were deciding, but 90 percent voted for, therefore that decision must stand. One can, however, debate and it would be nice for a road opened with a referendum, to be closed in the same way, as other European countries are doing."

One does love the candour of these Italians: "Perhaps the Italian people did not completely realise… what they were deciding." You bet!

Anyhow, Castelli disputes that there is a constitutional bar (Italian constitution, that is), saying that it would be easy enough to make a constitutional law, as was done in 1998. "Parliament could approve it in a really short time", he says.

Not only that, he adds, the ministers who are in favour of the EU constitution are those who should have an interest in having a vote because "after the bombardment of propaganda that we had on the importance of Europe, I believe the Italian people would vote for a 'yes'". The campaign, though, would mean that there would be a public debate.

Interestingly, a referendum would rather put Prodi on the spot. He would have to support it, but that would put him alongside Berlusconi, at the same time he was gearing up to fight him for the premiership. If Berlusconi has a sense of humour, he should go for it.

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