22 December 1998
European political project
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mrs Kristiina Ojuland, Estonia, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group
The Assembly considers that the Council of Europe and the European Union are the main institutions to carry forward the European political project, which includes the two processes of European co-operation and integration. It underlines the importance of people's participation in these processes as an essential element of its transparency and democratic legitimacy.
Accordingly, the Assembly calls for a greater involvement of citizens and of elected people's representatives in the decision-making processes concerning European co-operation and integration, both at pan-European and national levels. It also urges all European states to recognise the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the European political project and to reinforce the means and powers of European parliamentary bodies.
I. Draft resolution
1. The Assembly notes that since the end of the cold war, both co-operation and integration between European states have continuously increased in scope and geographic range. The Council of Europe and the European Union are the main institutions to carry forward this European political project.
2. The Assembly has consistently stressed the importance of people’s participation in the European political project as an essential element of its democratic legitimacy.
3. Public support for the European political project cannot be automatically assumed. It should be considered as an objective to be achieved through the proper identification of citizens’ genuine needs and interests, through regular, accessible and comprehensible information on all aspects of European co-operation and integration, and though consultations of citizens before major decisions on political and economic integration are taken.
4. Recognising the essential role of governments and international civil servants in the European political project, the Assembly calls for a greater involvement of elected people’s representatives in the decision-making processes within this project as an essential element of its transparency. Such involvement should be twofold, both on the European and on the national level.
5. The Assembly, bringing together parliamentarians from 40 countries and representing over 850 million Europeans, is making a major contribution to the accountability of the European political project. Therefore, its role within the Council of Europe and in relation with other European organisations should be further enhanced.
6. The Assembly stresses that, in spite of a growing transfer of competence to European level, national parliaments continue to serve as the principal setting for the exercise of democratic rights by citizens. Their role in the European political project should not be limited to formal approval of finalised agreements. Without regular, concrete and meaningful debate on European issues in national parliaments, the European political project risks to be perceived by the public as alien to them, undemocratic and bureaucratised.
7. The Assembly calls on the parliaments of Council of Europe member states to:
i. establish committees responsible for European affairs, where this has not yet been done, to follow, among other issues, the work of all European institutions ;
ii. ensure that the Chairman of their national delegation to the Assembly regularly reports to the afore-mentioned committee on the activities of the delegation and on the work of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe as a whole,
iii. conduct regular debates on all relevant aspects of the European political project, with a view to producing policy guidelines for their governments,
iv. provide regular and comprehensive information to citizens on their activities concerning pan-European co-operation and integration,
v. encourage co-operation between the political parties represented in their parliament and their sister political groups in the Assembly and other European parliamentary bodies.
8. The Assembly calls on all European states to recognise the importance of the parliamentary dimension of the European political project, and to provide the European parliamentary bodies with sufficient means and powers to ensure their efficient functioning.
II. Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Ojuland
1. On 3 November 1998, the Bureau of the Assembly decided to place on the draft Order of Business of the January 1998 part-session a debate on “A project for greater Europe” to include the report on the European political project together with two others: the one on the report of the Committee of Wise Persons "Building Greater Europe without dividing lines" by the Political Affairs Committee and the report on "Europe: a continental design" by the Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations.
2. In view of this decision and of the broad scope of the two other reports, the Rapporteur decided to focus on the political support that the European project enjoys or does not enjoy among the citizens of Europe. The degree of such support is relevant for the democratic legitimacy of the institutions pursuing this project.
3. The report and the draft resolution will also touch upon the need to ensure a proper role for parliamentarians in the European political project, as an essential element of its democratic accountability.
4. For the purpose of this report, the term European political project is used to include both the processes of European co-operation and integration as they are carried out within the Council of Europe and the European Union, as the two main bodies with a clearly European vocation.
5. The report is partially based on opinion polls carried out periodically by the “Eurobarometer”1 in EU 15 members states as well as in the ten EU accession candidates from central and eastern Europe. Although these polls, strictly speaking, only concern the attitude towards EU membership, they are indicative of overall support for the European political project.
