Public attitudes on enlargement mixed

Enlarge­ment and relat­ed ques­tions for the future of the Euro­pean Union are rarely dis­cussed at a pop­u­lar lev­el in the Unit­ed King­dom. To the extent that they are, pub­lic atti­tudes are mixed, with con­cern about com­pe­ti­tion for jobs from East­ern Euro­pean work­ers gain­ing salience. At the polit­i­cal and offi­cial lev­el, the ques­tion of the Union’s enlarge­ment is one of much greater inter­est, not least because it has tra­di­tion­al­ly been regard­ed by British polit­i­cal cir­cles as a pol­i­cy which would under­mine Fran­co-Ger­man lead­er­ship with­in the Euro­pean Union and act as a brake on the deep­en­ing of polit­i­cal inte­gra­tion. Both these goals have seen desir­able aspi­ra­tions to suc­ces­sive British gov­ern­ments of recent decades.

The next round of enlargement

The British gov­ern­ment expects Croa­t­ia to be the next coun­try to join the Euro­pean Union, pos­si­bly with Ice­land.11Con­ser­v­a­tive Gen­er­al Elec­tion Man­i­festo 2010. The British gov­ern­ment sup­ports Croatia’s can­di­da­ture, but it is not yet clear whether British will­ing­ness to sup­port Ice­landic entry to the Union is depen­dent upon a set­tle­ment of out­stand­ing finan­cial issues between the two coun­tries. British depos­i­tors who regard them­selves as hav­ing been bad­ly treat­ed by the Ice­landic banks could well form a pow­er­ful polit­i­cal lob­by argu­ing against Ice­landic mem­ber­ship before their claims have been sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly set­tled. The acces­sion of Croa­t­ia is unlike­ly to pro­voke any great inter­est or con­tro­ver­sy in the Unit­ed King­dom, except in the unlike­ly event of a ref­er­en­dum being held on the sub­ject. It is almost incon­ceiv­able that any British gov­ern­ment could win any ref­er­en­dum on any Euro­pean top­ic in the fore­see­able future, with the pos­si­ble excep­tion of a ref­er­en­dum about whole­sale British with­draw­al from the Euro­pean Union, in which the gov­ern­ment cam­paigned against withdrawal.

Future enlargement

For the same rea­sons as weighed with its pre­de­ces­sors, the new British gov­ern­ment is like­ly to regard Turk­ish acces­sion to the Union as an impor­tant goal of pol­i­cy.22Ibid. This view will be rein­forced by a gen­er­al belief among the Unit­ed Kingdom’s polit­i­cal class­es that Turkey would be sta­bilised as a sec­u­lar democ­ra­cy, play­ing a con­struc­tive role in the Mid­dle East, if it were anchored in the Euro­pean Union. British pub­lic opin­ion on the sub­ject of Turk­ish acces­sion to the Euro­pean Union remains large­ly untest­ed. It should cer­tain­ly not be assumed that non-elite opin­ion in the Unit­ed King­dom would be favourable to Turk­ish acces­sion if the ques­tion ever became a press­ing one. The acces­sion of oth­er poten­tial can­di­date coun­tries, for instance from the West­ern Balka­ns, is like­ly to remain of only mar­gin­al inter­est to the British gov­ern­ment in com­par­i­son with the Turk­ish candidature.

The Union’s neighbours

The new British gov­ern­ment is like­ly to seek good rela­tions between the Euro­pean Union and its neigh­bours such as the Ukraine, with­out encour­ag­ing the view that mem­ber­ship of the Union for such coun­tries is a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­i­ty in cur­rent or fore­see­able circumstances.

Neighbourhood policy and the Mediterranean Union

Nei­ther the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy nor the Union for the Mediter­ranean play any dis­cernible part in pubic or polit­i­cal dis­course on the Euro­pean Union in the Unit­ed Kingdom.

    Footnotes

  • 1Con­ser­v­a­tive Gen­er­al Elec­tion Man­i­festo 2010.
  • 2Ibid.

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.