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Little political comments from a Euro-citizen (2) – Franck Biancheri (2004)

The European Union is increasingly shaping Portuguese political life. It has created a political crisis in Portugal by calling on its Prime Minister, Mr Barroso, to become President of the European Commission. President Sampaio chose to preserve the country’s political stability by appointing the leader of the former Prime Minister’s party as the new head of government, while the opposition, winner of the recent European elections, wanted early parliamentary elections. The new Prime Minister, Pedro Santana Lopes, is not really unanimous, even within his party, where there is concern about a possible “Berlusconian” tendency and doubt about the duration of this new government. Many believe that the current European Commissioner, Mr Vittorino, will return to national political life in force after October.

The French will in the end vote via referendum for the adoption of the European Constitution. For months, Newropeans Magazine had been indicating that this would ultimately be France’s choice because the French wanted to express themselves directly on this issue. President Chirac therefore followed a good political instinct in announcing this measure yesterday. Now it remains certain that for the vast majority of citizens (and this is true throughout the EU), it will be the EU’s decision on Turkey in December that will determine their vote. The vote on the constitution will be a vote for the future of the EU; if Turkey is put on the agenda, people will simply say that they are not interested in that future. So, European leaders, think carefully because it is in December that you will win or lose the referendums on the Constitution. You should know that, as we discuss Europe with our fellow citizens, this Turkish issue is always more and more present and that people do not expect a “communication campaign” on the subject, because they have a very clear opinion: yes to a partnership with Turkey, no to its entry into the EU.

The image of the United States is not improving in Europe. Whether in Germany, France or Portugal in recent weeks, I have witnessed the trivialisation of two ideas that will influence the future of transatlantic relations. On the one hand, a large majority of people, and in particular young people, believe that the United States is now a declining power; on the other hand, they believe that the country’s fundamental problems (total dependence on oil, weakness of the education system, lack of widespread social security coverage, increasing influence of militarism) cannot be solved in the coming years, regardless of which party is in power in Washington. Many seem to expect a difficult relationship between the EU and the USA in the coming years. This proves that more imagination and effort are needed to avoid a “rupture” of the transatlantic link and that it is at the level of civil societies that the effort must be made.

Next field survey…. on the beaches of the Mediterranean! Only because it is there that we find the most Europeans per square metre in all nations combined.

Franck Biancheri
Paris (France) – Juin 2004

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