II. Origin of the European political project
6. At the end of World War II, several initiatives were taken to give shape to the old dream of a united Europe in order to abolish divisions between Europeans and to establish co-operation as a guarantee of peace. The Italian Altiero Spinelli proposed a draft European Constitution based on the idea of complementing national and European powers. The Swiss Denis de Rougemont promoted the idea of internal federalism and proposed the breaking up of the nation states to build a Europe freely consented to by the regions.
7. A speech by Winston Churchill, held on 19 September 1946 in Zurich, constituted an essential step in the history of European thinking, by calling for a “United States of Europe”.
8. The attempts to create a new order in Europe were nonetheless ineffective to prevent an increasingly marked division of the old continent into two antagonistic blocks, the split between east and west being confirmed in 1948. These events helped the Western European countries to close ranks.
9. It was against this background that the Congress of Europe was held in May 1948 in The Hague, under the auspices of an international co-ordination committee, bringing together all the European movements. The following fundamental principles were set forth in The Hague as a basis to guarantee peace:
- reconciliation between the enemies of the World Wars;
- confidence and solidarity between states agreeing voluntarily to exercise their sovereignties jointly so as to serve the higher cause of the common good;
- equality of states having agreed to participate in the common project.
10. It was during this Congress that the leaders of ten European countries decided to set up the Council of Europe, the Statute of which was signed in London on 5 May 1949. The principal aim of the Council of Europe came to be the construction of a fair and democratic society seeking international co-operation and learning from each other.
11. Jean Monnet, the architect of European integration proposed a new economic and political framework to rebuild the democracies emerging from the rubble of World War II and prevent Franco-German conflicts from plunging the continent and the world into war again. Although the focus of Monnet’s vision was of economic and commercial nature, his ultimate aim was political.
12. His idea was central to the founding document of post-war European integration, the 1950 Schumann Plan, drafted by the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schumann and himself, in close consultation with the German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The plan served as a basis for a strategy to gradually build an integrated Europe.
13. They proposed the setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was established in 1952. The declared goal of the ECSC was to set up “the basis for broader and deeper community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts and to lay the foundation for institutions which will give direction to destiny henceforward shared”.
14. After a failure to create a European Defence Community, the Six agreed to go further into broader economic co-operation. The European Economic Community (EEC) was established together with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The purpose of the EEC was to bring the economic policies of members into alignment so as to promote economic activity, regular and balanced expansion, augmented stability, a more rapidly rising standard of living and closer relations between the participating states.
15. In the following decades, the development of the European Community was characterised by the creation of a custom union, successive enlargements, the beginning of the debate on the form of the political union, which resulted in the agreement on direct elections for the European Parliament, and the completion of the internal market by the Single European Act. More recently, the focus has been on the process of broader revision of treaties, which resulted in the conclusion in 1992 of the treaty on the European Union and in 1997 of the Amsterdam Treaty. The last treaties lead to deeper political co-operation, fix the legal framework for the EMU and European citizenship and formalise the principal of subsidiarity.
16. The Council of Europe has enlarged since the fall of Berlin Wall up to 40 member states. It has become a pillar of the United Europe in wider term connecting under one umbrella also those countries, which are not in the position to become members of the European Union. The Council of Europe assists the post-communist countries to re-establish their democratic institutions, rule of law and respect of human rights. There is a Court of Human Rights open to the over 850 million people living in member states.
17. At the end of the millennium, the idea of United Europe has become more actual than it has ever been. There is a clear political will to go further with integration. The European Union is in the process of internal reforms and Eastern enlargement. Six countries - the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia and Cyprus started the accession negotiations on 10 November 1998. The Council of Europe is also still examining several requests for accession. There is a historical challenge for all European countries to unite the continent on the basis of common values to guarantee peace, freedom, human rights and economic wealth.
18. However, Europe still faces unsolved conflicts, mainly in the Balkans and the Caucasus. There clearly is a common European task to reach a peaceful solution as soon as possible, with the contribution of international organisations. The lessons of the two world wars, which started in Europe this century must be taken most seriously. Europe cannot, by any means, remain divided.
19. Europe needs a vision for future. In the process of globalisation and rapid development of information society, the frontiers between the nation states are becoming less important. Economic liberalisation and open societies are to be the keywords for all European countries in the next century.
