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The European Union (Kahn, 11) is a term used to refer to an organization of a number of countries located on the European continent. Its formation was triggered by the bloody aftermaths of the Second World War in 1949. The European Union aimed at reducing future warfare and destructions in the hugely populated continent. The history of the European Union dates back to the 1950 with the formation of European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The treaty, a brainchild of a French economist Jean Monnet, incorporated countries such as France, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Netherlands.
Signed in Paris and welcomed by the United States, the treaty was geared towards pooling of the steel and coal resources to the now legitimate member countries. Emphasis on steel resources was because it had played an integral role in the production of arms used in the Second World War. The ECSC labored in its capacity to oversee the easy acquisition of coal materials at good prices. Besides, the European treaty was also geared towards an economic friendly atmosphere that would enable the workers in the member states get fair remunerations, improved working conditions and also enable the freely work from any country encompassed by the treaty.
The creation and formulation of the modern day European Union came into play after the presentation of the Schuman declaration by the then French foreign affairs minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950 a day that came to be known as European day in commemoration of the presentation ceremony. With the Schuman Declaration in place, Europe was headed to a
cohesive union on social, political and economic grounds. The union comprises of 15 western European countries. Its formation was primarily because of promoting an economic, political and social cooperation between member states. As at 1999, member states included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
Reasons for the formation of the EU
- Peace and stability
The European Union was formed under the key intention of peace in the European nations immediately after the end of the Second World War. Its established was geared towards the realization of a United States of Europe. Statesmen namely Schuman, Adenauer, Gasperi and Winston Churchill championed the formation of a unifying organization that would propagate unity and apprehension of the rule of law to avert further warfare that had led to massive lose of lives.
- Creating a Unified Europe
The underlying importance for the creation of democratic European nations precipitated the formation of the EU. Although not all states applied membership, the membership is still underway even today with the most recent application by Turkey in 2005 to join the union.
- Safety and Security
Security and safety issues had continuously dogged Europe precipitating the formation of the Union to counter enemy attacks. As a unified Europe, the countries were able to respond to warfare. Through the EU, the security mechanism has been tightened to deal with terrorism, the world's leading security threat.
- Economic and social solidarity
Formation of the European Union was triggered by the economic dynamics that had impacted negatively on the economic stability of the European states. In forming the EU and subsequent establishment of the single market policy the economic gates were made wide open. In light of this, the pooling together of economic prospects of member states arguably shaped the competition on the global markets and major world economies.
- European Union Structure
The European Union is made up of four main institutions namely; the council of ministers, European commission, European parliament and the European court of justice. The council is the main decision making body of the European Union. The council regularly meets in either Brussels of Luxembourg from where member states representatives discuss policy and legislative issues. Representatives from member countries include presidents and ministers headed by the President of the European Commission in general. The presidency is rotational in a span of six months.
The European Commission forms the administrative and executive body of the Union with its headquarters in Brussels. It is primarily endowed with the tasks of drafting proposals for legislation and subsequent policy consideration by the council of ministers and the European. Parliament. Currently, there are 25 commissioners each nominated by national governments for a period of five years.
In addition to the above named constituents of the European Union is the European Parliament. It consists of 700 democratically elected officials from member states serving a five-year term in office. Based in Brussels and Strasbourg, the parliament analyzes activities of the other EU organs, passes the annual EU budget and provides a decisive platform for legislation in collaboration with the council of ministers.
Besides, the European Court of Justice forms another ingredient of the EU. It comprises of a judge from each member state and deals with all legal issues arising from the union.
European Union and its prospects of becoming a political union
In the wake of the 1960s the European Union arguably continued in its quest to realize a united European country. The underlying importance to form a union to curtail further rise of a dictatorial leadership, led to the emergence of two schools of thoughts namely; minimalism proposed by former premier Winston Churchill and maximalism led by Altiero Spinelli. Churchill advocated for the formation of a union that would safeguard peace in an economic union whereas Spinelli campaigned for the establishment of a union that would not only cater for economic ties but also a mechanism to reduce conflict between nations. (Staab, 5). In his defense, Spinelli argued that the European Union establishment would be a milestone in solving both political and economic problems facing member states.
Cowles and Smith (19) assert that the arrival of the new millennium arguably necessitated the change in social and political life of the European community. It is during this time that the EU adopted a monetary union geared towards the usage of similar currency in
member states. The shift from national monetary use to European currency use is a strategy to harness the European Union countries to brace up for a United States of Europe.
