European integration and the European Union

The development of the idea of a united Europe. The EU's actions for insurance the safety and security. Economic and social solidarity of the member states, promoting the European model of society. Historic steps of creation and expansion of the Union.

Рубрика Международные отношения и мировая экономика
Вид реферат
Язык английский
Дата добавления 03.02.2011
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European integration and the European Union


The idea of a united Europe was once just a dream in the minds of philosophers and visionaries. Victor Hugo, for example, imagined a peaceful 'United States of Europe' inspired by humanistic ideals. The dream was shattered by two terrible wars that ravaged the continent during the first half of the 20th century.

But from the rubble of World War II emerged a new kind of hope. People who had resisted totalitarianism during the war were determined to put an end to international hatred and rivalry in Europe and to build a lasting peace between former enemies. Between 1945 and 1950, a handful of courageous statesmen including Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Alcide de Gasperi and Robert Schuman set about persuading their peoples to enter a new era. There would be a new order in Western Europe, based on the interests its peoples and nations shared together, and it would be founded upon treaties guaranteeing the rule of law and equality between all countries.

Robert Schuman (French Foreign Affairs Minister) took up an idea originally conceived by Jean Monnet and, on 9 May 1950, proposed setting up a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). In countries that had once fought each other, the production of coal and steel would be pooled under a shared authority - the 'High Authority'.

In a practical but also richly symbolic way, the raw materials of war were being turned into instruments of reconciliation and peace.

This bold and generous move was a big success. It was the start of more than half a century of peaceful cooperation between the member states of the European Communities. With the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, the Community institutions were strengthened and given broader responsibilities, and the European Union (EU) as such was born.

The EU worked hard to help unify Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. When the Soviet empire fell apart in 1991, the countries of central and Eastern Europe, having lived for decades under the authoritarian yoke of the Warsaw Pact, quite naturally decided that their future lay within the family of democratic European nations.

Safety and security

european union integration

But Europe in the 21st century still has to deal with issues of safety and security. These things can never be taken for granted. Every new step in world development brings with it not only opportunities but also risks.

The EU has to take effective action to ensure the safety and security of its 15 (and soon 25) member states. It has to work constructively with the regions just beyond its borders - North Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. The tragic events of 11 September 2001 in New York and Washington made us all aware of how vulnerable we are when fanaticism and the spirit of vengeance are let loose.

The EU institutions are central to Europe's success in inventing and operating a system that has brought real and lasting peace to a large area of the planet. But the EU must also protect its military and strategic interests by working with its allies - especially its NATO allies - and by developing a genuine European security and defence policy (ESDP).

Internal and external security are two sides of the same coin. In other words, the EU also has to fight terrorism and organised crime? And that means the police forces of all EU countries have to work closely together. One of Europe's new challenges is to make the EU an area of freedom, security and justice where everyone has equal access to justice and is equally protected by the law. To achieve this, EU governments need to cooperate more closely and bodies like Europol (the European Police Office) must play a more active and effective role.

Economic and social solidarity

The European Union has been built to achieve political goals, but its dynamism and success spring from its economic foundations - the 'single market' formed by all the EU member states, and the single currency (the euro) used by 12 of them.

The EU countries account for an ever-smaller percentage of the world's population. They must therefore continue pulling together if they are to ensure economic growth and be able to compete on the world stage with other major economies. No individual EU country is strong enough to go it alone in world trade. To achieve economies of scale and to find new customers, European businesses need to operate in a bigger market than just their home country. That is why the EU has worked so hard to open up the single European market -removing the old obstacles to trade and cutting away the red tape that entangles economic operators.

But Europe-wide free competition must be counterbalanced by Europe-wide solidarity, expressed in practical help for ordinary people. When European citizens become the victims of floods and other natural disasters, they receive assistance from the EU budget. Furthermore, the continent-wide market of 380 million consumers must benefit as many people as possible. The 'Structural Funds', managed by the European Commission, encourage and back up the efforts of the EU's national and regional authorities to close the gap between different levels of development in different parts of Europe. Both the EU budget and money raised by the European Investment Bank are used to improve Europe's transport infrastructure (for example, to extend the network of motorways and high-speed railways), thus providing better access to outlying regions and boosting trans-European trade.

