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Spaniards yawn at sales pitch for EU Constitution

This Sunday, Spain becomes the first country to vote on Europe's new Constitution.

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Filmed in moody black and white, one of Spain's most famous authors reads stentoriously about liberty and civil rights. A few seconds later, those same words - an article, it turns out, from the proposed European Union (EU) Constitution - appear on screen, etched against a blue sky. Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" swells in the background.

The future of the much-debated Constitution may well be determined by the effectiveness of these ads. After years of being haggled over by elites in Brussels, the charter finally gets its first popular test this Sunday in Spain. And Spain's pro-EU Socialist government is doing its utmost to pass the document with flying colors - undertaking a huge campaign to sell Spaniards on the idea that ratification is essential to the nation's well-being.

But Teresa Rodríguez is not buying it. Although she has seen the television commercial - one in a series designed to acquaint Spaniards with the Constitution - she does not plan on voting this Sunday. Rodríguez, who owns a dry-cleaning shop in Madrid, confesses: "I just don't care about it. I know I should, but I don't."

Indeed, even though surveys indicate they'll ratify the charter, many Spaniards say they haven't been stirred by the debate.

The lack of interest stems in part from the competing messages they have received. Politicians claim the referendum provides the opportunity to do everything, from approving the political status quo, to reining in "capitalist interests." Many citizens maintain it means little at all.

The charter establishes a permanent government for the EU, describes the terms of economic cooperation, and guarantees human rights within the member states. Completed last July, it now begins the torturous process of ratification. At least 10 countries have decided to hold referenda on the matter; others will send the document to their parliaments.


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