The European Union is made up of 27 members today and was created in hopes of a unified Europe. Have you ever wondered why Europe felt it was necessary to form such a union? This paper will discuss the positives and negatives that have come out of the European Union, the role they play in Europe and its hopes for the future. Even though the European Union is not considered to be a federation like that of the United States, it has taken a great leap forward by implementing the euro currency. Could this be a new beginning for the EU, and how has using the euro made such a huge difference?
The European Union was founded in 1957 by six different countries to include: Netherlands, Luxemburg, most of Germany, France, Belgium, and the northern half of Italy (Roskin, 2009). When it was first created it was known as the Common Market. The Common Market was invented by two Frenchmen, one, a high civil servant named Jean Monnet and a politician, Robert Schuman (Roskin, 2009). They started out by unifying the six-nation European Coal and Steel Community in 1952 but took a more serious turn in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome (Roskin, 2009). After World War II, Europe was falling apart and in hopes to end the hostility they tried to find a way to become more peaceful. Monnet and Shuman felt this was necessary in order to make sure Europe would not end up in another world war. There have been many treaties to ensure the progression of Europe. Once other European countries realized how fast the countries involved were growing economically and politically, they too wanted to be part of the unification of Europe. The treaties that were enacted helped to create the rules and guidelines to set the tone of equality for all involved. Here is a breakdown of the major events that have led up to what is known as the European Union.
In 1952, the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) set a tone for modernization and would have a great impact on the people of Europe. Six nations came together to create the ECSC and in 1957 brought about the Treaty of Rome. The Treaty of Rome allowed for a stronger economic future for the countries involved. The treaty also helped establish European bodies of government, the freedom to move goods, capital and people and the concept of cohesion; that members of the union should support each other’s economic growth to allow for a more equal growth rate (Europa, 2010). It was known at that time as the European Community or Common Market.
The Treaty on European Union was signed in Maastricht in the Netherlands in 1992, members of the European Community concluded the Single European Act that turned the EC into the present European Union, which has been its name since 1993 (Roskin, 2009). This was only the beginning for a more unified Europe. They were setting up a new political system that would be helpful to them economically.
One of the most recent treaties was the Treaty of Lisbon. It was signed in 2007 but has not been ratified by all of the European Union members. It set out to create a constitution for Europe, and set a path toward democracy. The problem with this treaty is that its members felt they would be giving up too much of their sovereignty.
The European Union has grown more powerful over the years and sets the bar for economic survival. The European Union has tried to base laws off of the governance of subsidiary. Subsidiary is when smaller government units decide most questions; equivalent to the U.S. Tenth Amendment, “reserved to the states (Roskin, 2009).” The European Union has tried not to let one country become more powerful than the other, which brought about the Lisbon Treaty in hopes to promote modernization.
Even though the European Union is not considered a democracy, it has some similarities to that of the United States. They have a difficult task in trying to keep 27 different nations afloat and moving in the same direction. The EU has four main branches which keep their union in order, kind of like the branches of our government. The European Commission, the European Parliament, Council of Europe, and the European Court of Justice are the main forces behind the success of the European Union. There functions include:
The European Commission (Ran by the President) fulfills four principal functions:
It was the Guardian of the Treaties;
It had the right to propose legislation;
It was the executive body of the Communities;
It negotiated on behalf of and represented the Communities in their external relations (Europa, 2009).
Passing European laws– jointly with the Council in many policy areas. The fact that the EP is directly elected by the citizen’s helps guarantee the democratic legitimacy of European law.
Parliament exercises democratic supervision over the other EU institutions, and in particular the Commission. It has the power to approve or reject the nomination of commissioners, and it has the right to censure the Commission as a whole.
The power of the purse. Parliament shares with the Council authority over the EU budget and can therefore influence EU spending. At the end of the procedure, it adopts or rejects the budget in its entirety (Europa, 2009).
Council of Europe has six main responsibilities:
To pass European laws – jointly with the European Parliament in many policy areas.
To co-ordinate the broad economic policies of the member states.
To conclude international agreements between the EU and other countries or international organizations.
To approve the EU’s budget, jointly with the European Parliament.
To develop the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) based on guidelines set by the European Council.
To co-ordinate co-operation between the national courts and police forces in criminal matters (Europa, 2009).
European Court of Justice
Enforces EU law.
In areas covered by EU law, it is the highest court in the EU, outranking national supreme courts.
Its judgments can affect both member states and individuals, and it is the referee between member states, institutions and individuals in disputes relating to EU law (“European institutions,” 2010).
The European Union has faced positive changes along with some negative ones on their path to unity. Each member of the union has been affected differently depending on their economic status. Some have criticized the European Union as being an exclusive club to the privileged Europeans and the rich, white corporations who abide by one set of rules in their northern headquarters and exploit low cost labor and low environmental standards outside Europe (Hatt & Gardner, 2002). Another negative would be how members of the European Union have not completely unified and see them as being Europeans. It would be like living in the United States but not fully grasping the country in which you live; solidarity is needed in order for the EU to continue to succeed. The EU has also been criticized for how fast it is trying to integrate, many feel they are trying to accomplish too much in a short period of time. One of the biggest problems would be the loss of sovereignty between its members, which is not always beneficial to every country.
The advantages of the European Union have been tremendous. The members of the EU have stability and feel safer. By joining together, they did not allow themselves to be left open for another world war. Countries that have entered the European Union have grown economically and politically, which is why so many want to join. The EU has also strengthened Europe by allowing more opportunities for trade and free movement among the people. The European Union is not that old of an institution but is definitely moving in the right direction to becoming more unified.
The introduction of the euro has also had a positive effect on the European Union. It has allowed them to better control each countries deficit and has had a dramatic effect on international capitol along with financial markets. It has become increasingly popular among the once skeptical Europeans. At first, members were hesitant as they would be giving up some of their sovereignty, but it has shown to be a choice that has paid off. Could you imagine having different money for each state you went to? It would make one not want to travel and go through the hassle of exchanging currency everywhere you went. The euro has given the European Union members a sense of cohesion. It has become stronger than the dollar and is the world’s second reserve currency (Roskin, 2009). The euro has had a positive effect on the countries that picked it up and with the ever declining dollar may become the leader in the world’s reserve currency.
The future of the EU is still strong and offers more positives than negatives. In 2004 the European Union tried to ratify a constitution which was rejected. Trying to unify 27 countries that already have an established language and culture can be difficult, but whatever the EU is doing, it has shown to be successful. Some have suggested that it could be beneficial to quietly abandon the “ever closer union” and returning to the original concept of Europe as a free trade area with some added features (such as movement of labor), like the original Common Market (Roskin, 2009). This would allow for the countries to keep their sovereignty and also not allow for Brussels to become too powerful. After World War II Europeans have been wearier of allowing too much power to one country, and some have feared that by giving Brussels so much power could eventually cause friction. Either way, the European Union will be around for a long time and has made great strides for the future.
Understanding the EU can be difficult with all the rules and regulations. Breaking down the main institutions has allowed for a better understanding of its inner structure and their roles within the union. The European Union in a sense has saved Europe from war and hardships and was necessary in order to protect each of its members. Even though many don’t fully grasp what exactly the EU is, it has changed Europe forever. With the integration of the euro, it has made Europe a force to be reckoned with. They have grown stronger over the years and are headed in the right direction to be one of the world’s superpowers.
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