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The integration of Europe is an idea that has been floated for a long time. However, the main backing came during the first half of the twentieth century. After the Second World War, proponents of European integration considered the disadvantages associated with the fragmentation of Europe due to the existence of independent nations that had engaged in two different wars. Therefore, the main aim of the integration of Europe was to come up with a system that would ensure that the nations no longer pursued policies that were unilateral yet detrimental to the wellbeing of Europe in general. This essay will discuss the main motives behind the integration as well as the course of the integration process. The principle agreements that were signed and their relevance to the process of integration will also be discussed.
Currently, the European Union is a body made up of 28 member states. Through the process of enlargement or widening, the European Union has been able to gradually incorporate new member states. The original members of the European Union are: France, Belgium, Netherlands, the Luxembourg and West Germany. Gradually, other 22 countries joined the union. As part of the cooperation among the European Union member states, adoption of common policies and trends including the monetary policies has become commonplace. For instance, seventeen members within the European Union (EU hereafter) have accepted to use the Euro as an official currency of exchange and as a legal tender. The European Union also seeks to promote its supranational mandate over its members. This is through sovereignty- transfer with regard to policy matters[footnoteRef:1]. [1: Eichengreen, Barry J (1992), Should the Maastricht Treaty be saved? (International Finance Section, Department of Economics, Princeton University Princeton).]
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One of the core reasons for the integration of Europe and formation of the European Union was to strengthen Europes financial standpoint relative to that of the world. Through the years, Europes integration has transformed it to become the largest world economy. The European Union is ranked as the worlds top exporter as well as the second largest goods importer. This is an advantage of the integration as it has helped Europe survive some of the worst economic crises in history.
Another major objective of the process of integration is to achieve a uniform political structure that ensures there is peace and stability over Europe through cooperation among the members. EU member states adopt a particular structure of government that is uniform. Various structures of government are implemented through various treaties as well that the member states agree upon from time to time. The treaties are then submitted to the legal structures of individual states and they can be either ratified for implementation or rejected based on the policies and interests of a country. This is normally achieved through referenda as well as demos in individual countries. In order to facilitate this process, the European Union has formed seven core institutions[footnoteRef:2]. These institutions include; the European Court of Justice, the European Council, the European Court of Auditors, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, The European Parliament as well as the Council of the European Union. Each of these institutions has a specific task that it is mandated to implement to ensure the cohesion and proper functioning of the integrated structures within EU member states. [2: Smith, Karen Elizabeth (2003), European Union foreign policy in a changing world (Polity Cambridge). ]
To begin with, the European Commission serves as a general body that oversees the functions and daily running of the union. It comprises several Directorate Generals, each of whom is in charge of a particular department. The commission has 28 commissioners, to whom the Directorate Generals report. Each member state is allocated with a commissioner. The roles of the commissioners are to represent the unions interest contrary to the belief that they represent their countrys interests. The Council of the European Union is bestowed with the power of initiating legislations. However, it is limited in the sense that it cannot amend laws or reject laws. The European Council is an EU body that is mandated to develop the overall policy of the EU as well as monitor and facilitate the core processes of the European Integration. It is an institution mandated with ensuring the success of the integration process. The European parliament, on the other hand, is a body with the legal mandate to formulate, pass, amend or reject any laws presented to it or under implementation in the EU[footnoteRef:3]. The Court of Justice of the European Union comprises 28 sitting judges. The role of the court is to give an informed opinion on any EU matters that are brought before it. The court is mandated to ensure that there is no conflict between individual law and the EU law. Therefore, it always ensures that, in such instances when there is a clash between the EU and the laws of a specific country, the European Union laws override those of the individual country. It also has the power to resolve any disputes that may arise between the member states. The issues that involve the legal nature of the ratified treaties also end up in the court. Additionally, the court has the mandate to listen to private cases involving companies or individuals who feel that their rights have been infringed upon by the EU or a member state in relation to matters that deal with the EU. The European Union Court of Auditors is mandated to handle all matters that deal with finances of the union. The court is empowered to sign off any accounts related to EU finances. The European Central Bank has the sole responsibility of ensuring that the inflation rate within the Eurozone remains low. [3: Keukeleire, Stephan and MacNaughtan, Jennifer (2008), ‘The foreign policy of the EU’, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.]
