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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
Should there be a referendum on EU enlargement?

Should the people of Europe have a say as to whether or not enlargement of the European Union goes ahead?

More particularly should the German people be asked about the next wave including neighbouring Poland?

Well they should according to one German and he happens to be the EU Commissioner charged with steering - enlargement.

For this week's Europewide debate, Mark Reid brought together the Dutch MEP, Lousewies van der Laan who used to work on external affairs for the European Commission.and Christian Sterzing, a German Green MP, and the party's foreign affairs spokesman in the Bundestag.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Another Union comes to mind at that suggestion - the Soviet Union

Peter Bolton, UK in USA
Another Union comes to mind at that suggestion - the Soviet Union. Europe could go down that road if a Europewide referendum on membership is not held.
Peter Bolton, UK in USA

While reading some of the comments here, it seems that the average "well-informed" EU-citizen, claiming his right to vote over my future, considers me to be a hungry, unemployed "Eurasian" desperately waiting for the EU to feed my stomach and pay my dole. Meanwhile, most of the EU "help" to my country would mean partially financing the extension of the road system (another task for some Western contractor?) in order for EU-based companies to reach the customers here faster and more easily with their EU-produced goods.
Jarek, Poland

A referendum? I'd rather have it that EU citizens were more inclined to vote for regular European elections. A European Parliament that is backed by, say 85% of voters, instead of perhaps, less than 50% at the moment.
Wim van Gruisen, Netherlands

Why not ask? It seems that Europe has got enough on its plate and that some of the countries in the pipe have got questionable records on the human right side. But it true that it is needed because people feel they are not represented strongly enough in the European institutions, at least not by the feeble powers of the parliament.
Olivier, France

Do you really want the Eastern border of Germany and Austria to look like the Mexican border of the USA?

Andras Bodi, Hungary
Sadly enough, there doesn't seem to be anything to vote about on either side of the Iron Curtain. The date of EU enlargement seems to fade into the future faster and faster. Should the EU fail to live up to its historical mission, and be nothing more than an ambitious business plan led by the Germans and the French, the main motive behind the European unification would be lost.
Do you really want the Eastern border of Germany and Austria to look like the Mexican border of the USA?
Andras Bodi, Hungary

One must not only claim democracy but also practise it as well. Therefore, a vote would be most vital for the people of Germany. Was not the purpose of the E.U. to build up Europe...its people are the foundations behind it. Therefore, they should have a say on how they want to spend their money.
I also think that the enlargement process should be done slowly...each time when the E.U. has shown signs of stability. If the foundations are not strong enough, not only one country would suffer from the mishap. The citizens of the existing E.U. members should vote, it is their calls to see if the timing would be right for an enlargement.
Tou Chounlasa, USA

A continent united, from London to Vladivostok? I'll have some of that! Let's shake up the current system, though. It should be the elected Euro MPs that have the power, not the unelected EC Commission.
Ed Bayley, USA (English)

It's true that this enlargement of the EU will be fundamentally bigger and more significant than the previous enlargements, but we have to ask ourselves if we want to return to the old iron curtain reality where Europe was split into two halves. The countries of central and eastern Europe have a legitimate right to expect their application for EU membership to be treated favourably. We must remember that the UK was an applicant country once itself. With regard to a referendum however, there must be some concern that an issue as big and as complex as enlargement of the EU is not really an appropriate subject for a popular poll.
Bill, UK

What will you say if Russia justly points out that it's in most respects more European, developed, rich and advanced in reforms than Romania and Bulgaria

Waldemar, UK
Dear Nick, Bulgaria, for me as part of the public that is supposed to support Bulgaria and other new entrants with my own cash paid in taxes, there's nothing that could transcend the importance of my opinion before I'm told to fork out.
Of course we should be asked. Of course there should be a public debate. And we should hear about how's Central and Eastern European economies doing behind the fašade of the Old Town Square in Prague. The public should know we're talking about the economic decay in Usti-nad-Labem (the Czech Republic), about thousands of small farmers around Kielce in Poland, about people eking out about 6,000 crowns (under $150 a month) in eastern Slovakia and considering that a fortune.
And we should also know that, once the door eastwards cracks open, we'll have Bulgaria and Romania in as well, and pretty soon. Do you really think Romania is compatible with the EU, economically and politically? And what will you say if Russia justly points out that it's in most respects more European, developed, rich and advanced in reforms than Romania and Bulgaria? Are you ready to let Russia into the EU?
And shouldn't we at least be asked how we feel about these brightest prospects?
Waldemar, UK

