The domestic politics of the EU in the Constitutional Treaty referendums

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This paper explores the different ways in which the EU dimension was contextualised in domestic politics in the 2005 Constitutional Treaty referendums in Spain, France and The Netherlands. It suggests that an ideationally based type of contextualisation dominated the Spanish referendum, in sharp contrast with the materially based mode that was dominant in France and The Netherlands. Variations in the ways in which the EU dimension was structured in domestic politics are largely accounted for by the interplay between the presence of an explicit anti-European agenda and government popularity. The paper shows that in Spain a popular government managed to keep control of the referendum debates, preventing anti-EU campaigners from gaining control of the debate and turning its focus from a symbolic pro-European discourse to materially based anti-European matters. By contrast, increasingly unpopular governments in France and The Netherlands were unable to keep the debate focused away from potential sources of material discontent. By focusing on the modes the EU dimension is framed in domestic politics, the paper aims at making a contribution to the literature on European referendums.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-315
JournalPerspectives on European Politics and Society
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2008


  • Constitutional Treaty
  • European Union
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Referendums
  • Spain


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