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Arguments against joining the EU

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  • According to the Eurosceptic current present in many of today’s member states, the EU has the following shortcomings:
    • The EU is expensive. For the richest and most developed countries which receive much less from the EU than they receive from it. The Common Agricultural Policy and the European Structural Funds, two of the largest budget areas of the EU, generally benefit the least developed countries. Even so, the richest countries are the ones that have most benefitted from the single market as they have been able to sell their products to all the markets in the EU without customs duties.
    • The EU is too powerful. Particularly since the Treaty of Maastricht, the EU has gradually extended its competences into areas that were previously the exclusive domain of their member states, such as justice, foreign policy and security. This means that some very important issues have not been debated in the different national parliaments.
    • The EU is not democratic. Many of the decisions taken at the heart of the EU are carried out by an executive, the European Commission, which has not been directly elected by European citizens. The European Parliament does not have the same power to take action as its national equivalents and rarely influences the final decisions. This lack of legitimacy is made all the more evident by the limited participation in European elections. Finally, the most important decision-making body, the European Council, is hardly known for its transparency when it comes to taking decisions, as its debates are always wrapped in secrecy.
    • The EU suffocates the nation state. Thorough the EU treaties, the member states have agreed to surrender certain areas of their sovereignty to the EU. These areas, such as monetary policy, the tax system and defence suffocate the nation state. The closing of agreements in these areas is difficult at the supranational level and the honouring of these agreements would be more effective if each country could decide for itself. The Eurozone crisis has particularly highlighted this problem.
    • The EU does not treat all of its members equally. The treatment that the EU gives to each country depends on its size and political weight within the EU. Here are some examples:
      • Denmark was forced to repeat its referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht after an initial “no” decision in 1992; this subsequently became a “yes” in 1993. In contrast, the French “no” was enough to block the Constitutional Treaty in 2005.
      • In 2003, France and Germany did not respect the Stability and Growth Pact but their influence as major partners within the EU allowed them to escape the sanctions envisaged in such cases.
      • In contrast, it is evident that the rescue mechanism applied to Cyprus was very different from that applied to the rest of the members of the Eurozone which were in a similar situation, with part of the rescue having to be paid using the money deposited in Cypriot banks.
  • It is perhaps not, therefore, surprising that a rich country with a relatively small population (less than 1% of the total population of the EU) like Norway has rejected joining the EU on two occasions: in the referendums of 1972 and 1994.

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