One of the major reasons for the integration of Europe and the subsequent formation of the European Union was to prevent wars from occurring and stop any further conflicts within member states. Ideally, this is considered as the main objective as well as the core reason for the formation of the EU. Some of the core principalities who championed the idea of integrating Europe for peace include Louis Loucheur, Giovanni Agnelli, Count Richard von Coudenhove- Kalergi, Salter and Monnet.
The onset of the Second World War is considered as a major catalyst for the integration of Europe. Some of the key figures such as Coudenhove-Kalergi and Monnet greatly spoke on the importance of integrating Europe and gave lectures in America on the same. Alongside Salter, Prime Minister of Belgium, outlined candid plans for the formation of the European Coal and Steel Union. This was to serve as the birth of the larger body, the European Union. Individuals against the fascist resistance also supported the formation of the European Union. In 1948, the European Union of Federalists was formed. A congressional meeting was held that congregated the major political heads in Europe[footnoteRef:4]. However, there were major disagreements emerging from the internationalists and the federalists. While the internationalists wanted a close cooperation between European countries, however, that was limited to intergovernmental processes, the federalists wanted a Europe that was completely united politically. This division led to the formation of the Council of Europe. The main objective of its formation was to promote the relations between various governments of the member states of the Union. US governments role is shown in the Marshall plan which was initiated in 1947. The plan was the American governments aid for the reconstruction of Europe. The main reason behind the assistance was to prevent European countries from falling to the Soviet Union`s side. This led to the formation of the Organisation of European Economic Cooperation. [4: Moravcsik, Andrew (2002), ‘Reassessing legitimacy in the European Union’, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 40 (4), 603-24. ]
The formation of this organisation played a big role in the integration of Europe and the formation of the union. The organisation played an important role as it sought to reconstruct Europe. The countries were made to cooperate with each other in the use of the aid given. The process enhanced trade between European countries. This led to such cooperation processes such as drastic reduction and, in some cases, elimination of trade tariffs and barriers. However, there were constraints at the onset due to the differences in ideologies between the federalists and the internationalists. For instance, the French pushed for the formation of an executive council possessing supranational powers. However, the British did not want such a system and, therefore, opposed it[footnoteRef:5]. [5: Nugent, Neill (2003), The government and politics of the European Union (Duke University Press).]
Part of the objective of the European Union was to enhance cooperation among the EU countries. In the 1940s, the economy of West Germany was contentious. While some countries such as France wanted to continue dominating the country, others such as the USA and Britain sought to have it gain its independence. This led to constraints between such nations as Britain and France. France decided to create a supranational body that would oversee the coal and steel industries in Germany. The idea was that France continues to exert its influence over German resources. This led to the Shuman declaration which sought to have peace rather than show economic superiority among European countries and it also served as a means through which a federal Europe could be created. When the issue of the formation of a coal and steel union was brought up for discussion, the idea was not supported. However, it led to the formation of the Council of Ministers. This formed a major decision-making authority for the European Union countries. However, since the Council of Ministers was formed as a solution to the coal and steel union, the supporters of such a union argued that there was a need for a superior body that would not be controlled by the Council of Ministers. This paved way for the formation of the European Commission. This is considered as the highest authority of the union that is not answerable to the Council of Ministers. This agreement was made formal on 18th of April, 1951 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. This treaty resulted in the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community[footnoteRef:6]. [6: El-Agraa, Ali (2007), The European Union: economics and policies (Cambridge University Press). ]
The European Coal and Steel Community served to promote some of the objectives of the European Union. It enhanced the integration of the economic policies and trade practices among the European countries. The level to which ECSC assisted in the integration of the EU countries was that it stretched economic integration through the inter-governmental authorities such as the Council of Europe as well as the OEEC. It, therefore, assisted in the creation of a free market as well as a customs union in such industries as steel and coal industries which were the core industries that were highly contested. The authority was able to eliminate customs duties as well as quotas between countries in the union. The body also assisted in the modernisation and expansion of the European industries. It also restricted the use of subsidies within EU region. Finally, it provided an externally available commercial policy. These factors enhanced the cooperation between the countries and enhanced the cohesiveness necessary to ensure the development of Europe.
