At Edinburgh summit leaders face task of convincing Europeans that EC is not an uncaring superstate
ON the eve of their meeting in Edinburgh, European leaders were laying long-term plans to tackle what may be their most exacting post-summit challenge: persuading people that the European Community cares about the quality of human living.
The task of proving the EC is not set to become an uncaring superstate was made harder when Switzerland voted to reject membership in the proposed European Economic Area (EEA), a linkup of the 12-nation EC and the five-nation European Free Trade Association (EFTA), to which Switzerland already belongs.
"The Swiss had much to gain from belonging to the EEA, but they have signaled that they want to stand apart," a British diplomat said. "This will do nothing to improve the EC's image in the eyes of people who already belong to it or are being urged by their governments to join."
"The Swiss vote makes it all the more imperative that after Edinburgh the EC is shown to be interested in the lives of the people within its borders," the diplomat added.
Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Austria have applied for EC membership. The Swiss government applied in May, but the referendum result may force the government to withdraw the application.
Attitudes in Norway are veering away from joining the EC. An opinion poll conducted in early December suggested that 60 percent of the population opposes Norwegian membership.
British critics of the treaty say Switzerland's "no" vote and Norway's unenthusiastic mood indicated the EC was seriously out of touch with Europeans. Prime Minister John Major, host to the Edinburgh summit, has said repeatedly that he wants to see early enlargement of the EC. He is also a supporter of the EEA.
When he heard the result of the Swiss vote, Major redoubled efforts to ensure that at Edinburgh the Maastricht Treaty on closer European integration could be "sold" to citizens of the EC.