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Where to now for Europe and the EU?

By Mal Fletcher - posted Tuesday, 28 June 2016


Where to from here for Europe and the EU? This, not quickie divorce deals with the UK, is the issue that should be uppermost in the minds of Europe's leaders.

Europe and the EU often represent two very different things and provoke divergent responses in the minds and hearts of Europeans.

Significant swathes of Europe's population, while perhaps proud to be European, are apparently unhappy with the direction being taken by the European Union.

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Studies show that in normally Europhile nations like Denmark, France and to a slightly lesser degree Germany and Sweden, unusually high proportions of populations are dissatisfied.

In Denmark, 53 percent voted 'no' last year to a proposal that would have removed their existing EU opt-outs. The Danes obviously do not believe that the EU's interests are necessarily synonymous with their own.

In the Netherlands recently, 54 percent of people demanded a national referendum similar to the one that was then pending in the UK. Polls suggest that 48 percent would vote to leave and 45 percent to remain in the EU.

Spain registers 49 percent unhappy with the European Union and in France, traditionally one of the EU's traditional heartlands, only 38 percent say they are happy with the EU. In Italy, 39 percent are unhappy with the EU.

A 2016 multi-national study by the Pew Research Centre reports that "a median of just 51 percent across 10 EU countries surveyed have a favourable view of the European Union. A median of 42 percent in these 10 nations want more power returned to their national capitals, while only 19 percent favour giving Brussels more power."

Perhaps the most telling of Pew's findings is that only 27 percent of the people surveyed favour the status quo.

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It is too early to tell exactly what difference the Brexit decision in the UK might have on these wider pubic views within the EU. We can, however, make an educated guess as to how national governments might respond.

The Dutch will likely want the UK to stay closely linked with the single market. They are suspicious of any plans for a more integrated and politically united EU. The Danish leadership is also sceptical of ever closer political ties with the EU. The same is true in Sweden, which like the UK and Denmark rests outside the eurozone and where the Swedish Democrats recently demanded a referendum.

Poland will probably want to see Britain treated on friendly terms, if only to protect the interests of Poles living in the UK. For its part, Germany will be very nervous about the economic impact a disorderly British exit could have on the eurozone economy.

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This article was first publshed at 2020Plus.net



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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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