The French and Dutch ‘no’ votes in referendums on the European Union Constitutional Treaty have thrown the EU into turmoil. The messages from both referendums are that public dissatisfaction with European integration is widespread and there is a disjuncture between the views of citizens and those of elites.
The original purpose of the process that produced the Constitutional Treaty was to bring the EU closer to its citizens. However, the text that was negotiated was an unwieldy document intended to satisfy diverse requirements but difficult to explain concisely. After the completion of negotiations some governments, for reasons of political expediency, took decisions to hold referendums on the treaty, but the future of The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe that took three years to complete is now uncertain. Furthermore, member states are divided about whether to press ahead with ratification after the two recent ‘no’ votes. What is the range of alternatives to member states if they wish to salvage the treaty or component parts? Finding a way through this current situation is the task the British government faces as it takes on the EU presidency from 1 July 2005.