European Union: A Treaty Too Far

The decisive rejection of the Constitutional Treaty by voters in France and the Netherlands marks a more severe setback than the European Union has faced for a generation. The model of elite-led integration, resting on popular acquiescence, which has guided the Brussels institutions since they were established, has broken down, the result of failed leadership. Europeans will have to be much more involved in any new project.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 July 2005 6 minute READ

William Wallace

In retrospect, the European Union (EU) has evolved from crisis to crisis, with reluctant governments painfully accepting that the only way forward from failure to agree was to strengthen the framework for common policy. The Single European Act and the Single Market Programme followed Franco-British confrontation over budget contributions, reconciled by President François Mitterand and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984. The 1998 Franco-British initiative on European defence followed the disastrous failures of common foreign policy in former Yugoslavia.

Referendums as a means of providing legitimacy to bargains struck in Brussels have spread across the EU; it is unlikely that further major changes to European institutions will be acceptable without this popular process, extended further by the French government’s promise to submit further enlargement treaties to a national vote.

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