What is the EU's future?

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The Independent Online

Is this the end of Europe?

No, but it marks a halt to further European integration, at least for the time being. No one pretends the constitution is a perfect document, but it represents the best compromise that could be achieved in more than two years of negotiation. Without it, hopes of improving the sclerotic pace of decision-making are lost.

The "no" represents a devastating psychological blow, coming from a founder member of the EU and one of the two traditional "motors" of integration. It also calls into question the direction of the EU, including Turkey's hopes of joining and efforts to generate more economic growth.

What happens if the Dutch vote "no" on Wednesday?

It will probably put the nail in the constitution's coffin. Other countries that have promised referendums - most notably the UK - will conclude that their prospects of a successful "yes" campaign have gone.

Why did the French say "no"?

The "no" alliance, between those in France who want more Europe and those who want less, make this a difficult result to analyse. But there were several elements that can be identified, many not connected to the constitution. They include the unpopularity of the President, Jacques Chirac, and of his Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin; dislike of the EU's recent enlargement and fears over Turkey's membership bid; and worries that free-market policies will cost jobs.

What difference will we notice if the constitution does not come into effect?

Very little. The EU has already put into effect the Nice Treaty, which allows for the enlargement that took place last year when 10 new, mainly ex-Communist countries were admitted, and for Romania and Bulgaria to join in 2007. But hopes of streamlining decision-making and making the EU more efficient will be lost.

Could anything be rescued from the constitution without a new treaty?

Very little of importance. One Brussels think-tank, the Centre for European Policy Studies, believes that only a handful of proposals could be saved without a new treaty. These include creating an EU foreign minister's post and an EU diplomatic service, and a provision that means the European Commission would have to consider proposals for new laws if they are supported by a petition of a million signatures. Some believe that even this is optimistic.

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