by MONITOR
THE French parliament is expected to ratify the European Union's Lisbon Treaty (previously the Reform Treaty) this week. It is almost three years since French voters chose to reject the EU Constitution, drafted by one of their former Presidents, and in doing so brought the EU's reform process to a standstill. There are still opponents of the Treaty who, like their counterparts in Britain, want a referendum on it but President Sarkozy has refused them and insisted that parliamentary ratification is now the appropriate process. His reasons were interesting. To hold a referendum and risk a No vote would, he said “be catastrophic for Europe” and risk France's “exclusion from European integration”. He also said that if France held a referendum it would force Britain to do so - a course that might leave Europe “condemned”. Mr Sarkozy's frankness is admirable and the prerogative of a president; Prime ministers have to proceed more cautiously. The French voters' opposition in 2005 was as much a protest at President Chirac's overall policies as a specific rejection of the Constitution. The atmosphere in the country is now rather different. Although Sarkozy's reforms are far from assured the economic climate is more promising than in 2005, despite the recent bank scandal. A recent poll by the Foundation Robert Schuman showed that pro-European sentiment has risen by eight points over the past year. “The French tasted isolation in Europe in recent years and did not like it” said the chairman of the Foundation.