Referendums related to the European Union
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This is a list of referendums related to the European Union or its predecessors the European Communities. Since 1972 a total of 44 referendums have been held by EU member states and its territories, with several additional referendums held in countries outside of the EU. Most commonly the referendums have been held on whether to become a member of European Union as part of the accession process, although the EU does not require any candidate country to hold a referendum to approve membership or as part of treaty ratification. EU-related referendums have also been held on the adoption of the euro and participation in other EU related policies.
The United Kingdom is the only EU member state to have held a referendum on the issue of continued membership. In the first referendum in 1975, continued membership was approved by 67% of voters, while in its second referendum in 2016 voters voted by 51.9% to leave the European Union. Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, voted to leave the EEC in a referendum in 1982 by 53% of voters.
Enlargement of 1973
- France – Before allowing the new candidate member states to join the European Communities, founding member France held a referendum on 23 April 1972. The turnout was 60.7%, with 68.3% in favour.
- Ireland – 83.1% in favour (10 May 1972)
- Norway – 53.5% against (25 September 1972)
- Denmark – 63.3% in favour (2 October 1972)
Following the rejection by the Norwegian electorate (53.5% against), Norway did not join.
United Kingdom's EEC membership, 1975
- United Kingdom The Conservative government of Edward Heath did not hold a referendum before the United Kingdom joined the European Communities in 1973. The Labour's manifesto for the 1974 general election included a pledge for an in-out referendum after a renegotiation of its membership so after Labour won under Harold Wilson, the referendum was held on whether to remain in the Communities after a renegotiation of its membership. The result was 67.2% in favour, with a turnout of 64.0%.
Greenland's EEC membership, 1982
- Greenland In 1973, Greenland joined the European communities as part of Denmark. However, after the establishment of home-rule and eurosceptic Siumut winning the 1979 Greenlandic parliamentary election, a referendum on membership was agreed upon, in which 53.02% of voters rejected remaining part of the communities. In 1985, Greenland officially left the communities.
Single European Act
- Denmark On 26 February 1986, Denmark held a referendum on the Single European Act. With a turnout of 74.8%, the 56.2% of those voting were in favour.
- Ireland The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland permitted Ireland to ratify the Single European Act. It was approved by referendum on 26 May 1987. The result of the referendum was 69.9% in favour.
Result was a majority of 88.1% in favour. Turnout was 81.0%.
Result was a majority of 68.7% in favour. Turnout was 57.31%.
The treaty was verified with a slim margin of victory of 51.1% in favour. Turnout was 69.7%.
In Denmark, two referendums were held before the treaty of Maastricht passed. The first was held on 2 June 1992, had a turnout of 82.9% with approval of the treaty of Maastricht denied by a slim margin of 50,7%, with 49.3% in favour of the treaty.
After that defeat of the treaty, Denmark negotiated and received the following four opt-outs from portions of the treaty: Economic and Monetary Union, Union Citizenship, Justice and Home Affairs and Common Defence. A new referendum was held on 18 May 1993. There was a turnout of 85.5% of which the 56.8% voted in favour of the treaty with the opt-outs.
Enlargement of 1995
The 1994 referendums on membership of four new nations were as follows:
- Austria – 66.6% in favour (12 June 1994)
- Finland – 56.9% in favour (16 October 1994)
- Sweden – 52.8% in favour (13 November 1994)
- Norway – 52.2% against (28 November 1994)
The Åland Islands, a dependency belonging to Finland, also voted (20 November 1994) on their accession to the European Union. With a turnout of 49.1% the result was 73.6% in favour, which means that EU law would also apply to the Åland Islands.
Treaty of Amsterdam, 1998
Result was a majority of 61.74% in favour. Turnout was 56.2%.
Result was a majority of 55.1% in favour. Turnout was 76.2%.
Treaty of Nice, 2001
In 2001 Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice by 53.9%, with 34.8% of the electorate voting. At a second referendum in 2002, statements on Ireland not having to join a common defence policy and affirming the right to decide on enhanced cooperation in the national parliament were stressed in a special document and they accepted the Treaty by 62.9% with 49.5% of the electorate voting.
Enlargement of 2004
In 2004 the new enlargement of the European Union involved ten new member states, eight from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus. Referendums about the accession were held in each of these nations, with the exception of Cyprus.
The 2003 referendums dates (in four of the countries, a two-day ballot is held), and the outcomes in each of the candidate countries, are as follows:
- Malta – 53.6% in favour (8 March 2003)
- Slovenia – 89.6% in favour (23 March 2003)
- Hungary – 83.7% in favour (12 April 2003)
- Lithuania – 89.9% in favour (10–11 May 2003)
- Slovakia – 92.5% in favour, turnout 52.1% (16–17 May 2003)
- Poland – 77.5% in favour (7–8 June 2003)
- Czech Republic – 77.3% in favour (13–14 June 2003)
- Estonia – 66.8% in favour, turnout 64.1% (14 September 2003)
- Latvia – 67.0% in favour (20 September 2003)
Since the referenda's results were all in favour of joining, ratification proceeded and the candidate countries became full members of the EU on 1 May 2004.
