RIGA - In an unsurprising move, Latvia's Parliament ratified the EU Constitutional Treaty in the final reading on June 2 with 71 MPs voting for, five against and six abstaining. The required majority of votes for ratification was two-thirds or 67 votes.
All MPs from the ruling coalition and part of the opposition voted in favor of the EU Constitution. The five lawmakers who voted against were from the left-wing opposition Latvian Socialist Party.
Those MPs who abstained were from the left-wing opposition alliance For Human Rights in a United Latvia and Maris Gulbis, an independent.
Nationalist Fatherland and Freedom (FF)/LNNK, which formally sits in the opposition but usually supports the ruling coalition, did not participate in the vote.
Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks addressed the lawmakers before the decisive vote, urging them to support the EU Constitution. He said that Latvia now had a chance to be the first to say 'yes' after the French and the Dutch had said 'no.'
"If Latvia had voted against on Saturday or Sunday, would news agencies ask the French whether it made sense to vote," asked the foreign minister, recalling questions by foreign journalists.
He agreed that the EU Constitution was not a "perfect" document, but it gave Latvia the chance to achieve its interests. "I do not want to wait for others to decide on our behalf," Pabriks concluded his speech.
MP Aleksandrs Kirsteins, who recently was expelled from the ruling People's Party but still remains as head of the foreign committee, called on Parliament to delay the ratification until fall.
Once France and the Netherlands have rejected the EU Constitution, "it is wrong to speak about the existence of the constitution in this form," he said.
As the foreign committee received no new proposals for the second reading, no debate was opened, following parliamentary rule.
FF/LNNK lawmaker Peteris Tabuns objected to this, saying that the document was far too important to give up the debate.
His fellow party member Maris Grinblats later told the press that the vote should have been put off in view of the French and the Dutch having rejected the EU Constitution, mistakes still uncorrected in the Latvian-language text and the possibility of revising the document.
Parliament approved the EU Constitutional Treaty in the first reading on May 19. The document is meant to ensure efficiency in decision-making following EU enlargement last May.
Leaders of all EU member states have already signed the constitution. However, the document will come into effect only after each member state has ratified the treaty either in a parliamentary vote or a referendum. The treaty will come into effect as of Nov. 1, 2006 once ratified by all member states.
By now the EU Constitution has been ratified by Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The French rejected the EU Constitution in a referendum on May 29, and the Dutch also said 'no' in a referendum on June 1.
If the EU Constitution is not ratified, decisions in the EU will made according to the Nice Treaty currently in effect.