OPINION

A revealing poll by Eurobarometer

The «no» vote by France and the Netherlands to the referendum on the European Constitution six months ago was not just a one-off reaction. The findings of the latest Eurobarometer survey show that citizens of European Union member states are increasingly cautious at the prospect of further EU enlargement. This applies particularly to the accession of Turkey, which Europeans clearly oppose. The leaders of that trend are the citizens of Austria, Cyprus and Greece (with percentages in the 80s), with Germany not far behind (at 74 percent). Even Britain, whose government is a standard-bearer for Turkish accession, is no exception, with those opposed outnumbering those in favor. While the most intense opposition is to Turkey, there is also opposition to enlargement in general. Smaller but considerable percentages of EU citizens oppose the prospect of enlargement to include Balkan countries such as Albania, Serbia and, to some extent, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). This is undoubtedly linked to the lack of optimism about European economic prospects. Large segments of the populations in member states are obviously dissatisfied with low rates of development, the gradual dismantling of the welfare state and high levels of unemployment. However, the atmosphere of caution is also linked to a widespread feeling that the EU should give priority to deepening rather than to enlargement. The majority of EU citizens obviously favor unification but cannot envision it evolving by means of abstract technocratic exercises and facile enlargement. Since the early 1990s (and the Maastricht Treaty) most EU citizens have experienced the inability of their political leaders to set the EU on a course of development that can meet the demands of a globalized era. Compared with its great international competitors – the USA, Japan and now China – Europe seems to be at a standstill, even though some EU countries, such as Germany, are highly productive. The European structure is ailing in some respects, so it is inevitable that its citizens do not relish the prospect of further enlargement. Their leaders must now plan, not new ways of sharing out funds among themselves, nor enlargement, but new socioeconomic strategies for European development.