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EU Leaders Hail New Constitution

19 June 2004 -- Leaders of European Union countries have hailed yesterday's agreement on the bloc's first-ever constitution.

French President Jacques Chirac said the agreement -- reached after two days of talks at an EU summit in Brussels -- is "historic."

"Indeed, in building up Europe, this day --18 June -- and this agreement are, without a doubt, historic," Chirac said.

In order to take effect, the constitution must now be approved by all 25 member states.

The final text requires most EU measures to be approved by a double majority of member states -- in other words at least 15 countries representing 65 percent of the EU's population.

The text preserves national vetoes in certain sensitive areas, including taxation, and foreign and defense policy.

The final text does not include any reference to Europe's Christian traditions. That omission was welcomed today by prospective EU member Turkey.