20. A united Europe should be constructed on legitimate and clear political basis. European integration cannot be forced artificially, but must be conceived as a flexible process under given circumstances. Deeper political integration can become reality only if citizens support it. Ignoring public opinion would contradict democratic legitimacy.
III. Lack of consensus on the political future of European Union
21. European integration exposes the participating states to the impact of supranational influences on their national systems of policy-making and on the content of public policy. The impact of the supranational influences varies according to policy area.
22. Rather than accumulating extensive and autonomous political authority, the Union gradually tries to alter the exercise of national political authority by involving the member states in a web of collaboration and co-operation. The combining of the national and the European has neither been smooth nor linear, but partial, patchy, and often contested.
23. The balance between national and shared European competence is highly conflictual in the Union. The openness to Europe and adaptation to the growing internationalisation vary among Member States, and within them among different social groups and institutions.
24. The European Union countries have always been divided between north and south, rich and poor, as well as big and small. However, a new division between federalists and those who are in favour of the nation state has arisen.
25. Together with the Eastern enlargement, the concept of a multi-speed Europe might become even more actual because of the different levels of economic and political readiness and different views on co-operation in the field of defence.
26. Furthermore, there is a lack of consensus on the political future of Europe regarding the enlargement to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. There is no agreement as to when the enlargement should happen. That leads towards frustrations in Central and Eastern European countries where the public support for joining the European Union decreases year after year.
IV. Political legitimacy of the European Union
27. As the European Union begins to go beyond regulation and market creation into sensitive areas of state authority, EU institutions and member state governments have begun to experience the need to enhance accountability and tackle the legitimacy deficit.
28. National and European leaders have only partially raised the question of the role of public opinion in defining the direction of the process towards closer co-operation. As a result of the absence of a strategy to get public support for the integration of Europe, negative attitudes in public opinion in various countries has grown. The Danish and French referenda on Maastricht have provided ample proof of this.
29. The general public is now largely aware of what is known as the democratic deficit, namely the gap between democratic practices in theory and in reality. The public tends to exagerate the role of the European Parliament and to project the image of national parliaments on the European body.
30. This deficiency is bolstered by the fact that there is weak correspondence between elections to the European Parliament and the composition of an “EU government”. This lack of correspondence is often seen as a means of explaining relatively low turnout at Euro-elections, which is seen as eroding the European Parliament’s democratic legitimacy.
31. A recent example of opposition to deeper integration by citizens is the lack of wide public support for the introduction of a common currency in the member states.
32. The European Union budget is increasingly used to promote links and networks between groups or areas within the member states. Increasingly, voluntary groups perceive the need to get organised not only within their country, but also at the EU level, which gives them the possibility to exert influence on the Commission and the Parliament. The Commission sees support to these cross-national networks as critical to its legitimacy and the legitimacy of the European Union as a whole.
33. The problem of the democratic deficit does not concern only the European Union, but the international community as a whole. While the importance of the decisions taken in different international fora is getting more and more important, the circle of decisions makers is narrowing. It is composed almost exclusively of representatives of governments excluding parliamentarians, whose role is often reduced to the ratification of “faits accomplis”.
V. Research on the public support for the European integration
34. A reference to the peoples of Europe has been included to a preamble of every European agreement from the Statute of the Council of Europe to the Treaty of Amsterdam. In reality, the peoples themselves often regard the European political project as an exercise of bureaucrats for bureaucrats, on which they have no or only very limited influence.
35. A research carried out in spring 1998 showed the average support for the European Union membership among the citizens of 15 EU member states was at 51%. The support has been steadily declining from more than 70% in 1990-1991, but has gained few points in the last couple of years compared to the absolute low of less than 50% in 1996.
36. The support for the membership is far lowest in the three most recent members, Austria, Finland and Sweden, with 36% in the first two countries and 32% in the last one.
37. In the ten candidate countries, 50% of the general public consider that “aims and activities of the EU are generally positive". The support is the highest in Poland (56%) and the lowest in Latvia (33%).
38. A support of only a half of population for the processes that are shaping the political and economic reality in the EU member states and, increasingly, also in the candidate countries, falls certainly behind what would be desired by the decision-makers in these countries. Incidentally, the latter, together with business leaders, academics and media representatives are showing much greater support for EU membership than average citizens. For the ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the support among these categories of persons is 80%.
