Juncker, in a speech to the Council of Europe (NOT an EU institution!), highlighted the growing dissatisfaction with the EU across European member states (text from the Times):
The European Union was wrong to have meddled in people’s daily lives, its most senior figure admitted yesterday as he pleaded with voters not to wreck the bloc’s “ideal”.
Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged that citizens across the continent were “stepping away from the European project” and losing respect for its powers, with fears growing that a British exit will trigger a chain reaction. European legislation had taken precedence over national laws too often, he added.
Opinion polls in Denmark and Sweden showed unprecedented and deepening hostility to the EU this week after the Netherlands rejected a new treaty with Ukraine.
Michael Gove, the justice secretary, turned Europhile warnings of increasing instability on their head by claiming that a vote to leave the EU would lead to the “democratic liberation of a whole continent”. He added that European leaders’ present approach “could not and will not survive” a British vote to leave on June 23 because they would face growing demands for reform. Mr Juncker, president of the European Commission, sought to pacify critics as he “confessed” that Brussels was responsible for some of the hostility.
Diktats on olive oil jugs, the permitted height of a hairdresser’s heels and the curvature of cucumbers had fuelled the anger, he said. “We were wrong,” he told the Council of Europe, a human rights assembly that predates the EU.
“I think that one of the reasons that European citizens are stepping away from the European project is that we are interfering in too many domains of their private lives and too many domains where the member states are better placed to take action and pass legislation.”
Mr Juncker, a former prime minister of Luxembourg and one of the last believers in a federal Europe, said that the EU had been hit by a series of crises, from an influx of migrants to the terrorist attacks on Paris and Brussels.
“Today we are facing very tough times. All our institutions are under immense pressure today and sometimes are really pushed to their limits,” he said. “It’s true that we are not very popular when we advocate for Europe. We are no longer respected in our countries when we emphasise the need to give priority to the EU. We will eventually end up with the ruins of this ideal.”
Useful for Unit 4 EU – this could be used to support arguments that the EU (particularly the Commission) meddles in internal member states’ affairs and is undemocratic. It also provides useful evidence of growing Euroscepticism beyond Britain.
Note, the Netherlands rejection mentioned above was a referendum on 10/04/16 whereby the Dutch voted convincingly (61% NO) against an EU trade and security treaty with Ukraine. Interestingly, all the mainstream political parties had supported the YES campaign. Turnout was very low (32%) and the referendum was really about concerns over potential further eastern enlargement rather than on the details of the trade agreement. The referendum was purely ‘consultative’ but the Dutch PM conceded that ratification of the treaty could not continue after this defeat. The Ukraine treaty has provisionally entered into force but will need to be ratified by all 28 EU member states.