EU operation is a hybrid of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. In certain areas it depends upon agreement between the member states. However, it also has supranational bodies, able to make decisions without the agreement of members. Important institutions and bodies of the EU include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. EU citizens elect the Parliament every five years.
The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Since then the EU has grown in size through the accession of new member states and has increased its powers by the addition of new policy areas to its remit. The Treaty of Lisbon signed in December 2007 is intended to amend the existing treaties to update the political and legal structure of the union, if ratification is completed in 2008.
Robert Schuman proposing the Coal and Steel Community in 1950
Two additional communities were created in 1957: the European Economic Community (EEC) establishing a customs union and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for cooperation in developing nuclear energy. In 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities, although more commonly just as the European Community (EC).
The 1957 Rome Treaty created the European Economic Community.
In 1973 the Communities enlarged to include Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Norway had negotiated to join at the same time but a referendum rejected membership and so it remained outside. In 1979 the first direct, democratic elections to the European Parliament were held.
Greece, Spain and Portugal joined in the 1980s. In 1985 the Schengen Agreement created largely open borders without passport controls between most member states. In 1986 the European flag began to be used by the EC and leaders signed the Single European Act.
The Iron Curtain's fall enabled eastward enlargement. (Berlin Wall)
In 1990, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the former East Germany became part of the Community as part of a newly united Germany. With enlargement toward eastern Europe on the agenda, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the European Union were agreed.
The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993 and in 1995 Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the newly established EU. In 2002 euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the Eurozone has increased to encompassing fifteen countries. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when ten new countries, most of which former parts of the Eastern Bloc, joined the Union.
The growing of EU from 1957 to 2007
On 1 January 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became the EU's newest members and Slovenia adopted the euro. In December of that year European leaders signed the Lisbon Treaty which is was hoped would replace the earlier, failed European Constitution, which never came into force after being rejected by French and Dutch voters. However uncertainty now clouds the prospects of the latter Treaty comming into force as result of its rejection by Irish voters in June 2008.
European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. It is intended to act solely in the interest of the EU as a whole, as opposed to the Council which consists of leaders of member states who reflect national interests. The commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It is currently composed of 27 commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state.
The President of the Commission and all the other commissioners are nominated by the Council. Appointment of the Commission President, and also the Commission in its entirety, have to be confirmed by Parliament.
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union forms the other half of the EU's legislature. It is an organised platform where national ministers responsible for the area of policy being addressed, meet. Although the Council meets in different compositions, it is considered to be one single body. In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The rotating Presidency of the EU Council is taken by each member state in turn for a period of six months, during which the relevant member chairs most meetings of the Council. The member state holding the presidency typically uses it to drive and focus on a limited number of policy areas; such as various types of reform, enlargement or external relations with a specific part of the world.
(The texts above stem from the EU site and the Wikipedia)
The European fulfilment constituted a clear answer to the erupting conflicts of 19-20 th century Europe. It signified the end of conflict and territorial disute for the countries who entered the coalition and led them to peaceful cooperaton. Helmut Kohl used to say: “My mother's brother was called Walter and he died at the river Rhine during World War I. My brother, Walter, died during World War II. My son, Walter, crosses the boarders without a passport”. This is Europe! All have changed during a single generation.
Contrary to the last decades during which Europe was formed mainly due to internal reasons- the creation of an area of security in Europe and a common market- today the need to reinforce Europe is mainly driven by the great external challenges, the international challenges. Either there will be a Europe existing within a specific political reality or our continent with have no role, hold no power over these great challenges. Within the next 30 or 40 years, none of the EU state-members will be able to participate in the G7 or G8 (the group of the richest countries in the world) under its national name because national economies, as we know them today, will no longer exist. The economical and political Europe prepares to become one of the main international players. European nationalism that flourished in 19th-20th century is at an end but Europeans are not yet ready to acknowledge that fact. It is a simple choice: either Europe will learn to function as a political entity or it will be led to internal dispute and decadence. It is therefore necessary to arouse European public opinion.
If China's development and its elevation to a significant world power leads to a new bipolarity, if Putin's Russia overcomes its economical problems, then Europe that has the means to become a world power must also want to be one! Values like liberty and democracy, developed in Greece and Europe, are today ecumenical. If Europe holds some significance in the world, those values will also hold some significance. Europe is in need of a common foreign and defence policy. Therefore, it is made clear thet before we continue to enlarge Europe we must address the issue of a common Treaty.
