The European Union
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The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union among 27 member nations. The EU was established by the Maastricht Treaty on November 1st, 1993 upon the foundations of the European Communities (e.g. European Coal and Steel Community). The EU has developed a single market with standardized laws (in all member states) that allow the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. The EU devises policy upon trade, agriculture, and regional integration. Sixteen member nations have adopted a common currency known as the euro - in effect creating the Eurozone.

Other supranational organization: ECOWAS- It is an Economic supranational body in Africa. The comparative country it's related to is Nigeria, and it its important to know that Nigeria takes its role and its leadership as part of that council very seriously.

The United Nations is not a supranational organization because the countries that participate in the UN do not have to give up any of their sovereignty to be apart of it.

The EU is a supranational organization with the following important institutions:
The European Commission
The Council of the European Union
The European Council
The Court of Justice of the European Union
The European Central Bank
The European Monetary Union
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Political Institutions
Executive: The Commission
  • One commissioner from the 27 countries that is nominated by the home country.
  • Must operate as a member of the EU not on behalf of their own national government.
  • Introduces legislation such as policies to be instituted throughout the EU but this proposed legislation must be approved by the Council and the Parliament.
  • Supervises 2500 civil servants and 20000 staff members
  • Tends be be more disagreement because positions rotate frequently

European Council: Quasi-Executive
  • The political direction of the EU.
  • As of 2009 with the Treaty of Lisbon, a permanent president was created. Herman van Rompuy of Belgium acts as the first president of the European Council.
  • The way the president is elected is not democratic, and the people are given zero input. This reinforces the "democratic deficit" in the EU.


Legislative: The Council and Parliament.
  • The European Parliament consists of 736 MEP's (Member of European Parliament). The Parliament has control over the EU budget, and EU law also overrides national law, giving the Parliament serious power in the European community. The Parliament can censure (remove) commission with 2/3 majority. Problems with the European Parliament include direct election since 1979; it only meets one week per month; it is the EU's weakest institution; and a democratic deficit when the most democratic institution holds the least amount of power.
  • The Council of Ministers is made up of representatives from the governments of each member state. Legislation proposed by the Commission must pass through the Council in order to become law. The Council may override Parliamentary objections if it acts unanimously. The council of the Union is the heart of the legislative process. It represents national interests. The euro was launched by the council in 1998.
  • There is a 6 month rotating presidency.
  • The General Affairs Council (foreign ministers) is here. European council = chief executives. Legislative power = must approve commission proposals to create laws.
  • Weaknesses that exist in this structure are that 6 months is too short to succeed in finishing a project, proposed Constitution took 18 months +, shared by 3 (troika). A qualified majority voting--current = proportional rep. need 255 out of 345 for majority. Proposed = 55% states representing 65% of EU population.
  • The President of the European Parliament carries out the role of speaker in parliament and represents it externally.

Judiciary: European Court of Justice - Considered to be, compared to national government's courts elsewhere, very strong (it takes precedent over national supreme courts). The ECJ is the highest court of the EU and interprets EU law. Most commonly, the ECJ can rule a member country's laws as invalid if it conflicts with EU constitutional law decreasing a country's legitimacy. There are 25 judges (one nominated from each member state) and 8 advocates-general. It differs from the European Court of Human rights. Members must follow ECJ fulings (not ECHR). Great expansion of supranational powers; limits national sovereignty; one member appointed by each state. Weaknesses are practices constitutional law (judicial review) consistently favoring EU law over state laws. Standard disputes are resolved by mutual recognition (must recognize other state's standards).

Bureaucracy: Government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority.

Parties: Currently, there is no dominant party in the EU. Some parties include the European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists, and the European Liberal-Democrats & Reformist party.

Constitution: Was recently rejected by French and Dutch voters. (Conservative Party view: EU does not need a constitution. It needs to be flexible to withstand the changing of times. By saying no to the Constitution, it allows both the EU to start tackling their problems while Britain could look forward to ways to modernize the European Union. The Conservative party does not stand for a constitution that is supreme over our own. The European Union is NOT a country.) Those opposing the introduction of the EU Constitution into individual European countries cite the fear of the possible loss of sovereignty enjoyed by those nations as their main argument.

Electoral Systems: All member of the European Parliament are directly elected by the member states. MEP's are elected every 5 years. One element of criticism is that the basic citizen of each member state has little say in who gets appointed as representative, and by extension little say in the policy making process. This is referred to as the Democratic Deficit.

