Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

Bridging Europe - against Euroscepticism

The World Economic Forum's European Economic Summit 2001 in Salzburg early in July ended with a decision to launch a number of major initiatives, projects and task forces, including a multi-stakeholder "Bridging Europe" initiative designed to enhance communication about EU enlargement and European integration.

Europe needs strength and optimism to cope with the future challenges of enlargement, globalisation and the perceived democratic deficit, according to the World Economic Forum. One of the serious challenges of European integration and co-operation today is the citizens' lack of trust in the political agenda and their lack of interest and involvement in Europe. Action is required urgently: the next revision of the EU treaties is expected in 2004. The challenging task of integrating new member states from Central and Eastern Europe requires political strength and stability.

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"Bridging Europe" is based on three main elements. Under the caption "Voice of Europe", opinion polls and a dialogue with a panel of 500 representatively chosen Europeans should discover the worries and wishes of the Europeans in relation to Europe. "Next Generation Europe" is going to form an internet panel of 1,000 young Europeans who are to discuss what young Europeans demand of Europe. Finally, a "dialogue workshop" is to gather experiences from these new kinds of dialogue, according to the EU Commission's press office in Denmark. The polls will be taken by the EU Statistic Office, Eurostat.

This year, the European Economic Summit replaced the Central and Eastern European Economic Summit. The participants were worried by the statistic that only 49 per cent of the citizens of the 15 EU countries find that the EU is "a good thing". In the early nineties, the corresponding figure was more than 70 per cent. This has caused a consciousness that EU integration poses serious problems which must be taken into consideration before governments and leaders can expect popular backing for more integration.

Participants at European Economic Summit 2001 came from 42 countries and included 12 heads of state and prime ministers as well as 13 government ministers. CEOs and business leaders from all parts of Europe were also among the 700 participants.

During the Summit, Mads Øvlisen, head of the board of the Danish pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, promised to support the new initiative. According to him, the project should contribute to a new understanding of the EU scepticism that found its expression in the Danish referendum on the euro and the Irish No to the Nice Treaty.

"We are the first corporation to promise our support to the project. For us, it is all-important that Europe contribute to a sustainable development, and this must necessarily take place in co-operation with all the parties that are affected. This goes for corporation, organizations and ordinary people," he said, according to the EU Commission's Danish newsletter, which also says that the initiative got the support of Danish economy minister, Marianne Jelved.

Estonian prime minister, Mart Laar, also found the project relevant for the EU membership candidates. "We are now in the same boat as the EU members. We are becoming more and more European. This means that we, too, meet the same scepticism and concern in our populations as in the EU countries. People do not understand how they might get influence in Europe, and they are afraid to talk about what Europe should do to protect differences of culture, language and many other things," he said.

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