The European Union serves as an example of how different nations with different ideals can work together in the spirit of cooperation. The Assembly, which includes 27 member countries throughout Europe, has a past that dates back to the end of World War II. What started out as an economic partnership soon grew into an organization that worked together to make changes in many other aspects of public policy, such as the environment and human rights.
The history of the European Union dates back to May 9, 1950, when the idea of creating a multi-nation trade organization was first put forward by Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nearly one year later, this led to the creation of the Treaty of the European Coal and Steel Community. After the devastation of World War II, European countries decided that becoming economically interdependent was one of the best measures they could take to ensure future cooperation. With the success of the ECSC, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands decided to form the European Economic Community in March 1957. This was the EU in its early stages.
Membership to the EEC continued to grow over the years. The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark became members in 1973, Greece joined in 1981, and Spain and Portugal joined by 1986. By November 1, 1993, the Treaty of the European Union was signed by member countries of the EEC, formally establishing the EU. Many other EU members joined in the decades to follow. As of 2012, membership includes Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. There are also an additional six countries that have applied to the EU and are either candidates or potential candidates for membership.
The original intention of the EU was to foster economic cooperation. Presently, however, the EU has power to influence policy in agriculture, fisheries, food safety, business, education, sports, customs, taxes, human rights, economy, employment, foreign affairs with non-member countries, the environment, energy, health, justice, science, transportation, and travel. Decisions are made by the rule of law. The Assembly drafts treaties which are voluntarily agreed to by member countries. Once signed, these treaties serve as binding contracts. By instituting the policies set forth by these treaties, the EU can work toward the highest quality living conditions in each member country as well as throughout the whole of Europe.
Power in the European Union is divided amongst three branches. The European Parliament acts as the voice of the people in the EU, and its members are directly elected by citizens. The Council of the EU is the voice of the the governments of each individual member country. Lastly, the European Commission represents the interests of the EU as an organization. While some may debate which branch actually has the most power, the idea is that all three are supposed to be balanced with one another.
As a whole, the European Union possesses a notable amount of influence. This became most evident with the EU expansion of membership in the early 2000s. The influence of the EU was strong enough to entice eight post-communist European states into the assembly by 2002, and several others applied for membership after that. The previous successes of the EU had enough pull in the early 2000s for non-members to find joining to be of economic and geopolitical interest.
The European Union Assembly has made more than its fair share of contributions during its existence. One noteworthy example is the creation of the euro. The euro is an international rate of currency created in 1999, with notes and coins being produced by 2002. All existing members at that time, except for the United Kingdom and Denmark, gradually switched their national currencies over in an effort to create monetary unity. Regardless of whether the switch was good or bad, it had a major impact on international and domestic trade for member countries.
Other achievements of the EU include matters of economy, medicine, environment, and human rights. For instance, in 2009, the EU established new rules that cut the cost of text messaging. Members from one EU nation can travel to another EU nation and pay 60 percent less for texting than they did before, encouraging more trade and travel between nations. The EU also contributes considerable funds and research for several medical conditions, including dementia. In the field of humanitarianism, the EU Food Facility provided support to 50 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which helped boost agricultural production in those countries in 2009. These are only a few examples of the contributions made by the EU.
The European Union Assembly is an organization with an important past, present, and future. It arose out of need after World War II, but as its membership grew, so did its responsibilities and influence. As such, the EU as it stands today is an important and integral part of the structure of Europe.
- European Union – The official website of the European Union.
- World Factbook: European Union – The CIA’s detailed fact sheet about the EU.
- European Union External Action – Information on EU delegations with the USA.
- Historical Archives of the European Union – The official archived collection of documents from various countries in the EU.
- The Influence of the European Union on the Democratisation Process in Central Europe – A specific case study on the EU’s influence of the Czech Republic.
- From Convergence to Diffusion – A look at how the EU has influenced the tax systems of numerous countries.
- Policy-Making in the EU – A detailed examination of the achievements and proposed reforms coming out of the European Union.