Our country had and probably continues to have problems with certain political decisions made by U.S. governments. Several other European countries have also on occassion shown their disaproval of U.S. policy. Even inside the U.S., a great portion of the public shares the same opinion as some critical views that have been expressed concerning these matters, as opinion polls show. The EU, as a political entity, was not in a position to make a clear decision and left the matter to be handled by individual states as they saw fit. The western world is penetrated by an acute, hard dialogue that presents many diverse ideas on how the great challenges of our time should be dealt with. The opposing sides are not Europe and the U.S. but different views of the world.
The remarkable mind of Antonio Gramsci, the intelligence of Nicolo Machiavelli and Norberto Bobbio's perception of democracy are intellectual and ideological points of reference for a serious analysis of the contemporary European circumstances in the era of globalization. Jürgen Habermas' ideas on the globalization of rights are astounding. Globalization cannot be applied by force. However, it can be expanded and led through global rights. This will be the crowning contribution of Europe in the international course. The European principles of humanitarianism and democracy combined with economic power can and must form a globalization that won't fall prey to the capital but a globalization of justice, peace, development and prosperity for all the nations in the planet.
As Greek and as European citizens we definitely need the rest of Europe. The signs of fatigue that are evident lately in the European area and the related concerns are the results of the long course of Europe and the progress it has accomplished. The European Union represents an exceptionally important reality. Its expansion has been a major political success that symbolizes the end of the Cold War era and the reunification of the continent. However, this does not mean that expansion is easy for the institutions and economy of the EU. All these matters have aggravated the psychological condition of European citizens. We stand, therefore, on a very delicate and crucial point following the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and while the special European council has begun deliberations on the determination of the Constitutional Treaty's future.
After the last enlargement, Europe looks more like a economic giant and political midget. In any case, a situation like this cannot be allowed to continue. A common currency cannot continue to exist unless the different economic and development policies are coordinated. Europe cannot continue being an economic giant without politics. The lack of a strong political position endangers our competitiveness in the economical level.
Above all, it is necessary for the enlarged Europe to establish effective institutions. In the relevant European dialogue some are inclined to say: “let's not occupy ourselves with legal matters and institutional rules that are abstract notions and do not interest the public. Let's better deal with specific events that people are interested in”. This is political demagogy! In reality, we all know that the quality of institutions and of acceptable decisions are closely connected. If Europeans want security, if they want an internationally more powerful Europe, then institutions must be established that will help Europe make the necessary decisions. If Europe is paralyzed by vetoes, then there won't be any “specific events” to deal with. There is no point in saying “Let's discuss on security and not on the Constitution”. Greece and its citizens must be willing to talk about the rules and institutions that can lead to events, to a Europe more capable of dealing with great international challenges like peace, security, the struggle against terrorism, as well as the important environmental challenge, which is becoming more and more threatening for the future of mankind.
The Balkans are the scenery of the last act of war in Europe. Gradually, all countries in the Western Balkans must join the EU. This open wound right in SE Europe cannot remain open. The Balkans are of great importance to Greece. Immigrants, refugees, crime, but also investments and commerce have placed a historical mark in the country's relationship with its neighbors in the Balkans who are still in danger of conflict erupting on national-religious identity. The danger of the Balkans driving to political seclusion is still real. Greece must work against this prospect and promote the European prospect to the new Balkan states. a Strange though it may seem, the Balkans through fragmentation, will be able to find their way towards Europe and especially if Serbia, key-state in the area, brakes free from its nationalistic heritage and assumes the important role it can play in this direction.
Turkey's incorporation process will be a long and complicated procedure. However, negotiations must be promoted. Turkey's incorporation into the EU holds great political significance in a time when the danger of conflict between the cultures of the West and Islam is evident. The entry of a large Islamic country in the EU- under the condition that it recognizes the rules and values of the EU- would sent a very strong message.
Ukraine, another large state, also considers unification with the EU. Russia maintains its independence for the time being, having a special connection with the EU. According to some analysts, the time when Russia will feel the need to join the EU is not far away.
There is no question that Europe has many serious problems waiting ahead. However, it lacks the necessary boldness to take the actions required to make Europe stronger and more reliable. Although we share a common currency, we don't have a common economic policy which is obviously necessary. If Europe can't produce economic development, people wonder “what is it good for?”. The problem with Europe is that there is too little of it and not too much. There is no truth in the statement that European completion was achieved too fast. Jacques Delors was right when he said: “...Europe's bicycle must run or it will fall”. Conclusion: not less but more rhythm and more boldness, passion, courage.