In order to facilitate these processes and ensure the unity of countries under the union, the ECSC set up central institutions that were supranational and hid a wide range of authority in European affairs. Basically, the ECSC formed the groundwork for the European Union and the structure that it has today. The ECSC had the High Authority as the highest body. This is representative of todays European Commission. Answerable to the Highest Authority was the Council of Ministers. Decisions at the Council of Ministers were made basically through voting. Veto powers were largely suppressed. The body also had a Consultative Committee which played an advisory role to the body with regards to the concerns of consumers, trade unionists as well as the industry players such as employers and employees. There was the Assembly which also played a major advisory role to the authority. Finally, the European Court of Justice was put in place to serve as a legal watchdog and arbitrator of any conflicts that may arise among the member states. It can be said that the ECSC is the predecessor of the current day EU based on the major similarities that exist in their structures[footnoteRef:7]. [7: Follesdal, Andreas and Hix, Simon (2006), ‘Why there is a democratic deficit in the EU: a response to Majone and Moravcsik’, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 44 (3), 533-62.]
Despite the major role played by the ECSC, it only existed up to 1967 when it became a part of the EEC. This was under the auspices of the Merger Treaty. Since the ECSC could no longer work, it was time to resort to other means through which Europe could be effectively integrated. The main means through which this could be done was through the integration of other sectors in which the countries were majorly involved. The main area targeted for integration was the economic sector. This was after it was deemed impossible to integrate the countries through a sensitive sector such as the defense systems under the European Defense Community (EDC). The idea was to have a unitary European army that would be controlled by the supranational European defense ministry. Other sectors that were heavily considered for integration included social legislation, transport, nuclear energy as well as agriculture. These were largely promoted by Monnet as well as the foreign minister of Belgium. The UK, however, was not of the idea of having a supranational institution to oversee the integrated union.
In order to foster trade and cooperation among the countries of the Eurozone, custom duties and tariffs were to be abolished among transactions that occurred among member states. However, they would impose tariffs and duties on other countries that were not members of the union. However, the challenge that arose was the level or degree of tariff imposition that each nation would charge. While the French rallied for high taxation and tariffs, the other countries were of the opinion that low taxes would enhance cooperation between Europe and the external world. In order to reach an amicable agreement, the countries decided to draft two major treaties that would be used as a guiding tool in such matters[footnoteRef:8]. The countries came to the understanding that they would come up with a community, comprising atomic energy producing countries, called Euratom as well as form a common market called the European Economic Community (EEC). [8: Bartolini, Stefano (2005), Restructuring Europe: centre formation, system building and political structuring between the nation-state and the European Union (Oxford). ]
By 25th of March, 1957, six countries signed the treaty. For this event, Rome was chosen as an ideal place. This was symbolic in nature of the intention of the treaty. Rome symbolised the unity that existed in Europe and it was during the Roman times that Europe was united as one. Since the intention was to integrate Europe into one strong force, Rome provided the best place that symbolised unity. This, therefore, ended up being termed as the Treaty of Rome. Consequently, this led to the formation of two other communities besides ECSC, namely, EEC and Euratom.
By the end of 1960, a common market place had been established as stipulated under the Rome treaty. This was advantageous to such members as the UK that championed for common markets and free trade. In the 1970s there was a further inclusion of other countries into the union, thereby expanding and deepening the union. An effort to further integrate European countries intensified with regular conferences leading to the formation of the European Council. It was also decided, in 1974, that elections into the European Parliament would be direct. In 1986, the Single European Act was signed. This act was meant to speed up the integration process of Europe and to further implement the resolutions of the Rome treaty. However, the Act was two-way, in the sense that it favored both those who were against and in support of the use of supranational institutions.
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In 1992, the Maastricht treaty was signed and ratified by the European Council. The treaty is also referred to as the Treaty of the European Union. It is this treaty that formally resulted in the creation of the European Union as known today. It was enforced in 1993 once it was ratified. The European Union, on its formation comprised three core units; the European Community, the Common Foreign and Security Police as well as the Justice and Home Affairs Department. These pillars were used as the core elements that were responsible for running the organisation[footnoteRef:9]. [9: Kreppel, Amie and Tsebelis, George (1999), ‘Coalition formation in the European Parliament’, Comparative Political Studies, 32 (8), 933-66.]
Since its formation, the European Union has continually fulfilled its mandate. The union has been able to prevent wars among members since the Second World War and the region has enjoyed peace since then. Furthermore, the European Union has been able to strengthen the entire Europe to become a formidable bloc all over the world. The union is concerned with the financial welfare of its members ensuring that they are not influenced by the effects of the economic depression and assisting EU member states` economies that are trailing. It can, therefore, be conclusively said that the European Union is an effective authority that has effectively integrated the European countries and enhanced their success.