The French National Assembly and the Senate have approved the new European treaty drafted in Lisbon last fall, three years after French voters rejected the EU constitution draft. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to formally ratify it shortly.
The French parliament Friday approved the European Union's new reform treaty, turning the page on the crisis sparked in 2005 when rebellious French voters shot down the EU's ill-fated constitution.
Both the National Assembly and Senate voted resoundingly in favour of the treaty, a tailored-down version of the constitution that was consigned to oblivion in French and Dutch referendums.
It is now to be formally ratified by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who played a leading role in drawing up the new text.
France will be the fifth EU country -- and the first major EU power -- to ratify the new treaty, which must be approved in all 27 member states before it can come into force as planned in 2009.
France's Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet described it as a "historic moment" opening a fresh chapter in France's relations with the EU as it prepares to take over the six-month presidency of the bloc in July.
"This is excellent news, a great victory for France which has gone from being the country holding up Europe to being the one that pulled Europe out of gridlock," said Sarkozy's spokesman David Martinon.
Hungary was first to ratify the treaty in December, followed by Slovenia and Malta late last month and Romania which ratified the charter this week.
Sarkozy insisted the new treaty, signed in Lisbon in December, be ratified by parliament rather than risk a second referendum. But his refusal to submit it to popular scrutiny has fuelled anger across opposition ranks.
The main opposition Socialists split over the 2005 EU referendum when a rebel faction defied party leaders to campaign for a "No" vote, and the new treaty re-opened many of the old wounds.
A breakaway group of Socialist deputies joined the far-left and a handful of right-wing sovereignists in voting against the treaty on Thursday, while a small number boycotted the vote entirely.
But most of the Socialists joined the ruling Union for a Popular Movement and its centrist allies in back the bill authorising Sarkozy to ratify the treaty, which was adopted in the National Assembly by 336 votes to 52 against.
The Senate voted early Friday by 265 to 42 to approve the Lisbon treaty, with most Socialists lawmakers again joining their ruling party counterparts.
The French parliament held a special congress of both houses Monday to amend the constitution, deleting an obsolete reference to the doomed draft EU constitution, to allow the new text to enter French law.
Like the rejected constitution, the Lisbon treaty proposes a European foreign policy supremo and a permanent president to replace the six-month rotation system.
Aimed at preventing decision-making gridlock in the expanding organisation, the charter cuts the size of the European Parliament and the number of EU decisions which require unanimous support, thus reducing national vetoes.
It also includes a European charter of fundamental human and legal rights, which Britain and Poland have refused to make binding.
However it drops all references to an EU flag or anthem which had fanned eurosceptic fears of another step towards a federal Europe, and no longer cites unbridled competition as a goal for the bloc.
Slovakia's parliament was seeking on Thursday to agree on the text, while many other countries have yet to set a date for its adoption.
Germany plans to ratify the treaty by June while others such as Sweden, Spain and the Netherlands are expected to follow suit later in the year.
Only Ireland is constitutionally bound to put the new text before the electorate in a referendum, but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been forced to fight off demands for a plebiscite which most commentators believe would scupper the treaty's adoption.
Date created : 2008-02-08