Citizens encouraged to debate EU

Criticism of the European Union should be part of the national debate, urges a leading EU expert in Finland, Dr Esko Antola. In an interview published in Helsingin Sanomat (29 March 2001), Antola says that ideally a more wide-ranging political debate should take place, with the EU as one part of it.

Antola says that the EU has ever more influence on everyday life. Domestic policy questions are constantly linked to the EU. These matters should be discussed more actively, he thinks, but adds that there hasn't been any attempt to stifle the discussion. The main reason for little debate is lack of knowledge, Antola says.

"It is difficult to encourage a political debate of EU-related questions, because the EU forms a whole which is difficult to fathom."

In addition, Antola sees a trend of emphasising the wrong questions.

"When the Prime Minister (Lipponen) raised the question about a federal state, the debate concentrated on whether the concept of federal state should be used. Essential questions were left untouched."

Antola is not surprised that negative attitudes towards the EU have been on the increase.

"Citizens can see that the pressure from the EU is growing, but the EU itself is beyond their reach both as a concept and as an institution."

The movements critical of the EU have a low profile because they lack resources. According to Antola, they also tend to be ignored by the media. Journalists are more interested in politicians who have critical views of the EU. Some of the citizens' organisations have also been lacking credibility because they tend to draw people who are against everything.

According to Antola, the nature of the debate has been changing, with new themes like enlargement and federalism emerging. Antola expects the next new wave of debate with the introduction of the euro.

See also:

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