Participation
Relevant Revolutions: The rejection of the constitution by the French and Dutch.

Ideology: One Europe, open to European countries that share the same values as the founding countries. EU membership includes commitment to democracy and human rights. Recent members from Eastern Europe, many previously under authoritarian Communist governments, could join after having been deemed to have satisfied a threshold in these requirements.

Status of Suffrage: Members of the European Parliament are directly elected giving Parliament more power recently. Nevertheless, the European Parliament is still the weakest institution in the EU, which is one of the major grievances that ultimately led to to rejection of the Constitution by the French and Dutch. Citizens of member states have EU citizenship, allowing them to vote in local and EU elections in other EU countries..

Significant Social Cleavages: Western Europe vs Eastern Europe is still somewhat prevalent, recently invigorated by the influx of western European jobs moving to eastern Europe due to cheaper labor costs.

Role of Media: plays an important role in communicating information about the EU as well as in the formation of images of Europe. Can influence changes in legislation.

Status of Efficacy: The EU is NOT a state, and it is unlikely that it will ever gather enough legitimacy in the eyes of EU members to wield that much power even though it requires member countries to adhere to certain policies.

Role of Interest Groups: Groups lobby both the Commission and the Parliament. Lobbying the Council is rare. National groups have the most influence in lobbying their own national ministers. Sometimes, however, they may also have the ability to influence other governments. The EU only minimally regulates the activities of interest groups.

Role of Women / minority groups: The EU has taken steps to encompass everyone into their system. They have taken steps towards universal human rights as well.

Development of political elites: Criticism of the European Union has focused upon the formation of a political elite, Eurocrats, a portmanteau of Europe and bureaucrats, that has remained above the jurisdiction of voters. This creates a democratic deficit, in which voters feel as if they have little control over their governing bodies.

Power
Where does Sovereignty rest: Sovereignty mostly lies in the member states, as they must approve all treaties between the EU and the members. For example, the treaty on the Constitution failed after being rejected in France and Dutch, and the monetary union has been rejected by Britain through a referendum. Britain was allowed to do this after it was granted the opt-out clause. However, some argue that EU laws take precedent over national laws, such as how the EU has the power to dictate the monetary policy of monetary union member states (users of the Euro) instead of them creating monetary policy according to what is in the best interests of a single nation.

Monetary Union: Established by the Maastricht Treaty to be instituted by 1999, eleven of the fifteen EU member nations (now sixteen) agreed to use the EU's own currency, the Euro, as their national currency. This monetary union facilitates travel/work between member nations by allowing citizens to travel without exchanging money. Great Britain has not yet officially joined this union and still uses the pound sterling.

Impact of Supranational groups: Maybe the EU being a supranational group has something to do with this. The EU, like other supranational organizations, are all growing in power in these times.

Impact of Globalization: Globalization strengthens the ideals of the EU, making membership more coveted and putting pressure on non-members to join. Globalization has led to the formation of the EU. EU citizens have freedom of movement, so that people can move elsewhere within the EU for jobs.

Also, since the EU encompasses many countries of its own, it's been successful in facilitating the flow of people, information, goods, and money within its own borders. The EU has also been a heavy advocate of liberal economic policies, pushing for more open and competitive markets.

Examples of Fragmentation: issues over currency with Great Britain, sovereignty issues. To expand on Britain, Britain as a whole did not want to adopt the Euro because of the fear of having to give up the pound and lose sovereignty. Also there is controversy between the limits of the EU's reach. For example, many member countries believe that social problems in a certain member state should be that countries problem and that the EU should not get involved. Currency, social issues, and loss of sovereignty along with the issues of the EU constitution have caused fragmentation.

Trends toward Federal or Unitary: Overall, it resembles a federal system in which each country is represented. However, the concept of European cooperation shows relatively unitary tendencies.

The EU mainly deals with trade between member states, mainly by lowering tariffs to allow for economic activity between members.

Rule of Law: EU is based on rule of law which means that everything they do is derived from treaties, which are agreed on voluntarily and democratically by all Member States. Previously signed treaties can be changed and updated to keep up with developments in society. Written laws based on Three Pillars --- 1) Economics and trade 2) Justice 3) Common security policy

Policy
Democratization: Has become more democratized since European Parliament members are now elected, yet power resides within the heads of state, and not of European people. The EU has also played an important role in spreading democracy throughout Europe.

