By Humphrey Carter
SPANISH Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero yesterday tried to stay off the issue of Gibraltar, preferring to talk about the new European Constitution.

Enjoying the first full day of his summer holiday in Minorca with a tour of Mahon Harbour, Zapatero, who celebrated his 44th birthday on the same day Gibraltar marked 300 years of British rule, said that the Gibraltar celebrations had been planned long before the general elections. He told Spanish reporters that Tony Blair has even been criticised by certain parts of the British media.

The Prime Minister went on to talk about the future of Europe and urged all parties opposed to ratifying the new constitution, to seriously consider their positions.

The Prime Minister also said that the Spanish government, in preparation for the February referendum on the constitution, plans to launch a major campaign to make sure that the majority of people are not only aware of the referendum, but also what the constitution means and how Spain will benefit.

He said that he and his government's position has been bolstered by the “positive” results of the Gallup Polls recently carried out in Spain.
He added that, considering that the constitution does not have to be ratified until November 1, 2006, there is plenty of time for opposition parties to realise the benefits the new constitution will bring to members of the European Union.

Hinting that the start of the summer holidays marks the end of his honeymoon as Prime Minister, Zapatero said that when parliament resumes in September, his government has a number of key legislative changes to make.

Top of his agenda is more equality for women, increasing citizens' rights and improving workers' rights and conditions.
Terrorism remains a key issue, but he said he is not prepared to start using the findings of the investigation into the March 11 Madrid bombings to attack the opposition Partido Popular and the former Conservative government.

Next month he will be meeting the families of the victims.


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