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Cold feet in Warsaw

Posted by Richard Monday, December 27, 2004

On this morning's BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Peter Mandelson called for Britain to use the referendum to "re-cement" its relationship with Europe.

"Every generation or so in Britain, there needs to be an opportunity to re-state or re-cement our commitment to the European Union," he told the programme. "This is one such opportunity and I think people need to seize it."

Nevertheless, he announced that he would not be playing a central role in the campaign, but would be cheering on Tony Blair "from the sidelines."

Not cheering at all, however, according to the Warsaw Business Journal, are Polish politicians. They seem to be falling over themselves in their haste not to hold their referendum.

At the very earliest, President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, together with left wing parties, wants the referendum to be held at the same time as next year's presidential election.

Worried that the turnout might not meet the requirements for a minimum 50 percent vote, he believes that the presidential elections might attract more voters than the referendum held on its own.

But the main opposition parties want to leave the referendum until 2006, until after UK has held its vote, in the expectation that the constitution will be rejected. The hope is then that Poland will not have to hold its own referendum.

Perhaps they need to borrow some cement from Mr Mandelson.