European Union

European Union - Europe's Common Market

The European Union has its roots in the European Coal and Steel Community which brought six nations together in a limited economic union in 1952. It was the brain child of the French foreign minister Robert Schuman who hoped it would evolve into a sort of United States of Europe, ensuring the horrors of war would not be repeated and economic prosperity would be shared by all. His vision has become a reality. In 1957 two Treaties of Rome were signed between the same members and the European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Community were formed creating a common economic and atomic energy market. Plans to create a European Defence Community were scuttled by the French and blueprints for a European Political Community have merely inched forward over the decades.

By 1993 the European Community had doubled in size and became known as the European Union following the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty which transferred greater powers from member states to the organisation’s bodies. The end of Communism resulted in further expansion of the EU eastward and by 2010 there existed a long list of countries eager to receive the perceived benefits of membership.

The EU decision making process is a combination of unanimous governmental support on some issues while majority support will do for others. The EU has standardised laws concerning common issues, removed all internal trade barriers and facilitates the free flow of services and capital within the union.  A common policy is adopted for agriculture, fisheries and regional development and the union has created its own currency, the Euro overseen by the European Central Bank while a common immigration policy operates between signatory members of the Schengen Treaty. Some members, notably the UK have opted out of the Eurozone and Schengen Area while non members like Kosovo  have adopted the Euro and even Switzerland has signed the Schengen Treaty.