Last weekend an article on the website of the Slovenian daily business newspaper Finance got my attention. The article summarised a public opinion poll made by Lord Ashcroft Polls about the feeling of Europeans about the UK and Brexit. Besides checking the feeling about Brexit (60% of the interviewed said they want the UK to remain in the EU, while only 10% would like to see the country out), the poll explored which are the EU’s favourite countries and what Europeans most like and dislike of the EU. The results for Slovenia are not a surprise and they show that Slovenians don’t know how the EU works. They also point out that they suffer from a problem common to other Europeans – we want only the benefits the EU brings, while we want the obligations to be carried by others.
The poll, that was conducted between January 20th and February 1st on a sample of 28.720 adults (1011 from Slovenia), showed that Slovenians like the most Austria (71%) and the least Romania (33%), that we see the UK as self-conscious, polite and cosmopolitan and that 52% of Slovenians think that the EU represents something positive (while a third thinks the contrary).
Participants were also asked if the UK should stay in the EU. 49% of Slovenians doesn’t matter if the UK stays or leaves, 43% said they would prefer the UK to stay, while 8% want the UK to leave. On the other hand we made it clear that we don’t accept being bullied by the UK. 71% of the participants said that if the UK does not like the terms of EU membership it should leave.
The poll didn’t show only what the Slovenians think about others but also what others think about Slovenia. Briefly, they don’t like us, as we are in the group of the least favoured countries in the EU, together with Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia.
IN GENERAL WE LIKE THE EU, BUT…
The poll showed also what Slovenians like in the EU and what not. We mostly like the possibility to travel in other EU countries (73%), the free trade with other EU countries (70%) and the possibility to move to another EU country to work and live (66%). We find less important the role of the EU as a body that promotes solidarity (30%) and prevents conflicts among its members (35%).
On the other hand we dislike paying for other countries’ economic problems (57%) and that we have to obey to unnecessary rules and that we lost our sovereignty as the decisions are made by unelected officials (both 53%). We also don’t like the imposed austerity measures (48%) and the size of our contribution to the EU budget (44%).
The poll clearly shows that Slovenians don’t know how the EU works and that we take a lot of things for granted.
If we want to enjoy free movement of people and goods we need common rules and standards. The EU is a community of 28 different countries, with diverse habits, cultures, laws and standards. Common rules are therefore a must. And yes, because of this differences, some times the rules can seem unnecessary and stupid. The curved bananas regulation is usually cited here. However, those who cite this regulation to “prove” that EU rules are useless and stupid,”forget” to say that the Commission drafted the regulation under request of the Member States who finally also adopted it. So it wasn’t adopted by someone unelected.
In fact, even if we have the impression that the decisions on EU level are taken by unelected people, it is not true at all. All the EU legislation is adopted by (directly or indirectly) elected representatives of the citizens and the countries. The Members of the European Parliament are elected directly by Europeans, while the ministers, who represent the interests of their own country (and indirectly the interests of all of us) in the Council, are elected by national parliaments. It is the role of the members of national parliaments to check what ministers are doing in Brussels and is our civic duty to press on our directly elected officials to do their jobs.
Finally, I would like to spend some words for those, who are not satisfied with the size of the Slovenian contribution to the EU budget. I will assume that they think that Slovenia pays too much. However, if I can exaggerate, the cost of the EU functioning for Slovenians is 0. We are net recipients, which means, that we receive from the budget more that what we put in it. Slovenia’s contribution to the EU budget in 2013 was 368 million euros, while we received 813 millions. In total, during the 2007-2013 period, Slovenia received 2,3 billion euros more than what we contributed.
To summarize, we can say that we like the EU. However, if the persons would know the EU more, I can say that, based on the results of the poll, they would like it even more. If they would know more on what the EU does, they would most probably discover that the EU is not that bad at all. They would in fact discover that is not its fault for all the bad things happening in our countries and that the cause for bad decisions on EU level should be found at home – in our own countries.