McConnell's Message to 'Meddling Dinosaur'

By Barnes, Eddie | Daily Mail (London), September 25, 2001 | Go to article overview

McConnell's Message to 'Meddling Dinosaur'


Barnes, Eddie, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: EDDIE BARNES

THE European Union is seen by many as an irrelevant and meddling institution, Europe Minister Jack McConnell admitted yesterday.

He conceded that the popular perception of the EU in Scotland was of a bureaucratic dinosaur concerned solely with interfering in the sovereignty of member states.

In a speech to the Royal Society of Edinburgh he said the onus was now on EU chiefs in Brussels to do something about their poor image by moving power away from the centre.

Mr McConnell, who combines his brief as Education Minister with a wider role on Europe, claimed that image would be improved if the EU boosted the role of devolved regions such as Scotland.

Mr McConnell's views will be noted in Brussels, which is keenly aware that people in many member states, not just Britain, are growing ever more hostile to its functions.

The Minister said: 'It is seen by many as remote, concerned with esoteric issues that have little relevance to their everyday lives and often meddling in a way that seems designed simply to complicate life and increase bureaucracy.

'There is a definite problem of perception and there are some issues of substance that need to be addressed.' He added: 'Ordinary people from Lerwick to Palermo, must not be made to feel the EU's aim is rigid uniformity throughout the length and breadth of the union, no matter how much it flies in the face of common sense.

'Failure to heed this message will lead to distrust, alienation and ultimately to stubborn resistance to new ideas, no matter how sensible and beneficial they may be.' The turnout for European elections in 1999 barely passed 20 per cent and Mr McConnell said this was proof of how disillusioned people had become with the EU. …

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