[JURIST] Italy on Wednesday became the first major European Union nation to ratify the proposed European constitution [JURIST news archive] when the Italian Senate [offical website in Italian] overwhelmingly approved it by a vote of 217-16. Italy's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies [official website in Italian], had previously approved the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe [official website in English] in January. Italy joins Lithuania, Hungary, and Slovenia as early parliamentary ratifiers of the pact designed to prevent legislative grid-lock and streamline decisionmaking as the EU expands. All EU member states must ratify the Constitution if it is to become law; major hurdles still lie ahead, with an apparently-split France voting on the agreement in a May referendum, and polls showing that Britons would vote against the accord in a UK referendum likely later this year. AFP has more.