Since the economic crises, the popularity of the referendum as a political tool has increased among the EU member states. Just last week, Luxembourg held a referendum, giving the Luxembourgish citizens the right to decide whether or not the foreign citizens in Luxembourg should have voting rights. Despite the government´s active lobbying, the vast majority of the Luxembourgish citizens voted no.

Referendum IATE

The Cambridge online dictionary defines referendum as follows: “a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question.” During the past few years, referendums have been vastly used in the EU member states to vote on very difficult political issues. Of course, some of the countries use referendums more than others. For example, within the EU, Ireland has been the most active at holding referendums. This is due to the fact that Ireland is the only EU member state, which requires referendums by its constitution. Sometimes, holding a referendum can cause political delay in important issues, affecting the European Union as a whole. This happened in Ireland in 2008, when the referendum resulted in a negative response towards the Lisbon Treaty. Thus, the other member states had to wait for the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified, after the requested amendments were included into it and the Irish voters finally voted yes.

Other recent referendums that have created political discussions are for example the same sex marriage referendum in Ireland in 2015 and the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.

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Scotland decides

Cambridge Dictionaries online

Same sex marriage referendum

Ireland´s “undemocratic” second Lisbon Treaty referendum


Written by Maria Seppa, Study visitor at TermCoord