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The Institutional Future Of The Eu

By Author: Mark Gary
Total Articles: 61

In this paper, national-scale referenda to decide about the institutional future of the EU, and Europe more generally, were analysed as potential avenues for revealing contested cultural constructions of 'Europe' and their role in the political process. To some extent in the cases analysed in France and the Netherlands the referenda revealed dissatisfaction with national politics rather than Vibram KSO debates about the EU and Europe. However, though the situation was not straightforward to interpret, the analysis has revealed that complex competing visions of 'Europe' were produced and debated during these referenda.

The 2005 referenda were de jure about deepening the Union (the adoption of the Constitutional Treaty) but arguments about its enlargement and widening (the 2004 Eastern enlargement, the negotiation of accession with Bulgaria and Romania and the prospect of Turkish accession) played an important role in public debates and the motivations of voters. 'No' campaigners took the opportunity to voice their disagreement with the recent and upcoming enlargements. The point they brought to the fore was not so much the problematic relation between deepening and widening, but they showed that it is unconceivable to discuss the institutional framework of the EU without discussing its geographical scope. Opponents in both countries seized the opportunity to voice their discontent with the dominant vision of Europe and the representation of European integration as a smooth process of widening and deepening. These two dimensions show that both the delimitation of European identity against external others (in the 'East') and the delimitation of European identity against other territorial identities (national, regional or local) are widely disputed and Five Fingers KSO that the elite visions embodied by the European Constitution did not gather enough popular support to be sanctioned democratically. The issues that surfaced in the 'No' campaigns about widening concerned fear of competition from cheap labour from and in the new Member States (through either immigration or delocalisation) in the French case; fear related to the increasing complexity of the EU, loss of national influence, and the costs of the EU in the Dutch case; and the opposition to Turkish accession in both cases.

Despite the historical importance of the culmination of European reunification in the 2004 enlargement, fifteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was not a prominent issue in the two 2005 referenda under study. This was largely irrelevant to the vision of Europe held by Dutch and French voters (as expressed in these opinion polls) in the sense that here they did not contest the 'European-ness' of Central and Eastern European countries, or celebrate it either, which contrasts with other discourses about 'Europe' which either emphasize their 'European-ness' or continue to cast them as the 'East'. The new Member States are mainly perceived in socio-economic terms and their accession is seen as an economic burden. However, 'Eastern' accession was seen as a threat to the nation-state through concern about the protection of jobs against labour migrants from the new Member States, the delocalization of jobs to the new Member States because of lower labour costs, economic costs due to financial support for the new poorer regions through EU structural funds, and the loss of influence in EU institutions. The new Member States were not perceived as former communist countries, but as neoliberal models against which Western European welfare arrangements should be protected. By contrast, the Islamic other appeared to be a significant Other to Europe. The possibility of Turkish accession, brought closer to reality with the then upcoming opening of negotiations, clearly reveals diverging conceptions of 'European-ness.'

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