Role of government in economy: The EU is the largest single market in the world. A subset of members use the euro, a common currency that is regulated by the European Central Bank. Predecessors of the EU include organizations built for economic cooperation, such as the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community.

Examples of Nationalism: The entire concept of the EU is a divergence from nationalism. However, original/founding member states like France and the Netherlands have demonstrated their nationalism by rejecting the Constitution. Similarly, the controversy in the UK over whether the British will switch from the pound to the euro illustrates the resiliency of nationalism within the EU.

Status of Civil Liberties: Civil liberties are a hot issue in the EU. Member states have minimum requirements for Civil liberties. New EU legislation about civil liberties is controversial.

Civil Society/Social Capital: The EU has a fairly strong civil society because for one there are debates about civil rights, and also civil rights are fairly important to the people of the EU. Also the people voice out their opinions as seen through the EU constitution referendum in which people voted and the constitution was not ratified. So unlike Nigeria where there is massive corruption and the people's voice does not matter, the EU has a healthy civil society which shows that people have faith in the government's rule to some extent.Although EU has strong legitimacy citizens of member states see their national problems and interest as greater than that of the EU's.

Recent policy developments: Currently, the EU is attempting to expand their foreign & security policy by creating a peacekeeping force. Also, in April 2010, the EU banned air travel over Europe due to a volcanic ash cloud. This shows how the EU can create policy affected most of Europe. While many countries wanted to lift the bans on air traffic earlier due to pressure from the airlines (they were losing an estimated $200 million a day), the policies of the EU held. In this case, the EU was able to create and enforce policies that affected the economies of its member nations.Also in 2010, the Greek economy was near collapse. All member nations who use the euro were affected greatly. High inflation occurred and this issue demonstrates the power of one member over the other 15 in economic terms. Many nations are debating whether to eject members fro the EU and there have been growing anti-austerity claims within countries like France.

Status of political legitimacy: Currently, the EU is recognized as a supranational group and has a right to be there, yet most citizens of the EU recognize their nations interests are greater than that of the continent. Thus, it could be argued that the EU doesn't have enough legitimacy.

Migration: It is required that EU States allow "citizens of the Union [to] move and reside freely within the Member States." Freeing up immigration is a measure that exemplifies the EU's goal of unifying the European community. A downside to free immigration is that many eastern Europeans have been migrating westward. This has caused population booms in richer countries such as Spain and major decreases in eastern Europe. [http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33152_en.htm]

The associate membership of Turkey has been somewhat controversial with the Union. At the moment, Turkey is an associate member of both the EU and the Western European Union. Turkey's initial major membership application was made in 1987, but it has been an associate member since 1963

EU Vocabulary:
Acquis communauaire- New members must accept these body of laws and regulations before gaining admission into the EU
Broadening (vs. deepening) -Adding more members to the EU, thus increasing the number of countries involved.
EXAMPLES
-the Marshall Plan: Organization of European Economic Community; NATO (1949).
-Treaty of Rome (1957)
-Treaty of Nice (2001)
-Acceptance of Turkey in the future???

Common Agricultural Policy- The EU's agricultural policy, blamed for many of its economic troubles and likely to be changed as it adds new members. Overall, the CAP was a demonstration of how pressure on the member states by other supranational organizations could lead to policies that actually hurt the trend towards a free market.

Common Market- Colloquial name used to describe the European Union, especially in its early years.

Council of Ministers- Made up of ministers from the governments of each member state. The Council is the heart of the EU's legislative process, and passes laws proposed by the Commission. The Council of Ministers represents the continued power of the states as opposed to the supranational nature of the EU.

Deepening (vs. broadening) - Extending the power of the EU instead of just the size, i.e. allowing for more intervention in the countries it involves. More EU sovereignty.
EXAMPLES
-European Court of Justice is supreme over UK court rulings because the UK does not have a Supreme Court.
-Council of Europe (1949)- European Coal +Steel Community
-Common Agriculture Policy (1966)
-Maastricht Treaty (1991)
-Euro Currency (2000/2002).
Democratic deficit-The lack of democratic procedures in the EU; or when the most democratic institution has the least amount of power. The EU is considered to have a democratic deficit because there is such a huge number of citizens in the EU (nearly 500 million), yet they have at best an indirect role in who represents their country in the EU. Also, the European Parliament's members are directly elected (it is the most democratic institution in the EU), but the parliament only meets a few times a year, and that is a sign of weak power.

