Spring meeting of the Thematic Network of European Studies - WG 11 Ideas of Europe: national and EU political discourse location:Fernando Pessoa University, Ponte de Lima, Portugal date:26-28 March 2009
Belgians are often perceived as pro-Europeans with an integrationist discourse when it comes to a stronger, more closer Europe. This is not only the case among the political elite, but also in the public opinion we can find a positive discourse. Eurobarometer Opinion polls (European Commission, 2008) indicate that an overall majority (66%) of the Belgians see the country's membership of the European Union as a good thing. Paradoxically, 72% of the Belgian people don't feel to be well informed on the functioning of the EU. The reason behind this positive attitude is thus clearly not the knowledge and information on EU affairs. More important factors behind the Belgian pro-European discourse, are the weak Belgian nationalism and the necessity of the European framework for a small country like Belgium.
This paper explores what the debates and discourses on the EU are and what factors are constructing ideas if Europe in Belgium. The active role of Belgian politicians and the discourse of the political elite and the society is most visible and explicit at critical moments in the European integration process. Therefore, this paper looks at the critical junctures that marked European integration during the past decade: the Laeken Declaration, the subsequent Convention on the Future of Europe, the Constitution of Europe, and the Lisbon Treaty. Furthermore, the 2009 European Parliamentary elections and the 2010 Belgian Presidency are included as important junctures. At each of these moments, Belgian political actors took the opportunity to present themselves as a pro-European and active leaders pushing forward European integration inspired by a federalist tradition.