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Iceland

A member of the European Free Trade Association since 1970 and the European Economic Area since 1992, Iceland is strongly opposed to membership of the European Union, since that would mean accepting the Common Fisheries Policy, which would effectively destroy Iceland's all-important fishing industry.

IGC (Intergovernmental Conference)

IGCs are summoned whenever a new Community treaty is under consideration, the participants being ministers and senior civil servants of the EU member states, with the Commission in attendance. The calling of an IGC creates a climate in which greater integration is taken for granted, only the degree of progress being left open for negotiation (indeed, the principle of 'ever closer union' and the doctrine of the acquis communautaire rule out reform of a non-integrationist nature). Up to and including the 1992 Maastricht Treaty an obsessive secrecy was always observed in the pre-meetings, on the grounds that diplomatic bargaining positions would be prejudiced by transparency. The IGC preceding the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam was less secretive, although many key points were not exposed to democratic debate.

Since Maastricht, there has been an almost continuous process of constitutional discussion, with the arguments being increasingly brought to the attention of the media and the public. Thus the next Treaty (provisionally entitled the Treaty of Nice), anticipated for 2001, should give rise to better informed examination at the IGC stage. In the past, the obscurity of the subject and the hideous language of the Treaty texts were a guarantee of apathy among Europe's electorates. But the EU now reaches deeply into people's lives, and there are real concerns at the popular level over the impact of enlargement (the main item on the current IGC agenda) and over the extent of centralisation within the Community. Whether this will ease the position of those who disagree with the EU's seemingly inexorable accumulation of powers remains to be seen.

Immigration

See Asylum and Schengen Agreement.

Implied competence

The doctrine that, where a matter would have been within the competence of the Community had it been internal to the EU, member states have no right to act independently in external negotiations.

Information

The stated policy of the Commission (the responsibility for which lay until 2000 with the Tenth Directorate-General) is to supply objective information about the EU. This is not, however, a neutral activity, for the Commission's devotion to integration causes it to go beyond the facts and construe its task as leading citizens to 'think along European lines'. The very substantial sums spent by EU institutions on public relations, combined with the fact that there is no internal opposition to the Commission's political standpoint, makes the distinction between information and propaganda difficult to sustain. The main public website is at: http://europa.eu.int. (See also Propaganda.)

Integration theory

The growth of the EU has spawned a turgid academic industry of 'integration theories', most of which need not detain the ordinary reader. In practice, European integration has proceeded along the lines mapped out immediately after World War II by Jean Monnet, with the emphasis on practical measures to create an apparent need for supranational action, to be followed logically by supranational control and finally supranational law or political direction. This process of 'functionalism' also contains the idea that once states learn to co-operate in this way the habit will 'spill over' into other areas. (See also The 'European idea'.)

Intergovernmental

Between (sovereign) governments - an adjective used to describe relationships in Europe which are not subject to Community law or governed by supranational EU institutions. For example, defence policy is intergovernmental, that is, decided by member states working voluntarily together, whereas the Common Agricultural Policy is a Community policy, decided by majority voting under regulations designed by the Commission and enforced by the European Court of Justice.

Internal market

Another term for the single market; also known as the common market, although that expression has wider connotations.

Intervention

The purchase of unsold agricultural produce by the Community for storage - an expensive feature of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has the effect of propping up prices and creating surplus supply.

Investiture

The process of approval by the European Parliament of the president of the Commission and the college of commissioners.

Ireland

A founder member of the Council of Europe, but never a member of EFTA, the Republic of Ireland applied to join the EEC in 1961, encountering the same vetoes from President Charles de Gaulle as the UK. De Gaulle's successor, Georges Pompidou, lifted France's objections and Ireland acceded to the Community simultaneously with the UK in 1973. In a referendum held before accession, over 80% of the votes were favourable, principally because of the prospect of generous agricultural subsidies.

Catholic, neutral in World War II, with a leaning to the German side and a long history of feuding with the UK, the Irish were further attracted by the expectation of emerging from the shadow of their Protestant neighbour to pari passu rank as a European state. In 1979 Ireland joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism, thereby breaking the 58-year link between the punt and the pound sterling.

The country is a strong supporter of the EU, a natural result of being the largest net recipient per head of Community cash (EU subsidies account for over 5% of Ireland's GDP). The Republic's constitution necessitated a protocol to the Maastricht Treaty condoning the prohibiting of abortion but asserting the right of Irish citizens to information on clinics abroad. Another difficulty is Irish neutrality, given the prospect of an eventual common EU defence policy. This, however, has not been a bar to the accession of Austria, Sweden and Finland and an extensive cosmetic discussion is in progress to redesign the meaning of neutrality.

