22 March 2007

Learning About The EU

The Independent produced a 50 point eulogy to the EU on its cover the other day which has been throroughly fisked. As someone who lived and worked in the Czech Republic before and after their 2004 EU accession, I reckon that the EU has made little positive difference to my life. As you may know the gf is studying in Prague (which means we will be here until at least 2009). She has just started a law module which includes some EU law. For this study, we bought a textbook which shall remain nameless as I don’t want to give the authors any publicity (and as they are lawyers they’d probably find a way to sue me for reproducing their "work"). Here’s the very first section of their book. I have put the abridged bits in brackets.

One problem that appears to confront students of EU law is an apparent assumption in the UK that Europe is something foreign, that it refers to a place and to people across the English Channel that has nothing to do with the UK. This is, of course, not the truth since … (boring timeline discussion about the 1972 EC Act and the 1975 referendum)

Paraphrase - in the first paragraph of this textbook we patronise the British reader!

Nevertheless, Euro-scepticism is not uncommon within the country and it would not be unreasonable to suggest that this, in part at least, follows the encouragement of certain elements of the media. (Here follows a blustering and at times shocking discourse outlining the misconceptions that Euro-sceptics suffer from and how a united Europe has been desired since the Romans, name-dropping Napoleon and incredibly Hitler(!) as aspiring for a united Europe).

Paraphrase - Although a united European has never stuck, we find it surprising that some opposition remains. We blame, at least in part, dark forces operating within the British media (Ed. and presumably believe that BBC are unbiased).

Historically, then, it is true to say that the so-called Euro-sceptics" are in a minority and that there has always been in a widest sense a European identity and the desire for European unity. In this way it is Euro-scepticism which is the recent phenomenon and indeed exists only in restricted elements of national feeling that is hostile to the idea of Community. It has a particular foothold in the United Kingdom.

Paraphrase - We've made the biggest leap since Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in our first sentence, but we're hoping you'll ignore that. Euro-scepticism means being opposed to anything foreign and only exists amongst nationalist/individualists (oxymoron alert) mainly amongst those horrible islanders in the cold, north-west of the continent.

I get the feeling that I may share more from this tome. I haven't got to the social chapter chapter yet.


Matt Ford said...

I think it is very true that in the UK people believe Europe is somewhere foreign. It is deeply engrained in our society.

I noticed a huge difference as a result of the Czech Rep joining the EU. No more months of bureaucracy. I can live and work here no problem, and I enjoy the full rights that Czech citizens enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Nicholas Ridley who was forced to resign in 1990 as DTI minister, after he said in an interview about the proposed EC plans for economic political and monetary union: 'we might as well have handed the country over to Hitler'.

I thought at the time, 'It's a ludicrous thing for a government minister to say: but...what if he turns out to be right?'