Europe was thrown into political chaos Friday by Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, a negotiated blueprint for consolidating the European Union's power and streamlining its increasingly unwieldy bureaucracy.

This is the second time in three years that European voters have shot down a complex proposal to create more authority and world influence at the bloc's Brussels headquarters.

By defeating the Lisbon Treaty 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent in a national referendum Thursday, fewer than a million Irish voters scuttled a document that would have deeply affected the lives of nearly 500 million Europeans in the 27 member nations.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he respected the voters' verdict and avoided reporters' questions as to whether the treaty was now dead.

I wish to make it clear to our European partners that Ireland has absolutely no wish to halt the progress of a union which has been the greatest force for peace and prosperity in the history of Europe, said Cowen, who faces potential isolation and embarrassment at an EU summit next week.