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Europe: Top EU Officials Critical Of The State Of The Union

Strasbourg, 18 September 1996 (RFE/RL) - Three top officials of the European Union today were publicly, and unusually, critical of the 15-nation group's current state.

The union is largely mired in economic stagnation and high unemployment, said EU Executive Commission President Jacques Santer, Irish Premier and current EU President John Burton, and European Parliament President Klaus Haensch. They spoke in the EU's parliament,

All three also said or suggested that the EU was increasingly cut off from its own citizens and incapable of achieving a common foreign policy. They also found the union unable to make the necessary structural reforms that would it allow to expand its membership to Central and Eastern Europe in the coming years.

The officials made their remarks during a debate on the state of the European Union in Strasbourg. The European Parliament is holding a week-long September session there.

All three balanced their remarks with avowals of their refusal, in Santer's phrase, "to be drawn into pessimism and resignation" about the EU's future.

But Santer warned that apparent lack of progress in achieving structural reforms at the EU's current inter-governmental conference could delay enlargement to the east for years.

Burton emphasized that the union must make itself more relevant to its own citizens or risk further popular alienation. Haensch, a German Social Democrat, was most blunt The peoples of the EU, he said, were not against the union, "but they no longer know why they should be for (it)."