PARIS -- As protesting farmers blocked roads leading to the French capital, a special joint session of the French Parliament yesterday overwhelmingly approved constitutional changes necessary to set up a critical national referendum that many believe will determine the fate of the movement for European political and economic union.
Without the changes, France could not have participated in the unified Europe. The French national vote on ratification of the treaty for European political and economic union, signed by the leaders of the 12 European Community members in December in the Dutch city of Maastricht, has been proposed for this fall.
With combined support from the governing Socialist Party and its traditional rival, the moderate right-wing Union for French Democracy party, the delegates to the Constitutional Congress, who met outside Paris, easily achieved the three-fifths majority necessary for approval. The final vote was 592 to 73.
Socialist government leaders were ecstatic over the result, which enables Mr. Mitterrand to bring good news with him to a summit of European leaders set to begin tomorrow in Lisbon, Portugal.
The upcoming French referendum is widely viewed as the make-or-break test in the 40-year effort to forge a European union
Polls show that a majority of French support the European proposals but indicate that the support has slipped steadily. Some of the internal divisions were evident yesterday as French farmers, protesting proposed European cuts in farm subsidies for their crops, attempted a blockade of the French capital by parking fleets of tractors on major roads leading into the city.