Are we afraid of the European Union?

Are we afraid of the European Union?

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Are we afraid of the European Union? - The European Union as a Reference Point in the Hungarian Public Discourse. Presentation of József Péter Martin at the conference "The Future of the Enlarged European Union", November 29, 2002.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

You might think as well, that the title of the workshop - the future of Europe - would call forth from the speakers an elated style, a more distanced approach to daily concerns. When I accepted the invitation to hold a lecture on the Hungarian Europe Society's first international event, I had the same idea in mind. I could go through the whole storehouse of theories on Europeanization, could ponder over what kind of mixture of federal and interstate attributes the old continent is moving towards. I could speculate on what sort of medley of economic interests, political visions and the "cultural frame" - using the American Europe-expert, Neil Fligstein's concept - drives the forces of integration. These fascinating questions do not appear yet in the Hungarian public discourse. The national press reports on Europe's future or disputes in the Convent in Brussels only occasionally, analysis of the more remote perspectives of the continent is practically unknown to the Hungarian public. In order to understand it, in the next few minutes I would make my examinations in present, rather than in future tense.

What is the national public image of the European Union, which we are to join in a couple of months? Do we know this both historically and geographically unique organisation enough? Do we use it as a reference point, a kind of benchmark adequately? Are we not afraid of the efforts the accession requires us to make? While searching for the answer to these questions, it might also show why the future of Europe still does not appear as a relevant subject in the Hungarian public discourse.

Contemplating long-term issues is said to be against the kind of thinking that strives to find solutions for everyday concerns. I do not think it so: our present choices, notions, beliefs and illusions have a fundamental influence on our future opinion. If today we consider the European Union a colonizer, comprador alliance, then we could hardly contribute creatively to the internal disputes on the future of the integration tomorrow. If we think, that the European Commission, the administrative body of the Union introduces rules only to aggravate the situation of our private individuals, our enterprises and producers - not in order to increase the competitiveness of the continent by ensuring a more or less unified framework - , then we point out the socio-psychological opposition of "them" and "we", forgetting, that soon "we" too will be "them".

Integration theories, which model decision-making and therefore consider future possibilities for development, can be divided into two main groups; modernization and colonization theories combining left- and right-wing criticisms of the integration. (Let me mention it in brackets, that on our continent Europeanization is closely related to globalisation. So pro-globalisationists usually accept the concept of an integrating Europe, whereas anti-globalisationists relate to the European Union with criticism. From the Eastern-European point of view the two courses seem similar, nevertheless, there is a huge gap between European and - let's say - American economic models. The Union drives the candidate states towards the main current of world economy but in the meantime tries to cut off the wildings of globalisation with regional, sectoral and social policies.)

The European Union and the European institutions are often criticised for their democratic deficit and lack of transparency.

The problem of a European identity is not that there isn't one, but that very broadly two can be defined - one political, the other cultural - and they are in many ways out of alignment.

Közép- és Kelet-Európában

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The third event of the international conference series on Media and Politics was held at the European Youth Centre Budapest, Council of Europe on 6-7 October, 2000.

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