The Irish experience of life in the EU has been positive. The Republic's economy has consistently outpaced those of its European partners. At the cost of being accused of 'fiscal dumping', it has attracted foreign capital by offering generous tax breaks to business. It is enjoying net immigration for the first time for centuries and it anticipates growth for the next decade at a rate normally associated with emerging market economies. By some measurements, it has already reached the average EU standard of living (a mixed blessing, since subsidies will in future be harder to come by) and it not only qualified to join the single currency in the first wave but was even able to achieve a modest revaluation of the punt. After the launch of the euro in 1999, however, the combination of low eurozone interest rates, a weak currency and high growth led to a burst of inflation, raising fears of a boom-and-bust cycle which the Irish central bank would be powerless to influence.

Iron Curtain

Winston Churchill's prophetic 1946 description of the Soviet Union's oppressive clampdown on Eastern Europe, leading to the Cold War. The original Iron Curtain countries were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania (the Warsaw Pact signatories), with Yugoslavia on the sidelines, communist but independent. Albania defected to an alliance with Maoist China in 1968, while Romania, under the dictator Ceausescu, pretended in the 1970s and 1980s to a degree of autonomy that it did not possess.

Isle of Man

See Small countries under Channel Islands.

Isoglucose case

In the 1979 isoglucose case (the details of which are of no importance) the European Court of Justice established that the Council of Ministers was not entitled to treat consultation of the European Parliament as a trivial formality. Failure to consult properly, where the Treaty of Rome prescribed a certain procedure, could result in Community legislation being declared void.

Italy

Never deeply blamed for its part in World War II or taken over-seriously as a belligerent, Italy found peacetime reconciliation relatively easy. Under Alcide de Gasperi, a former member of the Resistance who founded the Italian Christian Democratic Party and served as prime minister from 1945 to 1953, Italy joined NATO and signed the Treaty of Paris, which inaugurated the European Coal and Steel Community. After de Gasperi came a long succession of weak coalition governments - more than one a year on average since 1945. These followed the policy of making Italy a founder member of each institution of the European Community, but left the active shaping of Europe's destiny to France, Germany and the Commission. Italy contented itself with unswerving support for federal initiatives - doubtless mainly because of cynicism on the part of Italians about the quality of their own political administration, which they saw as corrupt and chaotic, although another factor will have been an undeveloped sense of nationhood. Italian opinion polls and referendums have invariably shown a large majority in favour of the principle of being governed by European institutions.

The size of Italy's black economy is a matter as much of pride as of shame (it was the basis of the claim in the 1980s to have overtaken the British economy); and the country's disappointing record of compliance with Community Regulations and Directives (not to mention imaginative exploitation of Community subsidies) is greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. Over the years, financial indiscipline resulted in frequent devaluations and an exorbitant national debt. Nevertheless, despite these shortcomings, Italy has been one of Europe's outstanding success stories. Its economy has grown rapidly, based largely on the vigour and design skills of its small and medium-sized enterprises in the north, so that from impoverished post-war beginnings the country now approaches the prosperity of the average EU member state.

After the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, Italy set its heart on acquiring a reputation for financial rectitude in order to become one of the first wave participants in the single currency. It made considerable progress in fiscal consolidation, though its debt legacy from the spendthrift years will take decades to shrink. When, therefore, the choice of participants was made by heads of government in 1998, Italy (strongly backed by France) was deemed to have done enough to qualify for immediate membership, despite residual German doubts about the durability of the country's anti-inflationary policies. It was a reward merited not only by the country's loyalty to the EU but also by its unique contribution to European civilisation.

The single currency has not, however, proved a panacea for Italy's problems. Politically, the country continues to stagger from one coalition to another, with a bewildering variety of neo-fascists, neo-communists, Greens, regionalists, centrists and midget parties jockeying fractiously for the balance of power. Memories are still fresh of the indictment of three former prime ministers, Giulio Andreotti, Bettino Craxi and Silvio Berlusconi, and of the collapse of the Christian Democratic Party in the corruption scandals of the early 1990s. The divide between the destitute mafia-ridden south and the wealthy north is as sharp as ever, and the country has suffered a prolonged bout of economic stagnation. Even the euro has been a disappointment, falling precipitously against the dollar since its launch in 1999. With a string of referendums on domestic issues dominating the political agenda in 2000, Italy would again be a relatively passive observer as the EU approached the difficult constitutional questions arising from the planned incorporation of the former communist countries of Central Europe.

 
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