Europe made up more than 30 countries and even more distinct cultures; it is now trying to adjust to new economic systems throughout the world. Today with the trend toward big trading blocks like: N.A.F.T.A. or G.N.A.T.T. Europe is trying to advance it's old Trading block called the European Economic Community (EEC) to become the European Union. The current membership of 15 country's is ruled by one European Parliament. Under the E.U. each country will be under one currency called the Euro dollar (which is to come into effect on January 1st of 1999), one central banking system, and will be regulated with the same set of laws. In effect the country's of the E.U. will eventually become one. The way to a unified Europe is not a easy one; problems caused by countries unwilling to give up their sovereignties, and by countries afraid of the new Union continually slow it's progress.
Problems Facing the European Union
Sovereignty or Unity?
This raises many conflicts with Europeans. For thousands of years Europe has been torn time and again by wars which were largely fueled by ethnic or religious differences. Today however Europeans are asked to put aside their differences and become one. With nationalism still strong throughout Europe many people are strongly against the E.U. Analysts strongly suggest, however, that the E.U. is the only way Europe can improve it's economy. Unemployment in most of Europe is running above 10 percent and countries like Germany and France are suffering from net investment outflows, European economies are groaning under the weight of rigid regulation, high labor costs, high taxes and generous social services that have become too expensive to sustain. Meanwhile, labor protests are on the rise, companies cut costs and governments try to slash budget deficits.
The E.U. causes another major problem for Europe and the rest of the world that is the expansion of the Union. Countries from the former Warsaw Pact are eager to join the European Union but Russia is opposing that move because of their xenophobic fears. This poses an new question for the world; Are the satellite countries of the former Soviet Union truly sovereign states or are they still puppet states controlled by Russia? The view today has to different sides: the European, who are willing to accept Warsaw Pact states into NATO and the E.U. given they meet the requirements; And the U.S. policy which is against any expansion of NATO or the E.U. into the countries in question.
The European Union?
The European Union is the name of the organization for the countries that have decided to co-operate on a great number of areas, ranging from a single market economy, foreign policy's, same sets of environmental laws, mutual recognition of school diplomas, to exchange of criminal records are among the few (The E.U. is roughly similar in working to the United States of America. The states being Countries and the U.S. the E.U.) The E.U. currently includes 15 countries and has 11 official languages, and many more internal ones. E.U. has noted , however, that the current eleven official working languages will be unworkable; an expansion to sixteen or more (with some former Eastern Bloc countries joining) will be impossible. It is therefore expected, in my view, that the number of working languages will be limited to three (English, French and German) or five (with Italian and Spanish).
A little known fact about the European Union's flag is that it has only 12 stars. The stars are not meant to represent countries. Rather, the number of twelve stars was chosen to be a symbol of completeness and of unity, as it corresponded to the number of stars in the zodiac, the number of months in the year and (for the purpose of winning over the mainly Christian European people) to the number of Jesus's apostles.
E.U. members listed in order of membership:
8. Republic of Ireland
9. United Kingdom
Official languages of the E.U.
· German (88.8 million Germany, Austria, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg)
· French (63.3 million, in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy)
· English (60.0 million, in UK and Republic of Ireland)
· Italian (56.4 million, in Italy)
· Spanish (39.2 million, in Spain)
· Dutch (21.1 million, in the Netherlands and Belgium)
· Greek (10.3 million, in Greece)
· Portuguese (9.8 million, in Portugal)
· Swedish (9.0 million, in Sweden and Finland)
· Danish (5.2 million, in Denmark)
· Finnish (4.7 million, in Finland).
The E.U. Government Structure
The European Unions main institutions are the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, the Council of Ministers and the Court of Auditors. The Council and the European Parliament are the main decision-taking bodies of the E.U. The 626 members of the European Parliament are elected by EU citizens every five years. The president and the other 19 Members of the European Commission, which has the sole right to initiate draft legislation, are nominated their individual governments.
History, How and Why?
The creation of the European Union began after World War II (it was first called the European Community). The founding members of the Community first combined their big industries. They then set about creating a single market in which goods, services, people and capital could move about as freely as within a single country. The process was gradual spanning 40 years and covering political and social as well as economic and trade aspects of nations. As they completed the single market, which formally came into being in January, 1993. The Maastricht Treaty on the European Union took effect on 1 November 1993. It strengthened the Community further, by preparing the way for economic and monetary union (EMU) and a single currency called the Euro. The Maastricht also added common foreign and security polices and cooperation on justice and police affairs. The term 'European Union' is actually used to describe the wider Maastricht framework in which all these activities - old and new - take place.
The Current Status of the European Union and it's Plans for the Future
The implementation of the E.U. has and will create many benefits for it's citizens. Individual citizens can live and work in the country of their choice, travel freely within the Union since border controls have virtually disappeared. More goods are available to people, for example French goods are as accessible as Belgium goods in Spain; as before the union more French goods might be available due to tariffs. The E.U. has also created a common European citizenship in addition to a national citizenship.
Currently seven country's have lifted border controls they are France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Benelux. The main impact of the decision is the removal of passport checks on Union citizens passing through the airports of these countries. Italy, Greece, Denmark and Austria look likely to be the next to bring in the new freedoms,
Since currency fluctuations can block markets just as effectively as taxes and tariffs the E.U. has moved to create a single monetary unit. For example if the German Mark is suddenly devalued in comparison to the Frank goods made in France will cost substantially more than those made in Germany. To prevent this the Euro dollar was created it is to come into full circulation by January 1, 1999. "In America, your economic development wouldn't have been quite so good if you had had different currencies," said Ulrich Raam, chief economist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
European Union is also looking to bring the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into membership. This is strongly supported by public opinion in the existing states; more than 60 % for bringing Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic into the Union, and 55-58 % support for the memberships of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania and Slovenia. So far, however, only Poland and Hungary have formally applied for membership in the Union.
The Views Against the E.U.
The balance of power between the European Union and the Member States is the main object of opposition against the Union. It is the center of intense debate in most countries. This is especially true in Britain where many publications have risen up against the E.U. about 20 % of are against the E.U. Many people feel as the control of major issues should come closer to the people not further away. They feel as choices on economic development, social, programs, and crime laws should be left to the individual states. The only laws that I did not see much opposition to are for environmental protection.
The second point of conflict against the E.U. is the Euro dollar. Many people feel that by giving up their currency they are in fact giving up their sovereignty. This point of conflict is just becoming apparent since the plans for the Euro dollar have been postponed and seemed unreal by many people until recently. For example Germany, determined to preserve the stability of its Mark, demanded strong penalties for governments that negatively affect the value of the currency.
Lastly Russia is afraid of the expansion of the E.U. into Eastern Block countries. Russia currently feels like it is unwanted by the European community. It is afraid that through the acceptance of the former Warsaw Pact countries it will loose even more economic ground and one day might be greatly influenced by the countries it once controlled.
I feel that the E.U. is the way to go for Europe, but it needs to be done carefully. Europe is a very diverse continent with many likes and dislikes between it's inhabitants. This can be very easily illustrated by what happened in Yugoslavia. The creation of the European Union would create a single monetary unit one bank and in fact one government. In effect creation of a huge nation, with economic power greater to the U.S. Other European should in my view be allowed to join the Union, they are in fact independent states, and if they apply and meet the requirements they must be accepted.
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