Sunday, June 13, 2004

And now for something slightly different

A curious poll by Gallup Europe, published on June 7 tells us that Americans do not seem to know much about the European Union. (On the other hand, one has to admit that Europeans know very little about the United States, but that may not be considered relevant.)

It seems to have been a somewhat odd poll with an odd selection of questions. For instance Americans were asked about purely factual matters on whether the EU was larger or smaller than the USA with only two per cent answering correctly that the EU is, indeed, larger. Of course, with the borders of the EU constantly moving, it is a little hard to keep up with its size.

Other questions were not exactly factual. 48 per cent of those polled saw the EU’s role for the world economy as positive, which is a matter of opinion and is, in any case, a meaningless question. Only 33 per cent saw the EU’s role in fighting poverty as positive. Again, a matter of opinion but not inaccurate, given the EU’s tendency for slapping all kinds of tariffs and anti-dumping regulations on poorer countries.

But the oddest part of it all was the comment made by Alec Gallup, chairman of Gallup Poll and board member of Gallup Europe in an interview with EurActiv. Apparently, this “lack of awareness of EU as a player could be related to the fact that the EU’s foreign policy is perceived as being run by the individual European nations, not the EU”. This apparently shows that Americans “are not very receptive and knowledgeable”.

Receptive to what exactly? We have been told endlessly by our Government that foreign and security policy are among those famous red lines that Tony Blair will fight for at the Summit on Waterloo Day. If the foreign policy is already run by the EU then what is he going to be fighting for?

Come to think of it, how many people in the various member states know that the EU runs their foreign policy and how many fondly imagine that it is run by the government they elect?

Tomorrow, however, those Americans who are interested in affairs on this side of the Atlantic will learn a new fact: that a large proportion of those British voters who can be bothered to turn out to vote in the election for the European Parliament, dislike the whole enterprise so much that they cast their votes for the one party that is calling for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Now that will be a fact worth knowing.

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