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Finnish parliament votes for EU constitution

Written by: Staff
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HELSINKI, May 12 (Reuters) Finland's parliament voted in favour of the European Union's stalled constitution today, clearing the way for formal ratification which the government wants as soon as possible.

The Nordic country, which takes on the 25-nation EU's rotating presidency in July, is set to become the 16th state to ratify the charter. It must still be approved by the cabinet and formally endorsed in another parliamentary vote.

But even the most ardent backers say Finnish ratification, expected in late May or early June, will make little difference to the fate of a treaty rejected by Dutch and French voters last year.

Parties in the ruling coalition as well as some opposition legislators in the 200-seat parliament voted for the charter, which is intended to streamline EU institutions and improve decision-making to cope with the bloc's enlargement.

Estonia ratified the treaty on Tuesday, but it requires unanimity to enter into force and several countries that have promised to hold referendums are holding off because of uncertainty following the French and Dutch ''noes''.

REUTERS PR KN1610

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