( dpa ) - The lower house of the French Parliament, the National Assembly, on Thursday approved a bill empowering President Nicolas Sarkozy to ratify the EU reform treaty.
By a vote of 336 to 52, the National Assembly authorized the ratification of the so-called Lisbon Treaty that, among other things, foresees the election of an EU president for a term of 30 months.
The Senate is now expected to vote on the project as early as Friday. Then it will await Sarkozy's signature, or that of Prime Minister Francois Fillon, for official ratification.
If everything proceeds as foreseen, France will become the fifth EU member - after Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Romania - to ratify the reform treaty. In May 2005, France became the first country to reject another version of the treaty after a nationwide referendum.
"All of Europe is awaiting this signal from France," Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said after Thursday's vote.
If ratified by all member states, the treaty will come into effect on January 1, 2009.