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Bronze-level articleEuropean Union

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How the EU grew, shrank a bit and grew over a bit more than 50 years.
It doesn't stop
at the water's edge

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[W]e must remember that it is culture, not war, that cements our [European] identity. The French, the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish and the English have spent centuries killing each other. Today, we've been at peace for 70 years and no one realises how amazing that is any more. Indeed, the very idea of a war between Spain and France, or Italy and Germany, provokes hilarity.
—Umberto Eco[1]

The European Union (EU) is a grouping of 28 European-ish countries. It is primarily an economic union aiming to harmonise financial and business activity between its member countries according to reasonable folk. The power of the EU and the European Commission is often exaggerated by Eurosceptic journals, though some of its components (e.g. the European Central Bank) wields enormous influence all over Europe.

The root problem of the EU is it is a confederation, and not a federation. A confederation is based on trickle-down authority. The ultimate power lies in the individual states. A federation means that the ultimate power lies in the hierarchy. Confederations tend to work well in good times. When things go bad, the individual members start to act selfish and block confederal solutions. It happened in the first American confederacy, and in the Confederate States of America. It happened in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the successor thing to the Soviet Union for a while. There is some debate about the what direction the EU should take in the future, with some looking for a "wider" association and some for a "deeper" one. These objectives are diametrically opposed to one another, since the wider the union becomes, the more difficult it is to achieve integration; and the deeper the union becomes, the more difficult it is for new members to join.

Some commentators have suggested that the 2015 humiliation of heavily-indebted eurozone member state, Greece, by its fellow European creditor countries – in which it was forced to accept a debilitating bailout agreement that even the IMF admits can't possibly work sustainably – could cause the downfall of the entire European project. This is probably a slight exaggeration, although there is a possible historical fork in the road ahead with French President François Hollande recently proposing the creation of a literal European Superstate – calm down, Anglo Eurosceptics – it'll be for eurozone member states only. Such a development, implausible as it may seem now, would create an even more stark contrast between "inner Europe" (the eurozone with its own federal government) and "outer Europe" (everyone else in the EU), effectively creating a two-track Europe. The British referendum on a possible "Brexit", and David Cameron's negotiations that achieved some minor changes to sweeten the Stay In vote in the referendum, could also hasten the impetus towards a "two-track" Europe (really three-track, if you include the European Free Trade Area, the countries which strangely opt to subscribe to all the EU regulations but have no say in them).

Not to be confused with the Council of Europe, or a number of other things...

Contents

[edit] How many supranational European organizations are there anyway?

In case you aren't confused enough already. (Psst...)

[edit] A "short" history

[edit] Formation and many abbreviations (c. 1950–1983)

After the Second World War ended, European opinions on post-war relations with West Germany were divided. (East Germany was occupied by the Soviets.) Some, especially right-wingers, strongly believed Germany should be kept weak, underpopulated and divided, with its war resources under Allied control, or another war would be inevitable. Others, mainly pussy liberals,[citation NOT needed] feared such harsh treatment would only repeat the string of events after the Versailles Treaty in 1919, and argued that the Germans should be treated as an equal and should slowly be re-accepted into the post-war order. As much as the French hated the Germans, they did not want to rely solely on the US and NATO for protection from the USSR in case of WWIII.

In 1950 Robert Schuman, then the French foreign minister, drafted a plan which would found a 'European Coal and Steel Community' (ECSC). In this construction, France, West Germany, and any other possible members would 'outsource' the management of coal and steel, the classic war resources, to a trans-national authority. Since the German-French rivalry had been the axis of both World Wars, Schuman and his supporters believed the ECSC would guarantee peace for generations to come. The ECSC was founded in 1951, with West Germany, France, the Low Countries, and Italy as founding members, and is generally seen as the first step towards the modern European Union.[2]

As the bureaucracy kept expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy, another treaty was signed in Rome in 1957. This founded the so-called 'European Economic Community', which was essentially a big brother of the ECSC; it created a regular exchange and coordination of, amongst others, agriculture policy and infrastructure construction. Another agency (EURATOM) was founded to coordinate nuclear energy and weaponry, and civil servants all over Europe rejoiced over these exciting new job oppurtunities. The Treaty of Brussels in 1967 combined all these agencies under the authority of the so called 'European Communities' (EC).[3] It is important to note that this organisation was very different from the modern European Union, and more a shouting match discussion room for international cooperation then a truly 'trans-nationonal' authority. The Communities stumbled on in their alphabet soup for the next twenty years, with varying degrees of success and without attracting much attention from your average European.