European Union and its prospects of becoming an integrated economic unit
The formation of the European Union aimed at providing a common currency among member states, a strategy in place even today. Staab (83) puts it out that the formation of the Union served as a gateway for the provision of free movement of goods, services and labor within the member states without restrictions. A report tabled before the European Commission by Paolo Cecchini in 1988, prompted the implementation of 270 laws that gave way to the reduction and elimination of technical and physical barriers in the member states. This was forecast to create over two million jobs raising the Gross Domestic Product of member states to 5 percent as a result of low business transactions.
Years later in 2003, the European Commission realized an increase in 1.8 percent of GDP with subsequent creation of approximately 2.5 million additional employment opportunities. As a result, the European Union aims at strengthening the economic ties between member countries to enhance development of trade. For example, in light of this, many business enterprises amicably recognize the whole of EU as their sphere of economic activity. The prospects of the integration of the European Union into an economic unit greatly serve as a launch pad to venture into the global market. For example, Deutsche Bank and Nokia are some of the multinationals that have arguably been able to penetrate the global market; nevertheless, the European Union aims at harmonizing the mobile phone technology.
European Union influences on international affairs
- Foreign Relations
The European Union has maintained a steadfast call for the application of dialogue and diplomacy in solving world crisis. After the 9/11 event, the EU advocate for the application of mediation in meeting their interests (Terzi, 9). In light of this, the EU has propagated the apprehension of human rights, Kyoto protocol that dealt with climate change among other foreign issues affecting not only member states but also other countries as a whole.
- Economic aid
The European Union continues to provide an avenue for the fruitful business engagements in the European member states. This is evident through the smooth cross-national transactions with minimal physical and technical barriers. In light of this, businesses on the European member list are given a leeway for establishment of their products and services in the global market. Moreover, the union provides donor funding to developing countries mostly in the African continent to assist in the realization of their financial blueprint. For example, they provide financial assistance to help in the construction of road networks, strengthening the education and agricultural sector alike. In this regard, it has amicably influenced the ways of living among the citizenry of affected regions. For example, through provision of educational facilities, the EU has propelled academic excellence that as a result propagates development.
In addition, the European Union greatly enables in the shaping of democratic states through advocating for democratic political administration. Through their emissaries, they influence the political leadership, mainly in regards to national elections. Telo (275) ascertains that the EU provides priority policies for governments largely on developing countries. The EU, through its representatives in member and non-member countries, outlines the critical issues of governance that might disrupt a state's sovereignty and peaceful coexistence. In light of this, the European Union has been able to keep, for example, African governments, on their toes regarding issues such as upholding of democracy and respect for human rights.
European Union's successful implementation of the single market program that gives leeway for economic cooperation between member states has influenced other states namely; Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria and Switzerland to seek membership. The membership hunger by the states aimed at strengthening their economic ties within and without member countries. Moreover, Rhodes (4) asserts that the single market program has provided an avenue for neighboring states such as the United States of America to be acquainted with the importance of the program for the overall economic benefits.
Future of European Union
In future, the EU seeks to make a reality the dream of having a United States of Europe with an increased membership such as inclusion of Russia as a member of the union. For example, approval for membership for states such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Turkey.
Moreover, the union aims at integrating markets to ensure economic prosperity of nations within the union.
Although the European Union has worked tirelessly to amicably reduce social, political and economic hardship faced by member states, the member states are yet to realize the dream of a successful union that will grant them socio-political and economic prosperity. For instance, arguably a considerable number of Europeans are living below the poverty line totaling to an unbelievable 80 million people. To realize collective success, political will is important. This implies that the member states must be willing to adhere to the laid down policy regulations and also uphold dignity and integrity in the running of their states. Moreover, member states should amicably resolve disputes through dialogue to effectively be in line with the idealists of a united Europe.
The European Union has provided a gateway for member states economic prosperity and also played a huge role in the realization of a democratic Europe by propagating peace within member states in an effort to reduce the chances of warfare as experienced during the Second World War.
To realize success, the European Union must amicably result to effective conflict resolution mechanisms aimed at unifying member states and not creating disparity. This implies that the union should unanimously resolve to work and talk as one in a bid to form a critical platform for other unions to emulate. It should be a pacesetter for developing countries to follow.
For example, the Union should be on the frontline in reducing conflicts and leading an exemplary role in the world in general. In conclusion, the EU although with political and economic hiccups has been able to address major issues of concern between the member states and beyond.