• Number of the week: 54.6%

    In 2005, the French rejected the adoption of the European Constitution, with a 54.6 percent No vote. The referendum was supposed to be a foregone conclusion. The right and the left campaigned for a Yes vote ― only the nationalist far right and the radical left were opposed.

    One figure derailed the campaign: “The Polish plumber”.

    A year after the largest enlargement of the EU, sovereigntists constantly used this expression to inflame fears of immigration by eastern Europeans who would work for lower wages. This was one of the main factors in the No vote. Yet foreign workers had nothing to do with the European Constitution. No wave of Polish plumbers or Latvian bricklayers ever arrived in France.

    Now, in light of another possible EU enlargement, politicians and the public in different member countries are expressing fears that workers and goods from future EU members may flood local markets. Just like in France, some of these fears may never come true.

    This article is part of the "Growing pains" edition
    Hungarian homecoming
    Number of the week: 54.6%
    EU: please give us a coffee break
    A democratic enlargement
    “From our experience, we know this will not be easy”