European Parliament to Vote on Constitution

The European Parliament (search) is expected to give wide endorsement to the European Union's first-ever constitution Wednesday, making it the third European legislature to ratify the treaty which aims to streamline how the EU works.

The 732-member EU assembly, meeting in Strasbourg, France, was to give its approval and call on EU governments to move quickly to sell the constitution, which faces widespread opposition in several EU-skeptic countries.

The draft resolution to be voted on "endorses the constitutional treaty and wholeheartedly supports its ratification." Observers said there was no doubt the proposal would pass.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker (search), whose country holds the EU presidency, urged all EU governments and the European Parliament to ratify the treaty, which was signed in Rome last October after a two-year drafting process.

"The ratification will not be easy everywhere," Juncker told the EU assembly. "Of course the constitution is not perfect, but let's judge this by the yardstick of what Europe needs."

During an all-day debate Tuesday, EU lawmakers urged governments to win over voters in referendums to ensure that the EU's new constitution is ratified in all 25 member states.

The resolution calls on EU governments to ensure "all possible efforts be deployed to inform European citizens clearly and objectively about the content of the constitution."

Parliaments in Lithuania and Hungary already approved the treaty late last year. The other EU nations will all have to approve it either in parliamentary votes or by referendum before it takes effect in 2007.

It faces referendums in at least nine countries, including Britain and Denmark where euro-skeptic opinion runs strong. Spain holds the first referendum Feb. 20.