A few thoughts in response to the (not exactly unexpected) outcome in France.
(1) The old way of pushing European integration – agreements among political elites, followed by the odd referendum here and there – is dead. My best-guess prediction – a lot more emphasis in the future on ‘informal’ integration processes such as the Lisbon agenda. I also predict that some of the key issues will be revisited in a future quasi-constitutional text, which will attempt to lay down the law for once and for all. There are a number of dry-as-dust issues regarding the balance between different institutions, between member states on the Council etc which aren’t attracting much attention outside the specialist community now, but which are likely to provoke interesting political crises down the line. Hence, I think there will be another effort to push through Treaty change a few years from now – but unlike previous efforts, it will be proceeded by a widespread and vociferous public debate. The last Constitutional Convention tried very hard to create political buzz and debate, and failed miserably. Their successors won’t have much difficulty in getting attention, for better or for worse.
(2) The Turkish accession process is likely to be a lot more robust than people are giving it credit for being at the moment. The major political decision was taken last year, to open up negotiations with Turkey. The next major political decision comes at least a decade from now, when the member states and Parliament decide whether or not to accept Turkey as a member state. In the meantime, the political running will be made by the European Commission, which is the only body involved in direct negotiations. It’s going to be hard for grumpy member states to disrupt this, even if they want to. Frank Schimmelfennig had a great article in International Organization a few years ago, talking about how the states of Central and Eastern Europe became members of the EU – despite the unwavering opposition of key member states such as France. The processes that he identifies aren’t as powerful in the Turkish case as in the East European one – but they will make it harder to reverse negotiations than one might imagine. The only situation in which I can see Turkey’s accession being seriously endangered is if renewed opposition from the Christian Democratic right (and parts of the left) coincide with reluctance on Turkey’s part to make the necessary concessions in terms of human rights, the role of the military etc etc.
(3) The above said, I do suspect that we are going to see more overt opposition within the European Union to Turkey, e.g. the election of a significant number of candidates on an anti-Turkey platform in the next round of elections to the European Parliament. More generally, depending on how the Christian Democrats finesse this, the extreme right may be able to make hay with this. Contrary to the usual implications in the blogosphere, West European neo-Nazis rely less on anti-Semitism than on ‘Little Green Footballs’ style xenophobia to drum up popular appeal; Turkey is potentially a winning issue for them.
(4) Finally, I suspect that there are tough decisions ahead for the European left. While the Glyn Morgan piece that Chris links to is correct in arguing that some leftists are reaching for the security blanket of nationalism, they clearly will find it far more awkward to make that grab than do their competitors on the right. Herbert Kitschelt (link to Google Scholar page) made an argument a decade ago that still holds. European social democrats are in a sticky position, in that they need to appeal to two, very different electorates in order to win elections. On the one hand, their traditional base is in the working class (which is economically left-wing but often socially conservative). On the other, they’ve often succeeded in appealing to a new set of ‘postmaterialist’ voters, who are usually more centrist on economic issues, but a lot more left wing on cultural ones). If they want to win, they need both – but the two adhere to very different ideas of what the left is (one is on the economic left, the other is on the cultural left). It seems to me that European social democrats can move in one of two directions. Either they can rework the economic cleavage so as to attract middle class voters as well as the working class, by stressing how the middle class too is subject to economic instability and insecurity. Or they can try to remake the cultural cleavage, by seeking to persuade voters that stronger border controls, opposition to Turkish membership etc aren’t xenophobic, and that Islam is ‘different,’ fundamentally anti-liberal etc etc. My hope is that they go for the former rather than the latter, but I’d hesitate to lay any bets on whether this hope is likely to be confirmed by reality.