[edit] Making of one 'Community' under the Delors Comission (1985–1993)

In the late ’80s and early ‘90s the European Communities embarked on a trail towards ‘European integration’, which has been the magic word in Brussels for a long time. A key figure in this process was Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission from 1985 until 1994, the longest serving Commission President in EC history. Delors was an unusually strong President and through a combination of bravura and a large network of associates he had more power over the European Communities than any President since Hallstein; the European Commission as an institution also gained considerably in political power, especially since the foundation of the European Political Cooperation in 1987, which was an important step towards common security policy. Delors' lengthy ‘rule’ oversaw the Schengen treaty signed in 1985, the Single European Act in 1986/87 and the pivotal Maastricht Treaty. Together these treaties opened up inter-European borders, established a single market, decided on founding a common currency and combined all the different E-abbreviations into one central organisation, the European Community (EC) (in contrast to the European Communities). This basically turned the loose structure of the European Communities into something resembling the modern European Union, which is why Delors is often revered as a hero by EU federalists and enthusiasts and hated as a dismal enigma by Eurosceptics.

[edit] From Maastricht to Lisbon, some sightseeing in Amsterdam (1993–2009)

The European Community that Delors left after his retirement in 1993 was a very different organisation from the European Communities he had helped found in 1985, with more power and more responsibilities. Its leaders were often outspokenly federalist and openly encouraged other countries to join, if they obeyed the norms that the Maastricht Treaty subjected every EC member to, like, you know, honest reporting of the state's income, a inflation rate below a certain fixed rate, and fighting corruption. Luckily, these Maastricht-rules were only obeyed when states felt like it. It is a public secret that the Commissions since Delors' have been too easy on countries wishing to join the EC, but it is good to know that when the German deficit rose higher than the treaty allowed in the early 2000's, they really didn't give a damn about the Commission's complaints either. This is typical for EC/EU politicians; when other countries break a rule, everyone cries wolf, but when it's your own nation fucking up, well, we wouldn't want to be too harsh, would we?

The 1999 Amsterdam Treaty was a follow-up to the Maastricht Treaty of 1993, and vied to consolidate further the growing European Community. It gave the EC its first true supranational powers; the legislation of immigration law, civil law, and civil procedure on a European level, while also establishing a permanent European Court of Justice. The European Parliament, which had hitherto been a discussion club for ex-politicians with limited power but good pay, also gained a more active role in representation and legislation. Even though this was a step towards further integration, the Amsterdam Treaty still left a lot of questions unanswered about the function of the Community's institutions, the long term goals of EC, and the way it would handle the integration of new members. The 2005 'Constitution of the European Union' was supposed to tie all these loose ends up and would turn the European Community into a more tightly knit organisation with more clearly defined powers and responsibilities, but was rejected by referenda in the Netherlands and France that same year. The Constitution was a public relations disaster for the EC/EU. In some nations, proposed referenda were quickly postponed by leading politicians when polls on the subject turned out negatively. It confirmed the popular image of 'Eurocrats' who push their European agenda regardless of what the people think. The European Constitution was modified into the 'Treaty of Lisbon' (ejecting words like 'constitution' and abandoning the 'European anthem'), which was subsequently accepted by parliaments throughout Europe in 2007 without another round of referenda.

[edit] Trouble comes to town (from 2009 onwards)

The financial crisis of 2008, the European sovereign debt crisis, and the ratification of the Lisbon treaty in 2009 have severely damaged the public image of the European Union and the latter half of the 00s have seen populist, anti-EU parties pop up all over Europe. This was evidenced by the 2014 European elections where UKIP and Front National finished first in their respective countries and the "five star movement" of Italian "comedian" Beppe Grillo also did respectably.

[edit] Member countries

[edit] Potential future members

[edit] Official candidates

The following countries are recognised as candidate countries.[4]

  • The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which Greece plans to reject if they get close to membership because the northern part of their country is also called "Macedonia." Rappers have had more substantive feuds (and fatter bank accounts).[5]
  • Montenegro
  • Serbia
  • Turkey has been trying to get in for more than twenty years, but has been refused on every application. It seems that it may have some way to go before it meets all EU standards, particularly as it only barely meets the "being in Europe" one.[6] It should be noted however that despite being a member of the EU, Cyprus lies wholly outside Europe from a strict geographic perspective (although given that "Europe" is at least arguably just a very big peninsula of Eurasia, this argument could go on forever).

[edit] Potential candidates

The following countries are recognised as pre-candidate countries.[7]

There are also three other nations that have said they would like to join the EU, and are forming "association agreements", which are seen as the first step to entry.

