September 2000

Suspicion grows towards big EU countries

Recent developments in the European Union force small member countries to ensure that their interests are not ignored. This observation is made in a column written by the veteran commentor Olli Kivinen (Helsingin Sanomat, 21 September 2000).

Kivinen writes that new dimensions in the EU such as intensified inter-governmental co-operation and the moving of the Common Security and Defence Policy out of the hands of EU institutions makes it important for small countries to monitor how they are being treated.

“The situation will turn difficult for the future unity of the EU if the core group suggested by France and Germany creates its own institutions. This would mean transferring power from the EU to the big countries and their organisation of co-operation. At the same time the main purpose of the whole exercise will be lost, the purpose having been a broad promotion of common interests in a way that has the support of the citizens.”

Kivinen mentions the role of Javier Solana as one disturbing development. NATO’s ex-General Secretary, in his role as EU’s foreign and security policy representative, seems to be taking over these matters, which have been in the hands of the Council of Ministers.

“This development will naturally have an effect for the decision-making model of the common defence, which is euphemistically called crisis management.

“All this will weaken the position of the EU institutions – the Commission, Council of Ministers and the Parliament. The background to this is the strengthening of the co-operation between the states. This again automatically helps big member countries to advance their interests because their power is so much greater compared to the small members. All the traditional institutions listed above are common to all member countries and their work guarantees equality in principle between them.”

Kivinen observes that small member countries understandably saw the boycott against Austria as intolerable interference in a small country’s right to form a government based on democratic elections.

“The reality justifies fears because in these sort of matters it is the small countries which are the object of action; no one really believes that a boycott would be declared against France, Germany or Britain because of the result of their elections or governmental plans.”

Kivinen says that the boycott against Austria helped the media in bigger EU countries to better understand the position of small countries. In the latter the whole chain of events increased suspicions against integration. This alienation has strengthened the collapse of support for EMU in Denmark and Sweden.

The columnist emphasises that integration works only if small countries have more power and rights than their size might suggest.

“The simple reason for this is that the big ones can take care of themselves; the small ones need good rules – perhaps something like a constitution – and a strong machinery of co-operation”, Kivinen concludes.

See also:

Schröder: No exclusive clubs within EU

17 July 2000

"EU hard core membership important for security"

31 May 2000

Lipponen lobbies for EU jobs

12 May 2000

Small EU countries and the case of Haider

10 February 2000

Citizens' rights emphasised as part of EU reform

26 October 1999

Changing EU voting rules would be undemocratic by Hannu Reime

October 1999

Power of big EU countries raises questions

October 1999


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