France, Italy, and Britain Re-think Their Future In Europe

Until now, Italian, French, and British attitudes toward the European Union have been completely distinct and completely predictable.

The Italians have been unconditional, enthusiastic supporters of the integration process - the more the better. The French have revelled in their privileged position at the EU's heart, and have been determined to hang on to their privileges, starting with the benefits they derive from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The British, meanwhile, have always been classic reluctant member - always late, always unwillingly dragged along in the wake of the front-runners, but seldom offering alternative proposals. Today, however, these stereotypes are breaking down.

In Italy, the right-wing coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi has taken a lurch away from Italy's traditional enthusiasm for Europe, inciting Renato Ruggiero, its pro-European foreign minister, to resign. In France, two prominent Socialists recently published proposals calling for a re-think of traditional French attitudes towards the EU, including a re-think of the farm policy. In Britain, the government may be poised to propose the creation of a UN-type Security Council for Europe which would ride above the existing Brussels institutions and which be headed (no surprise) by Britain, France and Germany.

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