Is the EU a complex system? What do you know about its history and structure?
While watching, pay attention to the following words and expressions in context. Use them in your answers to the questions below and discussion.
- a political and economic union
- can be traced to the aftermath
- a devastated economy
- the founding countries
- to form the European Economic Community
- increased economic cooperation
- to be drawn into conflict
- a purely economic partnership
- to evolve into other policy areas
- no single leader
- its responsibilities are spread across
- an executive body
- to propose new laws
- politically independent
- a commissioner
- bound to represent the interests of the EU before the home country
- to be in charge of
- to be based in
- law-makers vote on laws
- directly represent the EU citizens
- to discuss, amend, adopt laws
- the main decision-making bodies
- to interpret and apply law
- the community budget; the monetary policy
- How and when did the EU come into existence? What were the founding countries guided by? What community did they establish in 1958?
- How did the EEC evolve? What other areas besides economy did it embrace?
- When did the EEC become the EU?
- How does the EU work? How many institutions are held responsible for its decisions?
- Describe the composition and functions of the European Commission; the European Parliament; the Council of the EU.
- What other important bodies are there in the EU? What are they responsible for?
- How many member states form the Euro zone?
- Is the criticism of EU institutions justifiable? Has this complex political arrangement proved to be resilient?
What Is the European Union (EU)?
- read the passage
- focus on key terms
- summarize the information
- elaborate on the concepts:
- The History of the EU
- The EU aims and values
- The EU concept of integration
- The EU’s composition and main bodies
- The EU’s pressing issues
|customs barriers||a trade barrier which acts to limit trade across borders by creating and enforcing various restrictions|
|embark||to start or participate in an enterprise|
|bailouts||the provision of financial help to a corporation or country which otherwise would be on the brink of bankruptcy|
|austerity measures||a set of economic policies, usually consisting of tax increases, spending cuts, or a combination of the two, used by governments to reduce budget deficits|
|supplant||take the place or move into the position of|
|addressed the crisis||deal with a difficult economic situation|
|currency depreciation||a fall in the value of a currency in terms of its exchange rate versus other currencies|
|economic disparities||economic inequality among individuals’ incomes and wealth|
|federal revenue||collections by an agency from a federal source that are deposited into an account for expenditure by the agency|
|fiscal union||the integration of the fiscal policy of nations or states|
What Is the European Union (EU)?
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic alliance of 27 countries. The EU promotes democratic values in its member nations and is one of the world’s most powerful trade blocs. Nineteen of the countries share the euro as their official currency.
The EU grew out of a desire to strengthen economic and political cooperation throughout the continent of Europe in the wake of World War II.
The EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $14.45 trillion euros in 2021. That’s about $15.49 trillion dollars. The GDP of the U.S. for the same period was about $23 trillion.
History of the European Union (EU)
The EU traces its roots to the European Coal and Steel Community, which was founded in 1950 and had just six members: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It became the European Economic Community in 1957 under the Treaty of Rome and subsequently was renamed the European Community (EC).
This served to deepen the integration of the member nations’ foreign, security, and internal affairs policies. The EU established a common market the same year to promote the free movement of goods, services, people, and capital across its internal borders.
The EC initially focused on a common agricultural policy and the elimination of customs barriers. Denmark, Ireland, and the U.K. joined in 1973 in the first wave of expansion. Direct elections to the European Parliament began in 1979.
Creation of a Common Market
In 1986, the Single European Act embarked on a six-year plan to create a common European market by harmonizing national regulations.
The Maastricht Treaty took effect in 1993, replacing the EC with the European Union (EU). The euro debuted as a common single currency for participating EU members on Jan. 1, 1999.6 Denmark and the U.K. negotiated «opt-out» provisions that permitted countries to retain their own currencies if they chose.
Several newer members of the EU have also either not yet met the criteria for adopting the euro or chosen to opt out.
The European Debt Crisis
In the wake of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, the EU and the European Central Bank struggled to deal with high sovereign debt and sluggish growth in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece.
Greece and Ireland received financial bailouts from the EU in 2010 conditioned on the implementation of fiscal austerity measures. Portugal followed in 2011. A second Greek bailout was needed in 2012.
The crisis abated after the European Union and the European Central Bank adopted a series of measures to support the sovereign and banking-sector debt of the affected countries.
These included the establishment in October 2012 of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), established to assist EU members experiencing severe financial problems, including an inability to access the bond markets. The ESM supplanted the temporary European Financial Stability Facility backstop in place since 2010.
The European Central Bank conducted a series of «targeted longer-term refinancing operations» in 2014, 2016, and 2019 to provide financing on favorable terms for EU financial institutions.
In 2015, the European Union loosened the provisions of the 2011 Stability and Growth Act requiring member states to target public debt of below 60% of gross domestic product and annual government budget deficits below 3% of GDP over the medium term.