39. Although the above figures concern only the support for the EU membership, the results for the European political project as a whole are likely to be similar. Although containing less thorny issues as those linked with the loss of national sovereignty, the public opinion concerning the EU would most likely apply also to the whole European political project, because of a significantly lower level of public knowledge about other forms of European co-operation.
40. In the light of these figures, it is clear that the European political project is not automatically easy to “sell” in the domestic politics. Even among politicians supportive of the European political project, many tend to avoid raising these issues at the national level.
VI. Regain confidence
41. Since some years now, the feeling that there is a need for integration has faded among the public. Advantages such as economic development and more stability in Europe still appeal to people, but there is no clear threat the integration is supposed to prevent, as it was the case after the 2nd World War (preventing a 3rd war in Europe) and during the Cold War (uniting forces against the Communist enemy).
42. There is a growing rift between public opinion and the European political project. In order to regain confidence of the European citizens in this project and in pan-European institutions, the rapporteur considers that efforts must be made in the following two major directions :
a. bringing Europe closer to its citizens
b. give the European citizen more information about Europe
a. bringing Europe closer to its citizens
- involve citizens in the European process
43. The construction of a democratic political structure for Europe is the essential element of regaining people's confidence and of helping them not to focus exclusively on purely national and regional interests. The main task that has to be fulfilled in this matter is the filling in of the “democratic deficit”.
44. The lack of legitimacy is regarded as one of the main reasons why people do not get involved in the European process. Setting up means to exert influence on pan-European institutions could increase the confidence of the public. The European organisations and institutions should be more open to non-governmental organisations, trans-national networking, pressure groups etc. Futher, emphasis must be put on democratisation of international organisations in order to create a basis for public confidence.
- respecting Europe's cultural identity
45. The need to strengthen the public identification with the European project has been a recurring theme in official thinking about integration since the end of the 1960’s and was always part of the federalist thinking. Political integration was considered intrinsic to the European project. The necessity to give Europe a “human face” stemmed from the belief that economic integration needed political integration, and that the sense of “we, Europeans” was required to create an authentic political community.
46. Many people fear that by creating a harmonised pan-European culture, the richness of the current diversity of traditions and cultures will diminish. However, beyond national and regional differences, which should be respected, Europeans generally share a common cultural heritage and common values. European cultural actions should be a way of showing citizens, by bringing their shared cultural heritage to the fore, what they have in common. Cultural policies based on the knowledge of culture and history of Europe should encourage preservation of values and co-operation between states. For the citizens, the credibility of the European Union depends a lot on how strongly the European cultural identity and traditions will be preserved.
- build a Europe respecting human rights
47. The European integration process must continue to pay attention to human rights and to minority rights. In order to facilitate effective implementation of international legal standards in the field of human rights, co-operation and effective exchange of information at international organisations' level as well as governmental level should be pursued.
- increase benefits of economic integration
48. To enhance political integration in the future, conditions for further economic integration should be ensured. The enlargement of the European Union should lead to large and liberalised markets, technological dissemination and economic growth.
49. Citizens must also feel that the European integration process is profitable for them and their families and brings them personal benefits.
b. give the European citizen more information about Europe
50. An automatic reaction to the lack of public support for the European political project would be to search for its causes in the lack of information available to the citizens. It is a reaction of a businessmen convinced of having a good product which only has to be properly advertised.
51. It is undoubtedly true that there is a need to provide more information on European topics, which must cease to be considered as subjects for specialists. Almost 80% of the EU citizens say that they want or need more information. It is important that citizens get easy access to more information on European policy in every EU and candidate country. However, it is very important by whom and in which form such information is provided.
52. During the first Danish referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, the Government sponsored a nation-wide distribution of the text. After vote, the Treaty opponents claimed that this was one of the reasons of their victory. People seemed to have reacted negatively, in particular, to the bureaucratic language of the Treaty and failed to see the link with the visionary predictions from the politicians concerning the benefit of the agreement.
53. Public support for the European political project cannot be automatically assumed. It should be considered as an objective to be achieved through the proper identification of citizen’s genuine needs and interests and through regular, accessible and comprehensible information on all aspects of the European political project.