Denmark and the United Kingdom received opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty and do not have to join the euro unless they choose to do so; Sweden has not received an opt-out, yet deliberately doesn't live up to the requirements for joining for now. Two referendums have been held on the issue up to now, both of which rejected accession:
- Denmark – 53.2% against, turnout 87.6% on 28 September 2000
- Sweden – 56.1% against, turnout 81.2% on 14 September 2003
European Constitution, 2005
Several member states used or intended to use referendums to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE).
The results were as follows:
- Spain – 76.7% in favour (20 February 2005)
- France – 54.9% against (29 May 2005)
- Netherlands – 61.5% against (1 June 2005)
- Luxembourg – 56.5% in favour (10 July 2005)
Referendums were planned, but not held, in:
- Czech European Constitution referendum
- Danish European Constitution referendum
- Irish European Constitution referendum
- Polish European Constitution referendum
- Portuguese European Constitution referendum
- United Kingdom European Constitution referendum
Treaty of Lisbon
After the first vote by Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council and the Irish Government released separate documents, referred to as "The Irish Guarantees", that stated the other member countries would not use the possibility in the Treaty to diminish the number of permanent commissioners in favour of a rotating system with fewer commissioners, and not threaten Ireland's military neutrality and rules on abortion. With these assurances, the Irish voted again on the unchanged Lisbon Treaty on 2 October 2009. The vote was then 67.1% in favour of the treaty.
Enlargement of 2013
European Fiscal Compact, 2012
- Ireland – European Fiscal Compact referendum, 60.3% in favour (31 May 2012)
Unified Patent Court
A proposed court between several EU member states, that – amongst others – is to be constituted for litigation related to the European Union patent
- Denmark – Unified Patent Court referendum, 62.47% in favour (25 May 2014)
- Ireland Ratification of Ireland requires a referendum. Such a referendum has not been announced.
Greek bailout referendum, 2015
A majority of 61% rejected the bailout conditions. However, shortly afterwards the government accepted a bailout with even harsher conditions than the one rejected.
Danish European Union opt-out referendum, 2015
- Denmark The Danish European Union opt-out referendum, 2015 was held to decide on converting the opt-out from participation in the area of Justice and Home Affairs area into an opt-in: the possibility for the Danes to decide on a case by case basis. 53.11% voted against (72% turnout)
Dutch Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement referendum, 2016
Consultative referendum based on the Consultative Referendum Act 2015 upon a request of 427,939 Dutch citizens.
- Netherlands – 61% voted against the Approval Act. (6 April 2016)
United Kingdom's EU membership, 2016
- United Kingdom – In February 2016 the UK government negotiated "a new settlement for Britain in the EU". A referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union took place in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar on 23 June 2016. The result was 51.89% to leave the EU, 48.11% to remain.
Hungarian migrant quota referendum, 2016
- Hungary A referendum was held on 2nd October 2016 to decide whether Hungary should accept migrant quotas imposed by the EU without the National Assembly's approval or not. While an overwhelming majority of voters rejected the quotas, turnout was too low to make the poll valid.
Countries which seek to join the European Union in the future may hold a referendum as part of the accession process. In addition, Article 88-5 of the Constitution of France requires a referendum there to ratify any future accession treaty. Politicians in other existing members have proposed referendums in their states, particularly with reference to the accession of Turkey.
Agreements between Switzerland and the EU
- Switzerland – Free trade agreement with the EC – 1972 (72,53% in favour)
- Switzerland – EEA Agreement with all EU member states and all EFTA member states as well as the European Communities – 1992 (50.34% against)
- Switzerland – Requiring the approval of a referendum and the Cantons to launch accession negotiations with the EU – 1997 (74.1% against)
- Switzerland – Bilateral I agreements with the EU – 2000 (67.19% in favour)
- Switzerland – Opening negotiations for EU membership – 2001 (76.85% against)
- Switzerland – Schengen Agreement and the Dublin Regulation – 2005 (54.60% in favour)
- Switzerland – Freedom of movement for workers, to include 10 new EU members – 2005 (56.0% in favour)
- Switzerland – Cohesion contribution of one billion for the ten new member states of the EU – 2006 (53.4% in favour)
- Switzerland – Freedom of movement for workers, to include two new EU members – 2009 (59.62% in favour)
- Switzerland – Introduction of biometric passports, as required by the Schengen acquis – 2009 (50.15% in favour)
- Switzerland – Freedom of movement for workers to be reduced – 2014 (50.3% in favour)
- Institute of European Affairs, (2009) Lisbon: The Irish Guarantees Explained, Dublin, Retrieved 28 June 2016
- Protocol on the Concerns of the Irish People on the Treaty of Lisbon,(2013) Official Journal of the European Union, n° L 60, pp. 131–139, Retrieved 28 June 2016
- The Conservative Party Manifesto 2015 (PDF). Conservative Party. p. 30. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
- Nationale, Assemblée. "Welcome to the english website of the French National Assembly – Assemblée nationale". www2.assemblee-nationale.fr. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
- "EU referendum: Brexit sparks calls for other EU votes". BBC News. 2016-06-24. Retrieved 2016-11-12.