LETTER:Hidden benefits of being in the EU

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Sir: Well done, Polly Toynbee, for drawing our attention to the dangers of apathy on the part of the pro-Europeans. The anti-Europeans, with their cosy nostalgia and false propaganda, have held sway in the media for far too long.

It is time to acknowledge that the long peace enjoyed by member states of the European Union, invoked with such pride by John Major during the VE Day celebrations, might well not have existed had membership of the (original) EEC not provided its members, former rivals or enemies, with both a common purpose to

ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe

and a strong institutional structure within which national conflicts might be resolved.

Yes, there is much that is wrong in the EU, as there is in most national and international institutions. But the faults lie in the detail, not the vision. The majority of EU laws are not made by the European Commission, as some anti-Europeans would have us believe, but by elected government ministers in the Council of Ministers, representing the interests of their constituent states as well as those of the union, If EU legislation is imperfect, it is they who approve or authorise that legislation who are to blame.

The extension of qualified majority voting by the Single European Act 1986, under which a minority of member states may be outvoted, has increased the need for national governments and their representatives to take EU legislation seriously, to strive and to argue for the best solutions.

It is time that membership of the European Union was seen by all groups of society, and particularly by our political representatives, as providing an opportunity to influence EU policy in order to create a better Europe, tailored to the needs of the 21st century. The debate should be not about membership or non-membership of the European Union, but rather on the nature of the union which we wish to create.

Yours sincerely,

JOSEPHINE STEINER

Associate Professor

Faculty of Law

University of Sheffield

Sheffield

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