The same year, a new EU agency, the Single Resolution Board, assumed responsibility for resolving bank failures in the euro area.
EU’s North-South Issues
While the relief measures addressed the crisis, they have not tackled one of its principal causes—the wide disparity in wealth and economic growth between the European Union’s heavily industrialized north and its poorer southern periphery, which remains less urbanized and more dependent on agriculture.
Because the industrialized north and the more rural south share a common currency, struggling southern economies can’t take advantage of currency depreciation to improve their international competitiveness. Without currency depreciation, southern exporters ultimately struggle to compete with their northern rivals, which benefit from faster productivity growth.
How It Works in the U.S.
In the U.S., federal transfer payments help to address similar economic disparities between regions and states.
States with higher average incomes tend to contribute a disproportionately large share of federal revenue, while those with lower incomes tend to account for a higher share of federal outlays.
In the European Union, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted joint spending measures some have called “an incomplete and fragile fiscal union in the making.”
The Brexit Bomb
After rejecting earlier calls for a popular referendum on the U.K.’s European Union membership, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised a vote in 2013 and scheduled it in 2016. It was a time of growing popularity for the U.K. Independence Party, which opposed European Union membership.
After trailing in late polls, the Leave option won with nearly 52% of the vote on June 23, 2016. Cameron resigned the next day. The U.K. officially left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.
In July 2020, a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the U.K. Parliament noted widespread media reports of Russian efforts on behalf of the Leave option and faulted the government for failing to investigate Russian involvement in British politics.
Becoming part of the European Union
To become part of the European Union, a country must:
- agree with all the laws and values of the European Union.
- work to make sure these laws and values are respected.
This may take a very long time to happen. Some countries are now working to become part of the European Union. These countries are: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina. To become part of the European Union, these countries must work to make all laws and values of the European Union happen in them.
The Schengen Area
The European Union made the ‘Schengen Area’.
The Schengen Area is an area without borders. In this area, people can travel from country to country freely and easily. They do not have to go through checks and controls when they pass from one country to another. Thanks to the Schengen Area, it is now easier for people to travel for work or tourism. The Schengen Area was made in 1985. Today 22 out of the 27 countries of the European Union are part of the Schengen Area. These countries are:
Also, 4 countries outside the European Union are part of the Schengen Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. That means that people can travel freely and easily from one of these countries to another. This way it is easier for people to visit any of these countries for tourism or for work.
Languages of the European Union
In every country of the European Union people speak their own language.
The European Union protects the right of people to communicate in their own language.
How the European Union works
The European Union has 3 main bodies:
- the European Commission
The people of the European Commission suggest laws for the European Union.
- the European Parliament
The people of the European Parliament are elected by all people in Europe to stand for their rights.
- the Council of the European Union
People who make decisions in every country of the European Union come together and make the Council of the European Union.
These 3 bodies are very important for the European Union. They work closely together to make things better in Europe:
- The European Commission suggests laws.
- The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union discuss these laws and decide if they want these laws to happen in Europe.
- If they decide that a law must happen in Europe, all countries of the European Union must work to make this law happen in them.
Other bodies that are important for the European Union are:
- The Court of Justice of the European Union
that makes sure that all laws happen correctly in the European Union.
- the Court of Auditors
that checks if the money of the European Union is spent in the right way.
There are also other bodies of the European Union that are doing important work.
For example, there are bodies that:
- check if the European Union works in the right way and respects the rights of all people.
- publish useful information about the European Union.
- choose the people who have the skills to work for the European Union.
- stand for the rights of all people in Europe like people with disabilities, workers and others.
MATCH THE TERM WITH ITS DEFINITION:
|customs barriers||collections by an agency from a federal source that are deposited into an account for expenditure by the agency|
|embark||the integration of the fiscal policy of nations or states|
|bailouts||a set of economic policies, usually consisting of tax increases, spending cuts, or a combination of the two, used by governments to reduce budget deficits|
|austerity measures||to start or participate in an enterprise|
|supplant||a trade barrier which acts to limit trade across borders by creating and enforcing various restrictions|
|addressed the crisis||the provision of financial help to a corporation or country which otherwise would be on the brink of bankruptcy|
|currency depreciation||deal with a difficult economic situation|
|economic disparities||economic inequality among individuals’ incomes and wealth|
|federal revenue||take the place or move into the position of|
|fiscal union||a fall in the value of a currency in terms of its exchange rate versus other currencies|
RESTORE THE SENTENCE BY FILLING IN THE KEY TERM:
COMPLETE THE PASSAGE WITH THE WORDS FROM THE BOX:
Debates about regionalism in Europe
Europe has a long history of integrative and disintegrative processes (Mattli, 1999). During recent decades the regionalization process has ultimately centred around one dominant project – what is today the EU – which has widened and deepened in scope, reach and ambition to a remarkable degree. Historically, an intense debate has swirled around varieties of realist/intergovernmental and functional/
liberal/institutional 1) ………………… These different approaches focus largely on different aspects of the integration process. For instance, realists and intergovernmentalists appear to have the most to say about the logic behind large Council meetings and treaty reforms such as Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice (Grieco, 1997; Moravcsik, 1998). Meanwhile, the functional/liberal/institutional approaches focus more on economic integration and other issue areas (especially under the first pillar) in which the EU’s central institutions such as the Commission and the Court have a more prominent role (Pollack, 2003; Sandholtz and Stone-Sweet, 1998).
