The EU Dream
Sweden joined the EU only a little over ten years ago. Its position as an entry member was quite different from the countries that joined in later admission rounds: Sweden was already had a well-working democratic tradition and showed solid financial figures. One can wonder what Sweden expected to gain from EU membership and many Swedes actually do wonder about just that. If they wonder at all.
Malin (21) is the first person I speak to and she has no opinion whatsoever about the EU, or about Sweden being part of it. Her answer keeps coming back in following interviews. `No opinion`, `never thought about`, `no changes since Sweden joined` are the most common. It almost seems like the Swedes take Brussels for a theatre. The prescribed banana curve and cucumber length discussions definitely left the deepest impressions. On top of that and to the extent they think about it, they wonder where their contributions to the EU go. The payment records show that Sweden is severely overpaying: both compared to how much it receives in return and compared to how many other member states contribute.
`We don`t need Euros. The Swedish Crown works well enough`
Sara (31, photo) mentions the freedom to travel and move to other countries as one of the big advantages of the European Union. She would like to see crime as one of the domains where European countries could work together. She sees no need for Sweden to introduce the Euro: `The Swedish Crown works just fine`, she comments. Prestige does not drive the country to be excited about whether or not they will change the Euro, in the way it did in Slovenia. As indifferent as she is about the Euro, she firmly opposes the membership of Turkey. She thinks Turkey is not stable enough to join the EU.
Turkey membership does not seem to be popular. G?ran (24) agrees that Turkey does not belong in the EU, or at least: not yet. He comments his view: `Turkey should first fix some human right issues and then possibly join at a later point in time`. It`s only one of the arguments people produce. The majority of Turkey`s territory is in Asia, they have unsolved human rights issues and their current government is moving away from European values rather than moving closer. The concern of the EU growing beyond the maximum it can handle is present in people`s mind.
G?ran disagrees on Sara`s point of view about the introduction of the Euro. He thinks that it will help make life easier. `Prices may go up in the beginning, but they will balance out and afterwards we will just save ourselves the time, energy and cost to go and exhange money.`
G?ran likes the ideals of the EU and particularly the flexibility it offers in travelling. He dislikes the way other member countries take agreements for guidelines rather than agreements. On the whole, however, he is rather indifferent towards the decision making in Brussels. He adds that it does not seem less, or more, accessible than Swedish politics. He does specify that he feels Swedish rather than European.
EU as a counterbalance
Jens (46) works as an independent consultant and travels to other European countries on a regular basis. He confirms that Sweden`s benefits have mainly been indirect: not by EU subsidies or specific project, but by improved trade relations with other member states. Support to Swedish agriculture and regional projects seem to serve as excuses to keep people busy, rather than making a change to the daily life of the Swedish people as a whole.
Jens does notice how different countries behave differently in the European meetings. He mentions the French as an example, arguing that they try to exercise more power on Europe than other countries do. He quickly adds that France was one of the founding members, covers a larger territory and has a population 6 times as big as the Swedish one. `We may not like that kind of behaviour in Sweden, but what is the alternative to EU membership?` Jens is replies to his own question, saying: `Without an EU, the United States would be more powerful and so would Japan. History has shown that the concentration of power is never good in the long run. The dominating side will at one point grant itself rights that go against the weaker parties, and it is a nice objective for the EU to prevent just that from happening.
Lisa (31) and Olle (28) comment on the language issues playing in the EU. They do not see the need for a single language, but if there had to be one, they would opt for English. Lisa would also be fine with Swedish as the main language. Olle makes her lose appetite for that solution by pointing out that it is not very nice to travel to a far away country and see everything in your own language. Lisa then remembers how silly she found a liquor shop on Crete that called itself Systembolaget. They end up concluding that there is more of a need for a second language beside the national languages and in that case their current preference would be English.
Getting people`s views on the European Union is not an easy task. To many people, the EU is an abstract thing that does not make any difference in their daily lives. Even cartoon characters seem more popular than European politics and Idols is more popular for voting than the European Parliamentary elections. In the words of the Swedes, I sense one main message to Brussels: thank you for allowing us to travel and study all over Europe, but do not bother us with your rules and regulations. Or it has to be an imposed tax cut on alcohol sales.
photo | Link
to this article