Working more closely together to promote the European model of society

Europe's post-industrial societies are becoming increasingly complex. Standards of living have risen steadily, but there are still gaps between rich and poor and they may widen as former communist countries join the EU. That is why it is important for EU member states to work more closely together on tackling social problems.

In the long run, every EU country benefits from this cooperation. Half a century of European integration has shown that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The EU as a unit has much more economic, social, technological, commercial and political 'clout' than the individual efforts of its member states, even when taken together. Why? Because the EU is the world's leading trading power and thus plays a key role in international negotiations. It brings all its trading and agricultural strength to bear within the World Trade Organisation, and in implementing the Kyoto Protocol on action to reduce air pollution and prevent climate change. It launched important initiatives at the August 2002 Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development It takes a clear position on sensitive issues that concern ordinary people - issues such as the environment, renewable energy resources, the 'precautionary principle' in food safety, the ethical aspects of biotechnology and the need to protect endangered species.

The old saying 'strength in unity* is as relevant as ever to today's Europeans. Europe's strength springs from its ability to take united action on the basis of decisions made by democratic institutions - the European Council, the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors.

The EU wants to promote human values and social progress. Europeans see globalisation and technological change revolutionising the world, and they want people everywhere to be masters - not victims - of this process of change. People's needs cannot be met simply by market forces or by the unilateral action of one country.

So the EU stands for a view of humanity and a model of society that the vast majority of its citizens support Europeans cherish their rich heritage of values that includes a belief in human rights, social solidarity, free enterprise, a fair sharing of the fruits of economic growth, the right to a protected environment, respect for cultural, linguistic and religious diversity and a harmonious yoking of tradition and progress.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, proclaimed in Nice on 7 December 2000, sets out all the rights recognised today by the EU's 15 member states and their citizens. Europeans have a wealth of national and local cultures that distinguish them from one another, but they are united by their common heritage of values that distinguishes Europeans from the rest of the world.

The Treaty of Maastricht enshrined, for the first time, the 'principle of subsidiarity, which is essential to the way the European Union works. It means that the EU and its institutions act only if action is more effective at EU level than at national or local level. This principle ensures that the EU does not interfere unnecessarily in its citizens' daily lives. European identity is a valuable asset to be preserved: it must never be confused with uniformity - which is something Europeans definitely reject.

Historic steps

Today's European Union is the result of the hard work put in by men and women working for a united Europe. The EU is built on their concrete achievements. The EU has created a single currency and a dynamic single market in which people, services, goods and capital move around freely. It strives to ensure that, through social progress and fair competition, as many people as possible enjoy the benefits of this single market.

The ground rules of the European Union are set out in a series of treaties:

· the Treaty of Paris, which European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951;

· the Treaties of Rome, which set up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957.

These founding treaties were subsequently amended by

· the Single European Act (1986),

· the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht, 7992)

· the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) and

· the Treaty of Nice (2001).

These treaties have forged very strong legal ties between the EU's member states. European Union laws directly affect EU citizens and give them very specific rights.

The first step in European integration was taken when six countries (Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) set up a common market in coal and steel. The aim, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was to secure peace between Europe's victorious and vanquished nations It brought them together as equals, cooperating within shared institutions.

The six member states then decided to build a European Economic Community (EEC) based on a common market in a wide range of goods and services. Customs duties between the six countries were completely removed on 1 July 1968 and common policies - notably on trade and agriculture -were also set up during the 1960s.

So successful was this venture that Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom decided to join the Communities. This first enlargement, from six to nine members, took place in 1973. At the same time, the Communities took on new tasks and introduced new social, regional and environmental policies To implement the regional policy, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was set up in 1975.

In the early 1970s, Community leaders realised that they had to bring their economies into line with one another and that, in the end, what was needed was monetary union. At about the same time, however, the United States decided to suspend the dollar's convertibility into gold. This ushered in a period of great instability on the world's money markets, made worse by the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. The introduction of the European Monetary System (EMS) in 1979 helped stabilise exchange rates and encouraged the Community member states to implement strict policies that allowed them to maintain their mutual solidarity and to discipline their economies.

In 1981 Greece joined the Communities, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. This made it all the more urgent to introduce 'structural1 programmes such as the first Integrated Mediterranean Programmes (IMP), aimed at reducing the economic development gap between the 12 member states.

