Paper 35 – Euromyths 2012: The reality behind the half-truths

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Scotland Europa, which was created in 1992 by Scottish Enterprise to support Scottish economic development. Much has changed for Scotland and the EU over that time, not least the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, the development of the Single Market, the introduction of the Euro and EU enlargement from 12 to 27 members.

In 2003, just after the 10th year of Scotland Europa, a reference paper called "Euromyths – the facts behind the rumours, hearsay and half‐truths" was written. This raised a number of issues which were of significance at the time to a ‘British’ reader with an interest in the EU. Nearly a decade on, and in connection with celebrations for Scotland Europa’s 20th anniversary, there are compelling reasons to revisit some of the issues raised in 2003.

The current paper can, however, be distinguished in a number of ways. It has been written at a time when huge uncertainties hover over the prospects for individual European economies and the stability of the eurozone as a whole. As such discussions in Brussels have assumed a much more economic focus than was the case previously, and this is reflected in the paper. In addition, and perhaps also as an expression of the times, the substance of this paper moves away from tabloid originated ‘euromyths’ such as ‘curved bananas’, ‘straight cucumbers’ and ‘harmonised condom dimensions’, to examine issues such as misgivings in the UK about the importance of Europe’s single market and the actual blameworthiness of Brussels’ institutions for bureaucratic inefficiencies.

In the spirit of Scotland Europa’s 20th anniversary celebrations, a range of questions have been posed throughout the paper in respect of how EU policy themes and trends will develop over the next decade. The questions below are included by way of introduction:

  1. How can the current, intensive austerity measures being implemented across Europe pave the way for growth and fiscal consolidation?
  2. Balancing its alignment with the ‘European social model’ on the one hand with its deeply held aversion to European market regulations (such as a financial transaction tax) on the other, can the United Kingdom ever redesign its relationship with Europe to become a ‘critical friend’, or is it on an inevitable path towards marginalization as a ‘difficult partner’? What implications does this have for the United Kingdom’s presence and influence within the EU?

More broadly, it will be very interesting to observe Scotland’s development in the European context over the next decade, as it continues to prove itself as a significant player in areas closely aligned with EU policy priorities.