The European Union
- One of the most successful international organizations of our time. Has contributed to the post-war prosperity in Europe, greatly assisted the economic efforts of its members (esp. Spain, Ireland, France, etc.), and perhaps, most importantly, has made the idea of another war in Western Europe virtually unthinkable. Between 1870 and 1945, France and Germany fought three devastating wars, France losing the first of these conflicts and having to be bailed out by the hated Anglo-Saxons in the latter two. Strong inducement to attempt some sort of collaboration.
- While ideas for a unified Europe had been around since the time of Charlemagne, the impetus for this particular body came from a Frenchman named Jean Monnet, credited as the intellectual founder of the EU.
- Descendent from the European Coal and Steel Commission, formed in 1951, by France Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Body established pooled control over coal and steel industries in member countries, intended to ease post-war economic recovery and also to make war in Europe less likely. Latter goal accomplished by the members renouncing national control over industries that would be absolutely essential to any future war-making effort.
- Both the French and the Germans (the two dominant members of the ECSC, EEC, and EU) had their own individual motivations for pursuing European Unification. For the French, there was a strong desire to constrain Germany to prevent future conflict, there was an attendant desire to use the union as a lever to increase French power. Remember that at the end of WWII, the world was pretty much a bi-polar entity, and the French had limited desire to be anyone’s poodle, de Gaulle and successive French leaders saw a role for France as a Third pole, but this was not something that could be accomplished in isolation, it would have to be a European organization, which France expected to dominate.
- In his memoirs, Charles de Gaulle identified his intentions after assuming power following the end of the Second World War:
- I intended to assure French primacy in Western Europe by preventing the rise of a new Reich that might again threaten her safety; to cooperate with the east and the west and, if need be, contract the necessary alliances on one side or another without ever accepting any kind of dependency; to transform the French Union into a free association to avoid the as yet unspecified dangers of upheaval; to persuade the states along the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees to form a political, economic and strategic bloc; to establish this organization as one of the three world powers and, should it be necessary, as the arbiter between the Soviet and the Anglo-Saxon camps.
- Several developments have frustrated these plans, most notably the reluctance
of the Germans and later the British to place faith in a defense organization
(the WEU) that excluded the United States, the rise of Germany as an economic
power, its eventual re-unification (1990) and its desire to once again behave
like a “normal country”. Following the last German elections, Chancellor
Schroeder stated that Germany “has every interest in considering itself
as a great power in Europe”.
- This rise of Germany to the point where it assumes at least a co-leadership role in Europe has not completely fit with the French expectations and has created a certain amount of unease in Paris as to the future development of the EU (In a survey taken in March/April of this year, the French had the fourth lowest percentage of people with a sense of attachment to Europe). This is a theme to which we will return.
- From the German perspective the motivations for becoming involved in Europe were somewhat different, they were primarily anxious to avoid a recurrence of the militarism that produced the wars of the twentieth century. Germany was crippled by guilt over the actions of the Nazis, and could not assume any sort of a leadership role within Europe. It suited, their interests, as well as those of the French to allow the French to lead Europe on both of their behalves.
- Germans remain more committed to a federal Europe than their neighbors.
- We will be examining the EU from several areas, What it is, the membership, expansion, the future.
2. What is the EU
- Common market for agriculture (more on that in a moment), goods, and services. Has also involved currency, immigration, borders (with exceptions). Obviously, the mandate of the organization has expanded greatly over the years, from modest beginnings to a potentially federal Europe. Name has also changed twice, from the ECSC to the European Economic Community in 1957, to the European Union.
- Goal was the creation of a European common market for good and services, trading bloc.
- European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The CAP was instituted, at the insistence of the French between 1962 and 1968 and sets heavy tariff barriers against agriculture from outside of the Union and offers subsidies to farmers within that body. Of which, the French farmers have been the primary beneficiaries. Possible to interpret the degree to which France pursued this objective to be indicative of their strong feelings toward agriculture. Of course, these subsidies and tariffs are paid for by the consumers and have also led to significant over-production by the farmers ( butter mountains of the EU).
