Demand is growing among Europeans for a “pragmatic” EU which focuses on “concrete” issues, Dominique Reynié, a professor at Paris’s prestigious Sciences-Po university, told EURACTIV France.
It is “totally wrong” to assume that Europeans do not want the EU, argues Professor Reynié, the author of a book published in March entitled ‘European opinion in 2008’. On the contrary, they appreciate the European project as a “useful means of improving their lives or reducing difficulties”. But “their pride is national or local, not European,” for which reason a “major European political operation risks failing”.
Meanwhile, despite the “black and white” conclusion of numerous Eurobarometer surveys that demand for a “concrete Europe” is growing, Professor Reynié argues that “national governments and Europe itself have not yet responded to this desire”. “They only respond with a sincere but naïve pro-European communication policy, as if enthusiasm for Europe alone is enough to justify membership,” he says.
Moreover, the professor “cannot understand the simplified and over-arching connection made between the Irish referendum and Europeans’ opinion of the EU”. “When they voted, they said ‘no’ to a text and a government,” not to Europe, he says. “The fact that half of Irish voters abstained doesn’t mean that Europeans have not got a point of view on Europe,” while “among the Irish who said ‘no’, 80% said they are attached to the EU”.
Finally, today’s Europeans are worried about globalisation and want the EU “to intervene in very concrete areas and in ways which improve their existence,” reflecting their need to be “reassured, comforted, even protected,” argues Reynié.
This “very strong” demand for protection among citizens “must be accepted and recognised,” while “it is up to national governments and the EU to explain that protection is possible without resorting to protectionism,” he concludes.
Indeed, addressing the nation prior to France’s takeover of the EU’s six-month rotating presidency on 1 July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy claimed “the European idea will be in danger as long as we don’t protect Europeans,” insisting that “we must not be afraid of this word ‘protection'”. “Something isn’t right at all” in the EU, he added, claiming that “there have been errors in the way that Europe has been built” (EURACTIV 01/07/08).