To answer this question, Le Monde, the leading and most-read French newspaper, offers some objective answers.
9 billion euros – it is supposedly the amount of money that France throws out of the European window every year. According to some Eurosceptics, this money should be recovered, even if it means leaving the European Union. The problem is that this calculation is downright simplistic and misleading.
In recent years, France, like other European countries, has been a net contributor, meaning that it has given more money to the European Union than it has received. The difference being 8.2 billion euros in 2016, for instance. This is a lot of money, but it is wrong to say that this money is simply wasted. Even if it is invested elsewhere in the long term, it can benefit France. But how?
For example, part of the budget is earmarked for the development of roads or train lines to better connect European cities. The European Union is currently investing several hundred million euros in the transalpine railway line that will make it possible to connect Paris to Milan in four hours, compared with seven hours in 2019. These are investments that can boost trade and tourism in France. Significant sums are also being invested in major European projects such as the Copernicus Earth monitoring programme and the Galileo satellite navigation programme. Not only does France benefit from the data they produce, but these space projects also generate economic activity for the Ariane rockets, which employ thousands of French people. From the point of view of the Euro-sceptics, this does not matter since we have more important needs in our country which would require the recovery of these billions lost to the European Union.
One could indeed imagine that by leaving the EU, we would save a few billions of euros each year, but we must not forget that our budgetary contribution is also a right that gives access to many advantages specific to the European Union. France’s trade has doubled thanks to the EU. The diplomatic weight is another benefit. There is also security cooperation between European courts: for example, in 2016, thanks to the European arrest warrant, the French terrorist Salah Abdeslam was handed over to France by Belgium in just two months, when it previously took years of extradition proceedings.
On the downside, participation in this Union means giving up some of our sovereignty and adds complexity to the administrative organisation of the Member State.
While it is difficult to rank all these advantages and disadvantages, it is probably more honest to try to take them into account when assessing the European Union.