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It is no mystery that the structure of the European Union – with its largely unelected officials handing down sweeping regulations and laws to the member states through a complicated process that few in Europe fully understand – suffers from a certain democratic deficiency. When it tried to adopt a European constitution that would revolutionise the works and powers of its institutions, the document was undermined by two referendums, in France and the Netherlands, where the public voted overwhelmingly against.

The cumbersome 485-page constitution was then restyled into a lighter version – the Lisbon Treaty – which came in at 300 pages. The beauty of this cosmetic exercise was, the thinking ran, that a treaty can be passed by parliaments, which are considerably more enthusiastic about the EU’s expanding powers than the ordinary citizens whose approval is required to ratify a Europe-wide constitution.

The problem with this plan was that the Irish contribution required a popular referendum for any treaty to be approved. Predictably, last June , Ireland voted against. Whatever the substance of the Lisbon Treaty, there is no doubt that Europe needs restructuring. The question is how – and judging by the way the popular will responded to the two documents, this is not the way.

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