BTS 6/6/2005: EU Referendum

Referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution in Europe held in France on May 29 and the Netherlands on May 31. Results? A resounding no. Only nine countries out of twenty five in the European Union dared submit the Constitution to a popular referendum.

The Netherlands has delivered a crushing "no" vote on the European constitution and plunged the EU into a crisis of confidence unprecedented in almost five decades of European integration.

Dutch voters rejected the constitution last night with 62.6 per cent voting "no" and 37.4 per cent "yes" in a referendum, according to an exit poll. It was the second comprehensive rejection from a founder member of the EU in four days and has effectively killed off prospects of implementing the constitution in the near future and any hopes of a British referendum. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said that the result raises "profound" questions for Europe.

The Dutch voters delivered a dramatic rebuff to a European political leadership which had taken public support for granted. It comes after France's rejection on Sunday, the scale of which stunned Brussels and led to the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, resigning.

Given the size of the projected "no" vote, which won by an even larger margin than the 10 per cent between the "no" and "yes" in France, Holland's vote seemed certain to precipitate a period of turbulence as the scale of the uprising against Europe's political establishment sinks in. Turnout was large, with 64 per cent of people said to have voted.

Not only do the Netherlands and France now face domestic political turmoil, but the German government is reeling from a recent humiliation in regional elections and Italy's Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is in the middle of an acute political crisis.

Europe's leaders now fear a domino effect and opinion polls show the "no" vote growing even in Luxembourg - one of the most pro-European nations of all the 25 member states - which faces the next referendum, on 10 July. Meanwhile, a political storm is breaking out over the euro amid reports - strenuously denied - that Germany is about to blame the single currency for its chronic economic troubles and five million unemployed.

Diana Johnstone, the former European editor of In These Times is a distinguished researcher and commentator on contemporary global politics. She is the author most recently of Fools' Crusade: published by Monthly Review Press, and The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe’s Role in America’s World (Verso, 1985). Her writings have been published in New Left Review, Counterpunch, and Covert Action Quarterly.