Europe Going Through Changes Right in Front of Our Eyes
Vladimir NESTEROV | 01.08.2015 | OPINION

Europe Going Through Changes Right in Front of Our Eyes

The Greek crisis provided an impetus to the ongoing centrifugal process inside the European Union. A strong secessionist sentiment is there. National interests happen to be more important than the values of «United Europe»… Looks like Europe is in for a wave of referendums with unpredictable results. Besides Great Britain, Austria and Finland, Euroscepticism is on the rise in many other EU members as well.

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron is set to hold the in-or-out referendum on Britain’s future membership of the European Union in June next year and will announce the fast-tracked date as the centrepiece of his party’s annual conference in October, according to the Independent.

The legislation is going through Parliament. Having won the May 2015 election David Cameron promised to review the UK's terms and conditions of EU membership if the European Union does not change its immigration policy. After that the European Commission introduced new quotas on asylum seekers.

George Osborn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury, tried to delay the referendum but David Cameron decided that 2016 is the most propitious time to hold it. According to him, it will reduce economic risks related to possible withdrawal from the European Union. Britons apparently have no wish to pay for allowing Greece stay in the Union or supporting immigrants.

According to the Guardian, a group of Bank of England experts is formed to study possible losses the United Kingdom may suffer in case the country leaves the EU. The group’s work is veiled in secrecy. The very fact of its existence surfaced only after a leak. According to Gallup survey held in late 2014, the majority of UK citizens support the idea of leaving the European Union. 

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Austria is also contemplating the possibility of ending its EU membership. 261,159 Austrians have signed a petition calling for the EU exit for the country. They represent 4.12 percent of the electorate. Now the Austrian parliament must discuss a referendum on the issue. The threshold for calling a debate on a potential referendum is 100,000 people. Author of this petition is a 66-year-old pensioner — Inge Roscher, who previously worked as a translator, and since Austria joined the EU, has been protesting against such an alliance. She composed a similar petition in 2000. On that occasion, it was signed by 3.35 percent of the electorate.

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Finland is considering possible scenarios of exit from the Eurozone amid the Greek crisis, told the resource Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten Secretary General of the European political Alliance of eurosceptics EUD (Europeans United for Democracy) Richard Bifelt. Against the background of the situation in Greece, many Finnish politicians believe that the country is «not in the club.» Under the «club» Bifelt implies the Eurozone.

On July 23, Finnish radio reported that a citizens' initiative wants to determine whether Finland wants to remain part of the Eurozone. The initiative gathered over 30 thousand signatures in only six days. If the appeal for a referendum gains at least 50,000 signatures, the motion would have to be addressed in Parliament under Finnish law. Finnish veteran politician Euro-parlamentarian Paavo Väyrynen from the Centre Party, who has established a citizens' initiative petition, says he is happy so many signatures were gathered in such a short period of time. He wants the information to be disseminated. According to him, the Finland’s membership is intensively debated and an open discussion is welcome so that people with different opinions could share their views.

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Europe is in for a wave of referendums with unpredictable results. In many countries euroscepticism is gaining popular support. For instance, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's nationalist Front National Party, has promised to hold a referendum on the country's possible exit from the European Union (EU) if she is elected president in 2017.    

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV), believes the withdrawal from the European Union would be a good thing for his country. According to him, this is the only way to create new working places and generate economic growth. Wilders believes that the Netherlands should not be told to implement the pernicious policy of meeting European standards. «We want to decide how we control our borders, our money, our economy, our currency», he says implying that the control over these things has been taken away by the European Union.

Pier Carlo Padoan, Italian Minister of Economy and Finances, has warned Brussels that almost any country can leave the Union. For all the relief in Rome that a deal was finally reached to avoid a Greek exit. Mr. Padoan argues it should be seen as a watershed moment for the continent. The crisis exposed the dramatic impact of «dissatisfaction» with Europe both in Greece and across Europe, including Italy, he said. «In the near future there could be governments based on majorities which are dissatisfied with Europe and therefore could be requesting that any specific country may leave the eurozone, not just because it’s in a desperate situation like Greece, but because they think this is a more viable solution to their problems», the Minister told the Financial Times.

Europe is going through changes right in front of our eyes.