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Europe Democracy around the World D66 European Parliament

Eastern Europe and EU referendum overdue

   Mon 11/09/2000

In Financial Times, Lousewies van der Laan says that holding a referendum on the enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe is not such a bad idea.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Eastern Europe and EU referendum overdue Financial Times; Sep 11, 2000

From Ms Lousewies van der Laan MEP.

Sir, Gunter Verheugen's proposals for a referendum on the accession of eastern European countries to the EU were both timely and courageous ("Commissioner's comments spark enlargement furore", September 4). Support for accession is dropping below 50 per cent in both the current and the future member states. European leaders have stuck their heads in the sand and continue to fuel the engine of the enlargement train, leaving behind bewildered European taxpayers, who are footing the bill for the project.

A referendum, or even a serious debate on the substance, would force EU leaders to explain the many advantages of the enlargement in order to generate support for the (irreversible) decisions they have already taken. Naturally that would enable anti-enlargement elements to have their say, but this should be normal in a democracy. Europeans have serious concerns about the enlargement, which need to be addressed in order to distinguish the substantive from the nonsense.

As long as European leaders avoid a serious debate, they are giving populists like Jorg Haider every possibility to gather support for his xenophobic ideas. Europeans should be directly involved in European projects of this scale. By caricaturing Mr Verheugen's call for debate as a lack of commitment for enlargement they are missing the point and (purposely?) detracting from the job they have been failing to do for the last 10 years: making sure that this is a project supported by all Europeans.

Lousewies van der Laan, European Parliament, rue Wiertz, B 1040 Brussels, Belgium