21st Jul 2019

Enlargement played small role in constitution no votes

An indepth voter analysis has shown that further enlargement of the EU featured very far down on the list of reasons why the French and the Dutch voted against the constitution.

A eurobarometer study saw six percent of Dutch voters say that enlargement was the reason for their no vote and only three percent say specifically that further expansion to include Turkey was the reason.

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  • Social and economic worries in France (Photo: EUobserver)

Meanwhile, in France, the percentages were reversed with 3 percent against further enlargement and 6 percent against Turkish membership of the EU.

But EU politicians' rhetoric since the referendums three weeks ago has led to speculation about whether Turkey's and the Western Balkans' membership bids are to be put on ice.

Last week, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said there needed to be time for debate on Turkey following the referendums indicating that the French and Dutch voters had said no due to fears about Turkey.

"We should discuss seriously the signal that was sent by the electorate regarding Turkey," said Mr Barroso.

He also stressed that the negotiations were an open-ended process that would not necessarily lead to membership.

"About Turkey, the decision of the council is clear and we shall start negotiations with Turkey on 3 October but it is an open-ended process."

Politicians in Germany and France have also been quick to use the results to campaign for a slow down in enlargement.

Angela Merkel, the opposition leader in Germany and possible next chancellor, said in a recent interview that the EU has "reached the limits of its capacity to integrate", while French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday (27 June) suggested that enlargement be suspended.

"We have to suspend enlargement at least until the institutions have been modernised", said Mr Sarkozy, tipped to be France's next president.

Lack of information, social worries

The eurobarometer polls show that in the Netherlands the main reason for voting no was lack of information (32%) followed by a fear of a loss of national sovereignity (19%) and opposition to the government (14%).

Asked about the consequences of their vote, two thirds of Dutch citizens (66%) thought that the "no" victory would allow for a renegotiation of the constitution in order to better defend the interests of the Netherlands.

In France, the main reason given for rejecting the treaty was fear that it would have a negative effect on employment (31%), the second reason was that people felt that the economic situation in France was bad (26%) followed by the belief that the constitution was too economically liberal.

Over six out of ten French people (62%) thought that the no vote would mean the constitution would be renegotiated to be more social.

France rejected the constitution with a 55 percent no vote on 29 May while 61.9 percent of Dutch voters rejected it three days later.

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