EU enlargement will have a profound effect on the West

Jim Strang, Scotland
EU enlargement will have a profound effect on the West. Billions of pounds worth of regional aid has already been withdrawn from even poorer peripheral regions - like the Highlands and Islands of Scotland - to be reallocated to the new members. Also, there is a great risk that enlargement will lead to a flood of cheap Eastern labour into Western markets, forcing West Europeans to compete with Poles and Czechs who are prepared to work for less pay. Those who fear a referendum seem to believe in democracy only when the people support their views.
Jim Strang, Scotland

The EU is not controlled by a democratic European Parliament, but by the European Commission - a non-elected, non-accountable group of career civil servants who have to please no one except themselves. A bigger EU simply means more power to the Commissioners. Of course it will be enlarged and of course we won't have a say. Welcome to Eurasia Winston Smith!
Graeme, England

I would certainly welcome enlargement but I do not think that there is a need for a referendum

Christian Springmann, Germany
I would certainly welcome enlargement but I do not think that there is need for a referendum. Every country in Europe has a government elected by the people it represents to make decisions for them. Most people are just not interested in the big economic picture. They want to be informed on what an enlargement will mean for their day-to-day lives. Our politicians have to listen to these concerns and include them in their decision making process. Only then they will truly represent the people who voted for them and then nobody will need a referendum.
Christian Springmann, Germany

This is a matter for all member states to decide not the German population. We have seen the recent rise in xenophobia and racism in Germany and the election of extreme right wing candidates, especially in East Germany. If we are to let the German people impose these values on the rest of Europe then history will be repeating itself. You cannot have a veto on everything, which is what Germany is calling for on this issue. What will they say when the time to admit Turkey arrives?
Thomas, UK

There should be more referendums about what is done in our name by the half-baked politicians of Europe, particularly the current socialists. Voting for the European parliamentary members experiences some of the lowest turnouts in all the countries of Europe. They join together in crazy "what can we do next" schemes and national governments follow them like sheep. The last catastrophe was the Euro (and still is!) and the next will be eastward expansion of the EU. If this crazy scheme goes ahead too early, Western Europe's economy will be savaged twice as hard as at the time of repatriation of Eastern Germany.
Ken Johns, Austria

EU enlargement is crucial in order to maintain a stable continent

Anna Maria Venetou, Greece
EU enlargement is crucial in order to maintain a stable continent. People like Mr. Tsagarakis should stop complaining. Ever since EU accession by our country twenty years ago, there have been welcome changes: new airports, motorways, environmental laws, even ombudspersons. Now, our very own elected Greek women are presenting pro-women legislation in Strasbourg (our own parliament is incompetent). Thank goodness for the EU. It's time to pass it on to new countries.
Anna Maria Venetou, Greece

I think that giving countries like Poland the green light to join the EU is the least the West can do to compensate and correct the way those countries were let down and abandoned by their Allies during and after WW2 - especially after the destruction they suffered, efforts they undertook, and the promises they had broken.
Marek, UK/ Poland

As Germany is the main EU country closest to EU enlargement applicants, it would right and democratic to give the people a referendum on this issue. As we all know they would say NO - that is why they have not be given the opportunity to vote. As the Euro loses value day by day, I don't think the people of Germany will be fooled again by those in power.
Daniel Llewellyn, UK

Europe must be united, that is the sole aim of the European Union! How can we otherwise guarantee peaceful stability and economic progress across the continent? Let this process be led to fulfilment by our heads of government. It is nothing but a shame that its bureaucratic lethargy has delayed Europe┤s unification for so long - these countries should have been accepted years ago!
Jonathan, Sweden

There would not be a united Germany or potential for a united Europe if it were not for the Poles and Hungarians

Dr R. Swirski, UK
There would not be a united Germany or potential for a united Europe if it were not for the Poles and Hungarians. Sometimes I wonder who needed the Berlin Wall more - the Soviets or the richer Western Europeans. Let us not forget that it was the USA and their Marshall plan (thank you US taxpayers) that got the European economy going after WWII. Let those of us in richer Western Europe do the same for Central Europe and the CIS.
Dr R. Swirski, UK

Of course the people should be given a vote on this, bearing in mind that taxes paid by them will be channelled into supporting these new entrants.
Stuart, UK

The idea of organising a referendum on EU enlargement is rather short-sighted as it fails to take into account realities on the ground. The EU and Eastern Europe are inextricably linked through foreign investment and in many other ways. Furthermore, Eastern Europe is a strategic region in terms of international relations, especially those between the West and Russia. I personally think Mr Verheugen's idea reflects public opinion in Germany, but is not likely to influence decisions involving much more important factors related to interests far transcending the importance of public opinion at large.
Nick, Bulgaria

Of course, yes. Why should the obvious be questionable? Is this EU a union of people or just a consortium game played on the backs of EU citizens?
Defkalion Tsagarakis, Greece

I think I have seen and heard about systems where the people are not consulted in legislation or deals with other countries. I remember those systems were called Communist, fascist, dictatorships or Islamic governing.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

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