- European Union (EU), international organization comprising 27 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies.
- Formed in 1993.
- Headquarters Brussels, Belgium
- It came into force after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty by 28 countries. The Maastricht Treaty is also known as the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). Maastricht is a city located in the Netherlands. The Maastricht Treaty was amended thrice. The amendments are listed below.
- Treaty of Amsterdam (1997)
- Treaty of Nice (2001)
- Treaty of Lisbon (2007)
- 19 of these countries use EURO as their official currency. 9 EU members (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) do not use the euro.
- The EU grew out of a desire to form a single European political entity to end centuries of warfare among European countries that culminated with World War II and decimated much of the continent.
- The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in matters, where members have agreed to act as one.
European Union – Objectives
The objectives of forming European Union are listed below.
- To increase political cooperation
- To enhance economic integration by creating a single currency the EURO.
- Unified security and foreign policy
- Common citizenship Rights
- Enhanced cooperation in the areas of judiciary, immigration and asylum.
European Union was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2012.
European Union – Origins
Following the aftermath of World War II. European leaders realised that only large-scale integration would be an antidote to the extreme nationalism that was the cause of the global war. Winston Churchill went further and advocated the emergence of a United States of Europe. The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe’s future leaders would live and study together. Thy would lead to the founding of the following unions which would eventually evolve into the European Union:
- European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – Treaty of Paris 1951
- European Economic Community (EEC) – Treaty of Rome 1957
The original 6 members of European Communities were
- West Germany
- Promote peace, values and the well-being of all citizens of EU.
- Offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders
- Sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress, and environmental protection
- Combat social exclusion and discrimination
- Promote scientific and technological progress
- Enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries
- Respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity
- Establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is euro.
European Union – Brexit
On January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom (U.K) formally left the European Union. U.K is the first country to leave the E.U. The exit was in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union.
European Union – Decision-Making Bodies
The 7 important decision-making bodies of the European Union are listed below.
- European Parliament
- European Council
- European Commission
- Council of the European Union
- Court of Justice of the European Union
- European Central Bank
- European Court of Auditors.
- It is one of the 3 legislative institutions of the E.U.
- On the basis of proportional representation, Members of the European Parliament are elected by European Union citizens every 5 years.
- There are 705 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in the European Parliament.
European Council (E.C)
- Political direction for the European Council is given by the European Council.
- European Council was established as an informal summit in 1975. However, with the enactment of the Treaty of Lisbon EC was formalised as an institution in 2009.
- European Commission acts as the executive arm of the European Union. It is responsible for the day to day functioning of the European Union.
- European Commission is considered as the guardian of the treaties signed.
- It also has legislative powers like proposing laws for debate.
Council of the European Union
- It is made up of government ministers from each member state.
- It has executive powers like addressing common foreign and security policy.
European Union – Economy
- E.U has a share of 14% of the global Gross Domestic Product (PPP).
- In 2020, the combined GDP of E.U is $ 20 trillion.
- E.U also has representation in the World Trade Organization (W.T.O)
- 19 member states of E.U are part of the Eurozone.
- Euro is used as the common currency in the Eurozone.
- Euro is the 2nd most traded currency in the world.
- Euro is the 2nd largest reserve currency in the world.
- As of 2010 data, out of the top 500 largest corporations in the world, 161 of them had their Headquarters in the European Union.
The European Union (EU) has been called an emerging superpower by scholars and academics like T. R. Reid, Andrew Reding, Andrew Moravcsik etc and some politicians like Romano Prodi and Tony Blair.
The EU has an economic, political, diplomatic, and military influence.
Economic Power of EU:
- The EU is the worlds biggest economy with GDP larger than that of the United States.
- Its currency, the euro, can pose a threat to the dominance of the US dollar.
- Its share of world trade is three times larger than that of the United States allowing it to be more assertive in trade disputes with the US and China.
- Its economic power gives it influence over its closest neighbours as well as in Asia and Africa.
- It also functions as an important bloc in international economic organisations such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Political and Diplomatic Powers of EU:
- Two members of the EU, Britain and France, hold permanent seats on the UN Security Council. The EU includes several non-permanent members of the UNSC. This has enabled the EU to influence some US policies such as the current US position on Iran’s nuclear programme.
- Its use of diplomacy, economic investments, and negotiations rather than coercion and military force have been effective as in the case of its dialogue with China on human rights and environmental degradation.
Military Powers of EU:
- Militarily, the EU’s combined armed forces are the second largest in the world.
- It’s total spending on defence is second after the US.
- Two EU member states, Britain and France, also have nuclear arsenals of approximately 550 nuclear warheads.
- It is also the world’s second most important source of space and communications technology.
Why the European Union may not emerge as a superpower?
Some do not believe that the EU will achieve superpower status. They cite the following reasons:
No Hard Power: European Union does not have enough hard power (it lack a strong European military). With just soft power, it is not easy to emerge as a superpower.
Lack of unified foreign policy: EU also lacks a unified EU foreign policy. In many areas, its member states have their own foreign relations and defence policies that are often at odds with each other. For example, the UK was America’s partner in the Iraq invasion, whereas Germany and France opposed American policy.
No common constitution: All members of the EU must pass the constitution for it to take effect. At a time when the idea of a common constitution was proposed, even though most of the countries voted for the constitution, France and the Netherlands voted against it.
Euro Crisis: The EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) have struggled with high sovereign debt and collapsing growth in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain since the global financial market collapse of 2008.
Euroskepticism: There is also a deep-seated ‘Euroskepticism’ in some parts of Europe about the EU’s
integrationist agenda. Not every country in the EU adopted the common European currency Euro. This limits the ability of the EU to act in matters of foreign relations and defence.
Brexit: The UK, even earlier, preferred to be out of the European Market, now She left the EU (Brexit).
Source: European Union