54. Although the democratic legitimacy of the European political project cannot be questioned for the time being, this could become a problem in the future if the public support would continue to dwindle, or if a clear majority were to challenge it.
55. The European Union is often considered as overly bureaucratic, undemocratic and alienated from the citizens of its member states. It is also often accused of undermining the national sovereignty by taking upon itself competences traditionally belonging to national states.
56. The second challenge to the democratic accountability of the European political project is that the continuing transfer of increasingly important competences from the national to the European or international level is not accompanied by an appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of the decision making at the international level.
57. Such criticism cannot be remedied solely through more information. The public has to have an opportunity not only to be informed, but to actively take part in the debate. It also has to be convinced of the relevance of the European political project for the every day life. For this to happen, Europe has to become an intrinsic part of domestic political debate in the same way the European Convention on Human Rights has become an automatic reference in national legal systems in most Council of Europe member states.
58. The Assembly, composed of members of national parliaments, is in unique position to serve as a “channel” between “European” and “domestic” politics, with the flow of information going in both directions. On one side, the members should provide “nationally relevant” input to Assembly debates. On the other hand, they should refer to the Assembly and Council of Europe “acquis” every time a “Europe” related issue is being debated at the national level.
59. In national parliaments where this is not yet the case, committees for European Affairs should be set up. Their terms of reference should not be limited only to the European Union, but should cover all European organisations, including the Council of Europe. The chairmen of the national delegations to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should regularly report to these committees on the delegation activities and on the work of the Assembly in general.
60. Co-operation between political parties in national parliaments and political groups in the Assembly should also be encouraged.
61. The importance of parliamentary scrutiny of decision making at the European level should be recognised. Bodies fulfilling this role should be given sufficient powers and means to exercise their functions normally.
THE STRUCTURE AND PREPARATIONS FOR
ESTONIA’s EU ACCESSION NEGOTIATIONS
On December 13, 1997, at the Luxembourg Summit, the European Council decided to begin European Union accession negotiations with six countries, including Estonia. The Luxembourg Council stated: "The enlargement is a comprehensive, inclusive and on-going process, which will take place in stages; each of the applicant States will proceed at its own rate, depending on its degree of preparedness." As such, Estonia is taking active measures, and making the necessary preparations, to effectively participate in the formal accession process. One important element in Estonia's strategy for the preparation of accession to the EU, in light of the conclusions of the Europe Council in Luxembourg, include the accession negotiations.
A negotiations structure has been established whereby the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the overall co-ordination of the negotiations. The negotiations mandate is subject to final approval by the Government.
A negotiations task force, consisting of 6 persons, has been formed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to assist the chief negotiator and the Negotiations Delegation.
A Negotiations Delegation has been established. It is foreseen that the Negotiations Delegation will present regular briefings to the cabinet and the Parliament's European Affairs Committee.
The Office of European Integration (OEI), located in the State Chancellery, will continue to function as the central body responsible for internal integration co-ordination. The OEI's functions will allow for any necessary amendments to be made to Estonia's Government Activity Plan during the accession negotiations.
The Estonian Negotiations Delegation was approved by the Government on January 27, 1998. The delegation, consisting of 47 persons in total, is broad-based and includes representatives from each ministry (except the Ministry of Defence), the Office for European Integration, and the Estonian Mission in Brussels.
The Negotiations Delegation is composed of two main levels: the main delegation or 'core group', and the heads of the working groups.
Main Delegation (Core Group):
The main delegation consists of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as the head of the delegation; the Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the deputy head of the delegation; senior civil servants from all ministries; the head of the Office for European Integration of the State Chancellery; and the Head of the Estonian Mission to the European Union.
The members of the main delegation will conduct and co-ordinate the activities of the working groups within their administrative field. Furthermore, the main delegation is responsible for the preparation and completion of the final positions.
The second level is formed by the heads of the working groups. Thirty-three negotiations working groups, headed by ministerial officials, have been established. The heads of these working groups are also official members of the Negotiations Delegation. These working groups generally correspond to the chapters of negotiations.
The working groups are responsible for preparing the negotiations with the EU in the framework of the acquis and in the scope of each respective field.
