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Is Britain Still The Awkward Partner In Europe?

1725 words - 7 pages

In 2003, thirty years after Britain became a membership of the European Communities, it is still considered as Europe's "awkward partner". Where does it come from? European communities were created because the founding fathers of the union believed that integrating European countries' economies would link them in order to preserve peace between them and that this economic integration would one day lead to political integration. The other objective was to create a huge European market which would match the American one in size and scale. In 1950, Robert Schuman proposed the pooling of French and West German supplies of coal and steal, and invited the other European states that whished to ...view middle of the document...

; 1998]. After several De Gaulle's vetoes, Britain finally joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973.What is exactly an awkward partner? In this case, an awkward partner is a state which is not cooperated, a state which is difficult to deal with. For these reasons Britain has been called Europe's "awkward partner" since 1950s and is still the awkward partner within the EU, however, to a lesser degree than before. If an awkward partner is a state which does not cooperate nor respect what had been decided, we could say that member-states like France and Germany are also "awkward partners" because they do not respect the rules and procedures foreseen in the stability and growth pact. Sweden and Denmark have both rejected membership of the single currency in a referendum, as the United Kingdom; are they also "awkward partners"? Instead of "Is Britain still the awkward partner in Europe" the question could be "Is Britain the only awkward partner in Europe"?Britain has often been reluctant to European projects which were proposed to make an ever closer union. Since the creation of the ECSC in 1957, its main argument to fight European integration has been its fear to lose its sovereignty and its culture. Even the fact that Britain is an island was important. This general attitude has not changed since the 1950s: "Where do we stand? We are not members of the European Defence Community, nor do we intend to be merged in a Federal European system. We feel we have a special relation to both. This can be expressed by prepositions, by the preposition "with" but not "of" - we are with them but not of them. We have our own Commonwealth and Empire. (Churchill, 1953)" [Risse, T.; 1997]. As a result, Britain's role in Europe has generally been a difficult and sometimes "awkward" one; and Britain only joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Even since that time, there have been political "conflicts" between the British idea of Supranationalism and the European Intergovernmental System. Many British politicians have instinctively been more comfortable dealing with Washington than with Brussels. That is changing, slowly, but the ambivalence remains. Britain is a less awkward EU partner than it was, but still wants to have it both ways. Another problem was that domestic political constrained on the position that British Governments could adopt and still now debate on European Union is very important in Britain.Things are getting better since Tony Blair was elected prime Minister. Immediately upon his arrivals in office in 1997, Blair set about trying to repair damage done to British-EU relations during the Thatcher and Major years (1979-1997). "There is no doubt that the Blair government has changed Europe's perception of the UK" [Roxburgh, A.; 2003]. Blair wants Britain "to be a leading partner in shaping the Europe of the future, not following reluctantly the shape moulded by others" [Baker, D.; 2003]. But, as Britain is not an initial European Monetary...

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