This Commons Library Note charts referendums held since 1972 on EU matters in candidate and Member States, and also in Switzerland on its relations with the EU, with brief details on turnout and results. It also outlines the positions of France and Austria on holding a referendum on EU enlargement, particularly with regard to a possible Turkish accession.Jump to full report >>
Referendums on the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe were held in France, Netherlands, Spain and Luxembourg.
However, the planned referendums were cancelled in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Portugal and the UK following the French and Dutch rejections and the subsequent abandonment of the treaty.
Greenland voted on whether to stay in the EEC. The majority voted to withdraw from the Community.
The UK held a referendum on whether to remain in the EEC, based on renegotiated terms of entry. The majority voted in favour of staying in.
France held a referendum on the admission of the UK, Denmark, Ireland and Norway to the EEC in 1972. An amendment to the French Constitution was introduced in 2005 which required a referendum to be held on any new EU accession, but in April 2008 the French Government approved the removal of the 2005 obligatory referendum clause.
The Assembly voted in May 2008 to approve an amendment making it compulsory for France to hold a referendum on large countries joining the EU. This was seen as targeting Turkey in particular. In June 2008, the Senate voted to remove the constitutional requirement for a referendum for new accessions. In July it approved a bill allowing the President or Parliament to decide on a nationwide referendum.
In 3 May 2011, Werner Faymann, Austrian Chancellor, said that Austria would hold a referendum on Turkish accession to the EU. He has said that a referendum on Turkish membership would probably fail, and that talks between the EU and Turkey should focus instead on a “privileged partnership” with Turkey.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7570
Author: Vaughne Miller