Having got their fingers thoroughly burnt in the euro referendum last year – with 56.1 percent voting against and 41.8 percent in favour, on a turnout of 81.2 percent, the Swedish political élites are determined not to suffer the same bruising experience again.
Giving the game away is leader of the Moderate Unity Party, Fredrik Reinfeldt, one of five "non-socialist" parties which, with the ruling government party, are all in favour of the EU constitution. He has found out that "it would not be possible to describe the new EU Constitution as popular with Swedish voters", so he and his political allies have done the obvious democratic thing – and decided not to have a referendum.
Instead, the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), with its built-in pro-constitution majority, will approve it for their reluctant constituents, the vote being scheduled for December next year.
In the meantime, the parties have agreed to use this year to "stimulate extensive debate about what we really want from the EU," says Lars Danielsson, the prime minister's right-hand man.
"This won't just be about the Treaty but also what the EU should do and should not do in the future: how big can the EU become, should Russia join and similar questions," he insists, adding: "We believe it is important that this debate is as wide-ranging as possible."
To aid the debate, the (pro-constitution) government has set up a new organisation called the "EU 2004 Committee", which will "compile more information on the new constitution" for distribution to the frenzied masses. Then all of the pro-constitution parties will try to organise their own debates around the country.
They will invite their largely sceptical countrymen (and women) to air their differing views of the Union", making sure they are not able to express those views in the ballot box, and then the MPs can toddle off to their Riksdag and cast their own votes in favour of the constitution.
Aren’t the Swedes lucky that they live in a democracy!
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