[edit] Other countries of note

Norway and Switzerland have both been invited but turned the offer down; meanwhile Morocco attempted to join the EU, but were also upset to be informed they weren't part of Europe. Iceland's government recently withdrew their application, and it appears they are no longer officially a candidate.[8][9]

Despite its non-membership in the EU, Norway is displayed as part of the map of Europe on some modern euro coins, serving the vital purpose of making the rest of Scandinavia look less like a giant dong.

[edit] The euro

Euro coins and banknotes.

A subset of member nations uses the EU's own currency unit, the euro (sign: €, code: EUR), hence they are called the eurozone. It's one of the most traded currencies in the world, second only to the United States dollar. The economic performance of the eurozone has been dire, with its rate of unemployment actually soaring for years after the 2007-8 global financial crisis while the US and UK were slowly climbing out of recession and creating jobs, and even Europe's supposed economic powerhouse, Germany, performing pretty unimpressively. Don't even ask about Greece, the eurozone's internal debt colony. Some have claimed that this somehow counts as evidence against the eurozone's animating economic philosophy of so-called "fiscal responsibility", which is so fundamental to the eurozone that it has actually been enshrined in treaty.

According to Eurosceptic conspiracy thinkers, a crisis à la the European sovereign debt crisis was not only anticipated but actually secretly welcomed by European policymakers[10] to allow them to push for a European fiscal union that was and remains unpopular with basically all the national electorates of the EU member states. If one pauses to think this scenario through, this would mean risking a major macro-economic meltdown on a scale not seen since the 1930s in order to get a shot at a fiscal union which might, even if it went through, end up as a union of wrecked economies, i.e. like using a nuclear bomb to remove a wasp's nest from your garage, a rather unlikely prospect.

[edit] Relationship with Great Britain

The EU has been popularly ridiculed in the United Kingdom (which is a member of the EU but not the eurozone, meaning the UK doesn't use the euro, and which voted to leave the EU in 2016) for its silly rules about square strawberries, straight bananas, and designating the carrot as a fruit, although most of these "rules" do not exist, or were exaggerated or misinterpreted by cranks.[11] Basically, they're the UK's Canada.

[edit] The Antichrist

The seemingly-peaceful European Union will later become the dreadful Beast of the Apocalypse, that of the number 666! Among certain fundamentalists this is a common, though disputed, interpretation of Revelation.[12][13][14][15] They claim the EU is the successor to the Roman Empire and the Fifth Empire prophesied by Daniel. There were, obviously, other empires between the Babylonians and Romans, and after the Romans, so there's no reason to assume that the Romans were the Fourth or the European Union is the Fifth. But alas, enjoy the fundie shoehorning.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Gianni Riotta, Umberto Eco: 'It's culture, not war, that cements European identity', The Guardian
  2. http://www.cvce.eu/obj/treaty_establishing_the_european_coal_and_steel_community_paris_18_april_1951-en-11a21305-941e-49d7-a171-ed5be548cd58.html
  3. http://www.cvce.eu/obj/the_european_communities-en-3940ef1d-7c10-4d0f-97fc-0cf1e86a32d4.html
  4. EU website on expansion
  5. Fun fact (unless you're Macedonian): Because of the name feud Macedonia is often listed by the abbreviation FYROM, because no one can apparently figure out that the M stands for Macedonia, or something... Oh well, what's in a name?
  6. Turkey status EU
  7. List of Countries, Europa
  8. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/12/iceland-drops-european-union-membership-bid
  9. http://icelandreview.com/news/2015/04/30/icelandic-governments-letter-eu-gets-reply
  10. Insert the individual Eurosceptic's bugbear of choice here, popular candidates include the Commission (and the larger "eurocracy" of civil servants etc.), the European Parliament (to grab more power from the member states and parliaments), German and/or French politicians (Merkel & Hollande) or any combination of them.
  11. BBC News: Guide to the best euromyths
  12. Rapture Ready, European Union In Prophecy - This one says very near the bottom of a very long web page that we can't be sure the EU is the empire of the Antichrist but gives the impression beforehand that we are certain: "The great question of our time, prophetically speaking, might be: Is the European Union the prophesied governmental body that will eventuate in becoming the ten kingdoms that will provide Antichrist with his beastly power? No one can say for certain..."
  13. Rapture Ready, Will the Antichrist come out of the European Union? - This one contradicts the one above though they are from the same fucking website. It claims "the European Union is clearly the fulfillment of this prophetic event." Do they hope their readers are too silly or too lazy to read through everything and find the contradiction? Apparently so.
  14. The Antichrist, European Union, and Rome - This site recognizes that the EU is often seen as Antichrist but interprets the Bible differently.
  15. Islam, Antichrist, and the European Union - This one expects Europe to become Islamic and then become the Antichrist.
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