Q: How is Eastern Europe seen from London? – we were all curious to find throughout our first study visit to London, therefore we asked this question, in various forms, to different people we had the chance to speak to.
A: “The sad fact is that nobody thinks about how Eastern Europe is like” - this is one of the frankest assessments about how our part of the world is seen from London. It belongs to a very bright and beautiful (at least in the view of a Polish colleague who likes German women :-) young researcher, and maybe it's good that we received it just before meeting (in the next weeks) politicians who may attempt to fool us with speeches about how important the New Europe is for them.
However, at least one of the assumptions I had made before arriving here seems to be correct. Indeed, most of the entrepreneurs in UK not only acknowledge the benefit brought by the UK membership of the EU to their businesses, but they are also very well informed about how things are going in Europe.
At least partly, this is due to the activity of people (probably not older than us, the 12 Chevening Fellows hosted by SEI in 2008), working for independent organizations such as the Centre for European Reform or the Business for New Europe group.
On the other hand, we are being confirmed that the general awareness of the EU among the British public is quite low, comparable maybe to that in Romania. Romanians are no better, nor worse than the Brits at knowledge about the EU...
It only happens that, while for the Brits the EU is a constant source of irrational fear (some imagining that a European Constitutional Treaty would mean that the Queen will no longer be the Head of State :-), many Romanians held for a long time an overoptimistic expectation of the EU, viewed as a doctor that would somehow miraculously cure the ills that they didn't cure themselves.
No wonder that Winston Churchill once said that "the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
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