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Trade Unions and ‘Europe’: Are the Members out of Step?


  • Richard Hyman


The ‘no’ vote in the Irish referendum of June 2008 on the Lisbon Treaty – reversed in October 2009 – threw the European Union into crisis. Yet it reflected a familiar pattern of popular rejection of initiatives on European integration. This article provides an overview of such referendums in western Europe (unfortunately, the author lacks the linguistic competence to cover most post-2004 member states). It is evident that while mainstream trade unions (or at least their leaders) have usually endorsed the integration process, in most countries where referendums have been held their members have voted otherwise. Such rejection has often been based on ‘progressive’ rather than ‘reactionary’ grounds. Popular attitudes are malleable, but it requires a major strategic re-orientation if unions are to reconnect with their members in order to build a popular movement for a genuinely social Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Hyman, 2010. "Trade Unions and ‘Europe’: Are the Members out of Step?," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 14, European Institute, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:eiq:eileqs:14

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    1. Karin Gilland, 2002. "Ireland's (First) Referendum on the Treaty of Nice," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 527-535, September.
    2. MARK FRANKLIN & MICHAEL MARSH & LAUREN McLAREN, 1994. "Uncorking the Bottle: Popular Opposition to European Unification in the Wake of Maastricht," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(4), pages 455-472, December.
    3. Marcel Lubbers, 2008. "Regarding the Dutch `Nee' to the European Constitution," European Union Politics, , vol. 9(1), pages 59-86, March.
    4. Pascal Sciarini & Ola Listhaug, 1997. "Single Cases or a Unique Pair? The Swiss and Norwegian 'No' to Europe," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(3), pages 407-438, September.
    5. Wolfram Kaiser, 1995. "Austria in the European Union," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 411-425, September.
    6. Ingrid Sogner & Clive Archer, 1995. "Norway and Europe: 1972 and Now," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 389-410, September.
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    1. Richard Hyman, 2011. "Trade Unions, Lisbon and Europe 2020: From Dream to Nightmare," LEQS – LSE 'Europe in Question' Discussion Paper Series 45, European Institute, LSE.

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