- CAP accounts for roughly half of the EU’s annual budget.($45 billion last year)
- Not all members of the European Union have been thrilled with the CAP (not to mention countries outside the EU). Britain has been particularly overt in its criticisms of the expense and waste involved in the process. Over the past several years, efforts have been made to trim the amount of money offered in terms of farm subsidies and efforts made to move away from price supports (which encourage over-production) and toward direct support for the farmers - sort of like rural welfare.
Organs Within the EU
(i) The European Parliament – 626 members elected directly from the 15 member nations. Has only a consultative role on legislation, but must approve the budget, the President and various commissions. Earlier this year, it threatened to fire the commission for fraud and mismanagement, but they eventually resigned en masse. Various commissions rest beneath it.
(ii) European Council – Summit meetings of the heads of government of the member states who meet to provide guidelines for legislation. Meets biannually. Presidency of this body rotates among the member states. Voting is based on a qualified majority system, though the big issues usually have to be settled by a unanimous vote.
(iii) Council of Ministers – Bodies of ministers ( 25 in total, trade, agriculture, etc.) from each of the 15 member states that meet regularly to discuss issues pertaining to their issue areas. This and the European council have become much more powerful over the past year.
(iv) European Commission – Executive branch of the EU. Has 20 members (appointed by national governments) that serve five year terms. Two members each are taken from Germany, France, Britain, Spain, and Italy. Supposed to represent the EU rather than their home state. Historically has played a key role in enforcing the laws passed, but has come under severe fire over the past year. Role is seen to be diminished by the scandals that have plagued the organization.
(v) European Court of Justice – Each state appoints one judge that sits for renewable terms of six years. Adjudicate cases by individuals, companies, and EU institutions on matter relating to the law of the community.. Court may rule state laws to be invalid due to conflicts with European law.
- Question of how deep the EU will go, in terms of challenging national sovereignty is an open one. Mention the ideas of the Germans, British and French.
- Presently, there are 15 members of the European Union, with a further expansion to take place early in the next century. The Current members include:
1951 1973 1980s 1990s
Germany Denmark Greece (1981) Austria (1995)
France Britain Portugal (1986) Sweden (1995)
Belgium Ireland Spain (1986) Finland (1995)
- 12 Applicants: First Wave – Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia; Second Wave – Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania.
- Special Category – Turkey.
- List is potentially much larger with the various component parts of the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union potentially seeking membership in the future. Organization is very successful, but the new applicants pose potential problems for the organization.
- By virtually any measure, the EU has been remarkably successful (though this does not prevent squabbles among the member countries), but there are still some recent developments that are worthy of our attention.
- Several new developments:
(i) Rise of Germany and the reversal of positions between Germany and France as to the natural leader for Europe. Not only will this development cause a certain amount of unease in Paris, but it also with respect to visions of the EU. Germans tend to view the federal side of this a little more ambitiously than the French.
(ii) Experience of Kosovo, which has led many to follow the old French belief that the EU must develop an organization for military action that does not depend on the desires of the United States. Mention the attitude of the US and the contradictory positions it often holds..
(iii) Introduction of the Euro, a common currency that first emerged for electronic and paper transactions on January 1, 1999. In 2002, notes and coins will be issued to replace the national currencies of the 11 countries that have chosen to adopt the Euro. Will this create a common european interest, rather than national economic interests?
(iv) Weakening of the European Commission, which had been the primary political institution of the EU. Series of scandals that led to the resignation of the Commission in its entirety in March of 1999 under Jacques Santer greatly undermined confidence in the body. New EU president Romano Prodi seems determined to restore faith in this body, but much of the power has devolved to the European Council (Heads of Governments) and Council of Ministers (Gov’t Ministers).
(v) Expansion (see above).
- How viable is the EU as a model for integration?