The main delegation, as well as the whole negotiating process, will rely on the activities of the working groups in terms of essence, form, and time-frames.
The working groups have several principal responsibilities. These groups will conduct a thorough examination of the acquis and a comparative analysis of Estonian legislation. This analysis will allow for elaboration of proposals for the shaping of negotiating positions of the main delegation.
Furthermore, the working groups will participate in the screening of the acquis, providing comments and explanations in their own field of expertise and preparing relevant draft position papers.
Public Opinion in Estonia and the European Union
The image of the European Union among the population of Central and East European candidate states has been studied since 1990, and in Estonia, since 1991. From the very beginning of those studies, opinion polls showed that the views of the population of Estonia about the accession to the European Union are deliberative and restrained, rather than emotional and optimistic.
The readiness of the Estonian people to discuss items relating to the European Union can be divided into two periods. The years 1991 to 1995 have been characterised as the euphoric stage in Estonian public opinion. In those years, 30 to 38 per cent of the Estonian people had a positive vision of the European Union; at the same time, 1 to 5 per cent of the people had a negative vision of it. The period from 1996 to 1998 may be called the period of maintaining neutrality. Critical attitudes towards the European Union are expressed rather cautiously, but the number of people having a positive image of it has somewhat decreased. Most people have a neutral vision of the European Union. (Cf. Central and East European Barometer, 1998, No. 8, Annex, Figure 10).
With the intention to predict the possible behaviour of the people of Estonia at a referendum where Estonia’s accession to the European Union would be decided upon, the Saar-Poll Company organised some polls in 1995-1998. In 1995, 44 per cent of respondents supported accession to the European Union. One year later, the number of supporters had dropped to 30 per cent. In 1997, when inclusion of Estonia in the list of candidates for the accession to the European Union in the first round of its enlargement was discussed, the number of supporters of the European Union increased to 34 per cent. When it became clear that Estonia would be invited to the first round of the negotiations with the European Union, the interest in and support for the European Union decreased among the people. While in the context of abstract accession prospects it was relatively simple to express one’s positive attitude, a situation where one has to choose among more and more concrete options gives rise to hesitations.
From comparison with other Nordic countries, such a change in the public opinion could be predicted. Analogous shifts towards a decrease in the interest in the essence of negotiations were also characteristic of Finland after the EU referendum; therefore, the Finnish experience in Eurointegration is of a great interest to Estonia. (See: Finland and the Future of Europe. Finland’s Opinion of the EU. Autumn 1997).
From the results of the polls, it is immediately clear that in relatively many cases the thinking patterns of Estonians concerning the European Union have been taken over from other countries. As other people in Eastern Europe, the people of Estonia are also of the opinion that the biggest losers at the accession are, first of all, agricultural workers and retired people, although, considering the present situation in the Estonian agriculture and social welfare, it need not be so. The Finnish experience has shown already that a great deal of developments after Finland’s accession to the European Union proved to be the opposite to the earlier prognoses.
Former expectations of different population groups of Estonia have undergone a change and become much more realistic. A better understanding has been reached what chances a small state can have for promoting “its own cause“ in international organisations, and what is the actual price of the integration into the EU, because the conditions of accession have become clearer. It is noteworthy that the percentage of people sharing a negative attitude towards the EU has been relatively stable. Redistribution is mainly going on between the ranks of those who “hesitate” and those who “support”.
Today the major part of the Estonian people is not able yet to clearly imagine its future in the European context. Comparison of the data of numerous sociological studies shows that in last years the interest in the EU has increased,while people have received better information. The higher the educational level of the respondents, the better information they have about the EU, and the more positive is their attitude towards the accession to the European Union.
The major current problems in Estonia are employment and competitiveness. People are interested in overcoming the difficulties of social life, rather than in protecting their language and culture. They hope that the European Union with its developed economy could make a considerable contribution to improving of the living standards and to the creation of working places.
Estonian people have become better informed since there has been a change in the motivation to be aware the issues of the EU. Today in Estonia, people are interested in the information about what will be the results of the EU accession of ordinary people. Although people would like to be well informed of any kind of details, it is not easy to find answers to their questions in the Estonian press. At the same time, Euroscepticism as a political movement that principally opposes European integration has not yet been formed in Estonia. However, the percentage of people and movements, representing the critical way of thinking, has somewhat increased, and the Future Estonia Party makes attempts to espouse their cause.