Euro- A form of currency in use between most member nations in the EU. The idea of the Euro is to create a single, larger, and more efficient market. So far 13 countries have adopted the Euro as there national form of currency making 350 million people that use the Euro. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden have refused to adopt the euro as their currency. The primary reasons for adopting the euro are stability and resistance to inflation, ease of trade between countries (there are no transactions costs with changing currencies), price transparency between nations (it's easy to compare prices).

European Coal and Steel Community- One of the precursors of the EU, formed in 1951. A collection of six nations meant to unify western Europe during the Cold War. It helped create the idea of European Democracy that has become the basis of the EU.

European Community- The formal name of what became the EU in the 1970s and 1980s. It made Europe a neighborhood where all the countries are welcoming neighbors and could speak much easily amongst themselves.

European Court of Justice- The EU's judicial body, with sweeping powers. Their powers trump those of the member states. ie, if a law in Great Britain is in conflict with EU law, the EU law takes precedence. One example is how the EU uses the metric system for trading amongst its nations. Great Britain uses the English system (haha), and the European Court of Justice ruled that GB must convert its measurements to the metric system when it trades with other EU countries. Obviously, this costs GB more money, and the Court's ruling undermines GB's sovereignty.

European Parliament- Shares legislative power with the Council of Ministers. Originally the weakest institution in the EU because members were chosen by national governments and would vote however the leadership in their home countries wanted them to. Since 1979, Parliament members have been directly elected. The Parliament must approve most proposed legislature for it to become law (Council of Ministers can override objection if it votes unanimously). The Parliament also now has the right to approve all nominees to the Commission and the power to approve the budget.

Giscard d’ Estaing - Valéry Giscard d'Estaing has, throughout his political career, always been a proponent of greater European integration. From 2002 to 2003 he served as President of the Convention on the Future of Europe. On 29 October 2004, the European heads of state, gathered in Rome, approved and signed the European Constitution based on a draft strongly influenced by Giscard's work at the Convention. He might be one of the only French fellows that is in full favor of the EU.

Maastricht Treaty- Created the EMU (European Monetary Union, including the central bank and the Euro); signed in 1992. This treaty signified that the EU countries would follow the same monetary policy. Brits opted out of it. Also, this treaty establishes foreign policy, national security, transportation and justice. It barely passed French and British referenda.

The PIIGS problem- Refers to the economic disasters of the European Union: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. These countries rampantly racked up their debt while in the European Union, borrowing and operating at a rate higher than their GDP. These countries are in tremendous debt, and, as recently announced, may be close to defaulting on their loans, i.e. Greece.

Treaty of Rome- this treaty created the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957. The EEC was the first name given to the presently known EU (European Union) and consisted of these six countries: Belgium, Italy, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany.

Qualified majority voting- The voting system in the EU that doesn’t require the Council of Ministers to have a unanimous decision on most issues. Qualified majority voting is a type of supermajority where a certain majority of both population represented and the countries represented by the votes must be met.

Subsidiary- policy that devolves decision making to the lowest appropriate level in the EU. Essentially, it is an entity that is controlled by a bigger and more powerful entity.The reason for this distinction is that a lone company cannot be a subsidiary of any organization; only an entity representing a legal fiction as a separate entity can be a subsidiary. While individuals have the capacity to act on their own initiative, a business entity can only act through its directors, officers and employees.

Supranationalism: a method of decision-making in multi-national political communities, wherein power is transferred to an authority broader than governments of member states. Because decisions in some supranational structures are taken by majority votes, it is possible for a member-state in those unions to be forced by the other member-states to implement a decision. Full sovereignty can be reclaimed by withdrawing from the supranational arrangements.

Three pillars- The main areas in where the EU has worked since the Maastricht Treaty
~ involved in trade and economic matters
~ cooperation in justice and home affairs (JHA)
~ The desire to create a CFSP (Common Foreign and Security Policy), which is the most visionary and controversial aspect of the EU today

Unanimity principle- only for major new policies today, but in the past, required all decisions in the EU. Many decision can now be done through qualified majority.

Key People
Jose Manuel Barroso: Next President of the Commission...He served as Prime Minister of Portugal from August 2002 to July 2004.

David Cameron: A very sexy man who is the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, known to be a Eurosceptic
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Herman Van Rompuy: The first Permanent President of the European Council. Looks like like a kind old Belgian man.