At the same time, the EEC was beginning to play a more prominent international role. With the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (the 'ACP' countries) it signed a series of conventions on aid and trade (Lome I, II, III and IV, 1975-1989) that led to the Cotonou Agreement of June 2000. The European Union aims, ultimately, to implement a common foreign and security policy.

A worldwide economic recession in the early 1980s brought with it a wave of 'euro-pessimism' But hope sprang anew in 1985 when the European Commission, under its President Jacques Delors, published a 'White Paper' setting out a timetable for completing the European single market by 1 January 1993. The Communities adopted this ambitious goal and enshrined it in the Single European Act, which was signed in February 1986 and came into force on 1 July 1987.

The political shape of Europe was dramatically changed by the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. This led to the reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990 and the coming of democracy to the countries of central and Eastern Europe as they broke away from Soviet control. The Soviet Union itself ceased to exist in December 1991.

Meanwhile, the European Communities were changing too. The member states were negotiating a new treaty that was adopted by the European Council (i.e. their presidents and/or prime ministers) at Maastricht in December 1991. This Treaty on European Union' came into force on 1 November 1993. The EEC was renamed simply 'the European Community' (EC). Moreover, by adding areas of intergovernmental cooperation to the existing Community system, the Treaty created the European Union (EU). It also set new ambitious goals for the member states: monetary union by 1999, European citizenship, new common policies - including a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) - and arrangements for internal security.

The new European dynamism and the continent's changing geopolitics led three more countries - Austria, Finland and Sweden - to join the EU on 1 January 1995. The Union now had 15 member states and was on course for its most spectacular achievement yet - replacing its national currencies with a single European currency, the euro. On 1 January 2002, euro notes and coins came into circulation in 12 EU countries (the 'euro area'). The euro is now a major world currency, having a similar status to the US dollar.

As the world moves forward into the 21st century, Europeans must together face the challenges of globalisation. Revolutionary new technologies and the Internet explosion are transforming the world economy. But these profound economic changes bring with them social disruption and culture shock.

Meeting in Lisbon in March 2000, the European Council adopted a comprehensive strategy for modernising the EU's economy and enabling it to compete on the world market with other major players such as the United Stales and the newly industrialised countries. The 'Lisbon strategy1 includes opening up all sectors of the economy to competition, encouraging innovation and business investment, and modernising Europe's education systems to meet the needs of the information society.

At the same time, unemployment and the rising cost of pensions are both putting pressure on the member states' economies, and this makes reform all the more necessary. Voters are increasingly calling on their governments to find practical solutions to these issues.

Scarcely had the European Union grown to encompass 15 member states when another 12 began knocking at its door. In the mid 1990s, it received membership applications from the former Soviet bloc countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), the three Baltic States that had once been part of the Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one of the republics of the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and two Mediterranean countries (Cyprus and Malta).

The EU welcomed this opportunity to help stabilise the European continent and to extend the benefits of European unification to these young democracies. Accession negotiations with the candidate countries were launched in Luxembourg in December 1997 and in Helsinki in December 1999. The Union was on the way to its biggest enlargement ever. For 10 of the candidate countries, negotiations were completed on 13 December 2002 in Copenhagen. The European Union will have 25 member states in 2004, and will continue growing as more countries join in the years ahead.

More than half a century of integration has had an enormous impact on the history of Europe and on the mentality of Europeans. The member state governments, whatever their political colour, know that the age of absolute national sovereignty is over and that only by joining forces and pursuing 'a destiny henceforward shared' (to quote the ECSC Treaty) can their ancient nations continue to make economic and social progress and maintain their influence in the world.

Integration has succeeded in overcoming age-old enmity between European countries. Attitudes of superiority and the use of force to resolve international differences have been replaced by the 'Community method' of working together. This method, which balances national interests with the common interest and respects national diversity while creating a Union identity, is as valuable today as ever. Throughout the Cold War period it enabled Europe's democratic and freedom-loving countries to stick together. The end of east-west antagonism and the political and economic reunification of the continent are a victory for the spirit of Europe - a spirit that European peoples need more than ever today.

The European Union offers a response to the huge challenge of globalisation - a response that expresses the values Europeans believe in. The EU offers, above all, the best possible 'insurance policy' for a free and peaceful future.

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