Eurosceptic: to be, or not to be

Article published on May 9, 2007
From the magazine
Article published on May 9, 2007
An undercurrent of Euroscepticism circles the European Union. According to the Eurobarometer, only 54% of Europeans see the EU as something positive, whilst 34% consider it negative

The dates of the last European public opinion survey have worsened in respect to last year: confidence in Europe is being lost. The UK continyes to lead the wave of Eurosceptics. Bur new countries such as Italy, the Czech Republic and Turkey add to the general discontent. In the other extreme of satisfaction, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. What are the differences between their lives and perspectives?

United Kingdom – sovereign island

EU entry: 1973. GDP per resident: 32.860 dollars

The United Kingdom's is the most serious case. A mere 34% openly consider themselves to form a part of the European Union. The Euroscepticism of the constitutional monarchic country almost goes down as stuff of legends. They are in favour of a free market, oppose bureacratic centralisation and policies. There is also a certain sense of superiority (in terms of political influence, juridicial tradition, as a strong economic power, etc). In a way, this helps the UK reject becoming a bigger part of the EU.

The ruling Labour party may politically tend towards Euroscepticism, but Prime Minister Tony Blair has shown his position as being more favourable towards the question of EU accession. However, the British public don't seem to share his opinion. This discomfort is most popularly rebounds the UK blogosphere.

Italy – newest Euroscpetic

EU entry: 1951 (founding member). GDP per resident: 28.094 dollars

Only 47% of Italians believe that being a part of the EU has brought them any benefits. The reason for this current disenchantment can perhaps be found in the perception of the country's economy: 69% find themselves in a negative situation –although in 2006, this percentage was altogether higher, at 76%.

According to this survey, Italians believe that globalisation has not helped the development of their economy nor their work opportunities. They see it more as a threat (according to 39% of those polled). Nevertheless, the opinion poll was carried out in September and cannot predict the economic recuperation of the country by the end of the year.

Václav Klaus's conservative Czech Republic

EU entry: 2004. GDP per resident: 20.606 dollars

The Czech republic has only been in the EU for three years. But it has a paradoxial story: if it is a practical newbie in the EU, why do only half of its citizens already believe that 'it's good' to be a part of the Union?

Their president, the conservative economist and Eurosceptic Václav Klaus, is part of the explanation. In 2000, Klaus openly doubted the suitability of entry to the EU. Amongst other things, he feared a deterioration or loss of Czech identity and sovereignty. All this, bearing in mind that the Czech republic has only existed independently for fourteen years.

Not long after its official EU entry, the percentage of Czechs who said they were very satisfied with life increased, and has stayed so until the current day. Nevertheless, the levels (13%) continue to be much lower in the European media. However, the majority believe that things will improve in the upcoming months. 63% admit that being in the EU brough positive consequences to the Czech economy, such as an increase in the competitivity of the business sector. (50% consider globalisation to be a good opportunity for the Czech republic).

Gratitude for an Irish miracle

EU entry: 1973. GDP per resident: 38.850 dollars

Ireland is a country which nourishes the most tender sentiments towards the EU. Almost eight out of every ten citizens feel happy to be a part of the EU. An incomparable 87% believe that it has been beneficial to Ireland. They put their increased global influence down to their accession since 1973, an increase in the quality of life, work and the economy in general.

Ireland obtained structural back resources from the EU, which they invested in infrastructure, work and education, collaborated to the dizzy growth during the second half of the nineties. Their GDP in 1973 was around 5, 000 Euros per resident, and has grown to an astonishing 32.000 today.

Turkish weariness

EU member candidate since 1987. GDP per resident: 7.711 dollars

Turkey is a country which is currently fighting to enter the Union, where only 54% European citizens believe it would be a positive accession. de los ciudadanos cree que su entrada sería positiva. The mountain of obstacles and high demands which Brussels have placed on the Anatolian country seems to have deeply penetrated the Turkish population. The anti-European reaction is considered to be humiliating: only 28% of Europeans are currently in favour of Turkish accession.

The evolution of this disenchantment is obvious in their general weariness. In 2005, 55% of Turks believed that entering the EU would be a positive step. In 2006, the figure dropped to 44%. Turkey seems to have lost its faith in the European project – or perhaps they are just struggling with the reality of one day ever becoming part of it.

GDP figures per resident in 2005 (in dollars): OCDE Factbook 2007 (in terms of purchasing power parity)

In-text photos: UK: anti-globalisation protest in London (John Brownlow/ Flickr), Italy: economic mistrust? (Wonderferret/ Flickr), Czech Republic president Václav Klaus (Wikipedia), Lucky Irish? (Owen Higgins/ Flickr), Secular protest, Istanbul, April 28 2007 (Ruya Elise Peltek)