Jacques Delors: Prominent French Socialist politician who was the President of the European Commission between 1985 and 1995.

Jean Monnet: Primary architect of the EU and French planning system

Paul-Henri Spaak: Belgian politician who had a leading role in the the early Common Market


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EU Timeline/ History
1950: The French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman first proposes the idea of creating a community amongst the democratic nations in Europe. As a result of the devastation that World War II caused, this organization, originally created to protect the coal and steel industries in Europe, would become vital in protecting democracy in Europe.
1957: The original six members of the EU (Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) signed the Rome Treaties to create the European Economic Community (EEC). At this time, the EEC enjoyed relative prosperity and supplemented member nations' national economies leading to a larger trading space and increased exports.
1970s: Members of the EU start to experience oil shocks and stagflation. Because each country dealt with these problems differently, shared policies and areas were dangerous as exchange rates fluctuated wildly. As the 1970s progressed, economic struggles continued and the Common Market was threatened as “Eurosclerosis” (an inability to move forward) because the norm.
1973: For the first time, the EU enlarges and welcomes UK, Ireland and Denmark.
1979: In 1979, the European Monetary System (EMS) began and the first direct elections to the European Parliament occurred. All members of the EU belong to the EMS, however, not all of the members belong to the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The ERM includes countries willing to undergo more significant economic rules and regulations.
1981: Greece joins the EU.
1985: Member nations agree to create a single market and create a Europe “without borders.”
1986: Spain and Portugal join.
1991: The Treaty on European Union formed the Economic and Monetary Union in 1991. This treaty established a common currency, foreign and security policy for member nations. The treaty also outlined cooperative measures for members of the EU.
1995: Sweden, Finland and Austria join.
1997: The Amsterdam Treaty is ratified and creates a EU foreign policy representative.
1998: Accession negotiations open with Cyprus the Czech Republic Estonia Hungary Poland and Slovenia. A year later another group of countries gets its foot in the European door as the EU opens membership talks with Romania Slovakia Latvia Lithuania Bulgaria and Malta.
2002:The euro came into existence in 1999 as the official currency of 11 countries. Greece adopted the currency two years later though Sweden Denmark and the UK stayed out. On 1 January 2002 euro notes and coins were introduced in the 12 participating states and over the next few months their national currencies were phased out.
2003: A convention headed by former French President Valery Giscard dEstaing has spent much of 2002 and 2003 drafting the EUs first constitution. Its goals are to simplify the EU treaties to make the EU more easily understood by its citizens and to help it work efficiently after enlargement. But an intergovernmental conference ends in disarray as heads of state and government fail to agree a final text.\
2003: Poland admitted into the EU by a referendum held in Poland regarding entering the EU, and and EU referendum regarding Poland's admittance to the EU.
2007: Romania and Bulgaria become member states on 1 January 2007. Privately many European politicians question whether they are ready. But harsh penalties are threatened if the countries fail to continue making progress in curbing organised crime and corruption and ensuring food safety and the proper use of EU funds.
2012: EU euro crisis with disproportionate weight of burden on economically advanced countries such as France and Germany, holding up the failing southern economies of Europe.
2013: EU considers letting Serbia join, first by saying it does not have to recognize Kosovo then by going back on their word and making it a necessary part of the joining process.



Current EU news!
As we know, the EU and Euro is not doing so hot in terms of Greece, Spain and France. As we look towards the future of the Euro, we see key events within the EU that could either make or break the currency- and the global economy. Many of the nation's bond auctions are coming up in the next few weeks, as well as finance meetings. Fingers crossed.
Important events include...
Friday, May 11: Italian T-bill auction. EU economic and borrowing forecasts for 2012-2013. Spanish government cabinet meeting to discuss banking reform plan.Tuesday, May 15: Euro-zone flash 1Q GDP data. German May ZEW economic-sentiment indicator. EU finance ministers' meeting. Greek T-bill auction (tentative). EUR450 million Greek foreign law-bond matures.Thursday, May 31: Euro-area flash May inflation data. Ireland holds referendum on EU fiscal pact.Monday, June 18: G20 Leaders summit in Los Cabos, Mexico.From
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20120510-718613.html
http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/05/14/europes_gray_future
Article about the pessimistic future of Europe and the consequences of a common currency with this organization

Great Britain is debating leaving the European Union, so as a result Barrack Obama has put pressure on them with Economic Penalties.