Other scholars emphasize other 2) ……………….. again, such as the fundamentally changed 3) ……………….. in Europe, blurring the 4) ……………….. between international and domestic politics. One such perspective is ‘multilevel governance’, which 5) ……………….. that power and decision-making in Europe are not concentrated at one level (national or supranational), but are rather characterised by a complex web of relations between public and private actors nested in supranational, national and microregional levels (Hooghe and Marks, 2001).
In recent years social constructivism has gained a more prominent place in the study of European integration (Christiansen et al., 2001). This line of thinking has entered the discussion on European integration mainly as a spillover from the discipline of international relations, and as a means of transcending the rather introverted debates between the conventional and rationalist theories of European integration referred to initially. The social constructivist approach emphasises the mutual constitutiveness of structure and agency, and pays particular attention to the role of ideas, values, norms and identities in the social construction of Europe (rather than EU per se) (Christiansen et al., 2001). This theoretical approach has undoubtedly revitalised the study of European integration, but it
makes its comparisons between Europe and international regimes rather than between Europe and other regions. There is therefore 6) ……………….. for an increase in comparison of the social construction of various global regions.
The lack of communication and interaction between EU studies and regionalism in the rest of the world is stark, although some recent attempts have begun to remedy this lack (Laursen, 2003; Telo, 2007; Warleigh, 2004; 2006). Indeed, there has been a tendency within EU studies during the recent
decade to consider the EU as a nascent, if unconventional, 7) ……………….. in its own right (the ‘n=1’ problem). This view holds that the EU should be studied as a political system rather than as a project of regional integration or regionalism (Caporaso and Keeler, 1995; Hix, 1994; 1999). The corollary is that established tools of political science and comparative politics should be used in EU studies and that international studies and relations are not 8) ……………….. to deal with the complexity of the contemporary EU. This view has also 9) ……………….. the notion that the EU is sui generis, thereby downplaying the similarities between the EU and other regionalist projects. According to Ben Rosamond, one prominent EU scholar, the parochialism inherent in this particular strand of EU studies has contributed little in deepening our understanding of the EU as a political system. He argues that EU studies should return to the broader ambitions of the comparative and classical regional integration theory (especially neofunctionalism), at least to the extent of developing generalizable and comparative conceptual and theoretical 10) ……………….. (Rosamond, 2005).
The Significance of the EU as an International Body and Global Actor
In diplomatic terms, the European External Action Service performs the role of 1) x/ the EU’s diplomatic service with delegations and offices throughout the world. The EU is represented at the high table of global 2) government/ governance with a seat at the G20 and the WTO. It also holds 3) observer/ observing status in the IMF, the UN General Assembly and G7 summits. The EU is a signatory 4) to/ of 50 free trade agreements with other countries 5) x/ , and works in partnership with emerging and regional groups on the basis of mutual interests. The political 6) capacity/ capability of the EU has expanded alongside the enlargement of the organisation itself. Membership of the EU could be said to foster a zone of stability in a continent with a troubled history of conflict. It could be argued that the most significant political achievement of the organisation is its 7) extension/ expansion from the original six to twenty-seven members, covering just under 4.5 million square kilometres and housing the third largest population in the world, if taken cumulatively. This has led to an increasing number of states applying to join the union. Membership of the EU remains an attractive pull in terms of regional funding, global standing and access to the single market.In economic terms, the EU is undoubtedly a significant actor within global affairs. Measured by the share of global GDP 8), / x the EU is the second largest economy in the world with a population size of approximately 450 million. This alone enables the EU to utilise its economic resources to exert influence. This is perhaps to be expected given that the project itself began essentially as an economic union. 9) As/ So the common market proved to be a success, countries sought membership for its economic benefits. The process of economic and monetary union has created a 10) distinctive/ distinct European market that operates in a similar manner to any domestic economy. The single currency is the second largest reserve currency and the second most traded currency in the world, following the US Dollar in both cases. Moves towards implementing the four freedoms make it far easier to move abroad for work, and the Schengen Agreement even allows for largely unrestricted free movement of labour.