Summarising briefly, it can be said that providing the Estonian people with better information about the affairs of the European Union and their reaction to that information are not linearly correlated, that is, better information does not always lead to a change in attitudes that could be easily predicted.
The attitude of the people towards the possible accession of Estonia to NATO has been studied less extensively. In 1997, Estonia was the only candidate country of the accession to the European Union, in which the support to the accession of the state to NATO was stronger than the support to the accession to the European Union. However, after the Madrid summit of NATO in July last year, the attitude of Estonians in this respect has clearly changed. According to the data published in the last Eurobarometer, 32 per cent of the Estonian people would cast at a referendum their votes for the accession of Estonia to NATO, 12 per cent would be against this, and 37 per cent have not made any decision yet. If in the case of the Baltic states it has been considered necessary to stress also the fact that the behaviour of ethnic minorities at the referendum on the issue of accession to the European Union would not differ very much from that of the title nation, then in the issue of joining NATO there is an entirely different tendency. Only 14 per cent of non-Estonians living in Estonia would vote for joining NATO (the percentage of Estonians in favour of joining NATO is 35).
The Attitude of Estonian Parties towards the Possible Accession of Estonia to the European Union and NATO
Most parties in Estonia have declared their attitude towards the possible accession of Estonia to the European Union and NATO in their programmes.
The majority of Estonian's larger and stronger parties - the Estonian Coalition Party, the Estonian Reform Party, the Pro Patria Union, the Estonian Centre Party, the Estonian Development Party, the Moderates’ Party and the People’s Party - have mentioned in their programmes as one of the most important directions of the foreign policy the accession of Estonia to the European Union and NATO. The Estonian Rural Party and the Pensioners’ and Families’ Union have expressed their willingness to work for the accession of Estonia to the European Union, however, they have not expressed their attitude to NATO.
There is only one party in Estonia (the Future Estonia Party) who does not support the idea that Estonia should accede to the European Union. The Russian parties are against the idea that Estonia should join NATO; they support the status of Estonia as a neutral state.
Reporting committee : Political Affairs Committee
References to committee : Doc. 7941 and Reference No. 2234 of 7 November 1997, Doc. 7939 and Reference No. 2232 of 7 November 1997
Budgetary implications for the Assembly : None
Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 16 December 1998 with 1 abstention.
Members of the committee : Mr Bársony (Chairman), Mrs Ojuland (Vice-Chairperson), MM Antretter, Arzilli, Atkinson, Mrs Belohorská, MM Bergqvist, Björck, Blaauw (alternate: Mrs Gelderblom-Lankhout), Bloetzer, Chircop, Chornovil, Daly, Davis, Dokle, Domljan, Gjellerod (alternate: Mrs Severinsen), Glotov, Gül (alternate: Akçali), Hadjidemetriou (alternate : Demetriou) Hornhues (alternate: Bühler), Mrs Iotti, MM. Irmer, Iwinski, Mrs Kautto, MM Kirilov, Krzaklewski, Kuzmickas, Mrs Lentz-Cornette, MM Lopez Henares, Lupu (alternate: Kelemen), van der Maelen (alternate: Clerfayt), Maginas (alternate: Micheloyiannis), Martinez, Medeiros Ferreira, Meier, Mota Amaral, Mühlemann (alternate: Gross), Mutman, Nallet, Nedelciuc, Mrs Nemcova, MM Oliynyk, Pahor, Palmitjavilo Ribo, Popovski, Prusak, Mrs Ragnarsdottir, Mrs Roudy, MM Schieder, Schwimmer, Seguin (alternate: Baumel, Vice-Chairman), Selva, Sinka, Mrs Smith (alternate: Mr Taylor), Mrs Stanoiu, Mrs Stepová (alternate: Mr Skopal), MM Surjan, Thoresen (alternate: Simonsen), Timmermans, Toshev, Urbain (alternate: Staes), Volcic, Ziuganov.
N.B. The names of members who took part in the vote are printed in italics
Secretaries of the committee : Mr Kleijssen, Mr Sich, Mr Gruden
1 EU Commission’s publication