First, integration is relatively new for the average European. Europeans have only relatively recently began to think about the costs and benefits of integration.
Second, the actions of national leaders are often at odds with the balance of public opinion. For example, take the issue of the enlargement only 44 percent of EU citizens expressed themselves in favor in 2000 while 35 percent were opposed , and only 26 percent saw it as a priority for the EU while 62 did not.
Third, national leaders, European institutions, the media and academic experts have done a poor job of explaining the structure and the costs and benefits of integration. The treaties confuse more than they clarify, the growing volume of information on the EU tends to focus on the minutiae of the treaties and European law,media coverage in the more Eurosceptical member states tends to mislead by emphasizing the negative at the expense of the positive, and the average European remains confused.
Finally, perhaps most fundamentally, there is the problem of the Democratic deficit. This is commonly defined in terms of the unequal powers of the Europan Parliament relative to the other EU institutions. Indeed, it is the gap between the powers transfer ed to the Community level and the control of the elected Parliament over them.
1. http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb67/eb67_en.htm for national reports of Public opinion on EU Membership of France and England.
Britain & Europe
Geography and history have combined to keep Britain both part of, and part from, Europe.
At the end of the second WWII, Britain retained the illusion of great power status. Its political system was stable, its economic and financial interests remained worldwide.
Britain's Empire and Commonwealth, coupled with the transatlantic relationship with the USA,provided strong conflicting influences on Britain in the period immediately after WWII.
Political and Economic developments combined to provoke a rapid reassessment of Britain's relations with Europe from the mid 1950s onwards.
Thus, Harold Macmillan's Conservative government sought entry into the EU in 1961. Diplomatic negotiations dragged on into 1963, when they were abruptly terminated with the veto of the French president, General de Gaulle.
Wilson's Labour government met a similar rebuff when it tried to enter the EEC in 1967, and it was only the removal of the Gaulle from power which finally enabled Heath's conservative government to join the EC, along with Ireland and Denmark, in 1973.
In so far as Community membership was sold to the British public it was on the basis of presumed economic benefits (higher growth and living standards).
The EC's political implications,evident from the pronouncements of its leading founding figures and in the Treaty of Rome, were largely ignored. it simply reflected a widespread British view that joining the European Common Market was essentially a 'bread and butter' issue.
Uk joined too late to influence the shape and early development of the EC.
Moreover 1973, the year of the UK entry, was also the year of the energy crisis which signalled the end of the post-war economic boom. The early years of of UK membership were accompanied by stagflation.
The only mainstream political party consistently in favor were the liberals, and subsequently Liberal Democrats.
Margaret Thatcher agreed to UK entry to the ERM in 1990. John Major's government encountered over Britain's brief membership of the ERM and the ensuing catastrophe of Black Wednesday in 1992.
In 2004, Blair did commit his government to a referendum,planned for 2006,but on the issue of the proposed new European Constitution rather than the single currency.
The old tensions between Britain's relationship with Europe and its special relationship with the USA that have plagued previous governments have reemerged.
France & Europe
Three individulas, all French have contributed most to shaping the EU. Charles de Gaulle, Jean Monnet, Jacques Delors .
France was integral in establishing the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and was among the EU’s six founding states.
Presidency of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (1974-1981). Stages in European construction: European Council established (December 1974), first Lomé Convention signed (28 February 1975), European Monetary System - EMS - set up (1 January 1979)
During his tenure, President Mitterrand stressed the importance of European integration and advocated the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on European economic and political union, which France's electorate narrowly approved in September 1992.
France joined 10 other European Union countries in adopting the euro as its currency in January 1999. Since then, monetary policy has been set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. On January 1, 2002, France, along with the other countries of the euro zone, dropped its national currency in favor of euro bills and coins.
France generally has worked to strengthen the global economic and political influence of the EU and its role in common European defense. It views Franco-German cooperation and the development of a European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) with other EU members, as the foundation of efforts to enhance European security.
In 2005 French voters disapproved the EU constitution in a national referendum. In May 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as France's sixth president under the Fifth Republic. He is a pro Liberal European Union and he is proposing a shorter constitution without a referendum…
Eurobarometer meters the Public Opinion on EU membership
The EU has a survey research programme known as Eurobarometer, which regularly measures public opinion on a wide variety of issues relating to European integration, ranging from views on the entire process to those on specific policies. For more information, please go to: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion
Generally speaking, do you think that UK’s membership of the European Union is… ? Answer : Very Favorable
Generally speaking, do you think that France’s membership of the European Union is… ? Answer : A good thing!
The Commission should do a better job of explaining what is happening.
National leaders should pay more attention to public opinion.
Citizens should make an effort to understand what is being done in their name and play a more active role in letting their leaders know how they feel.