THE EUROPEAN UNION | MAJOR AIMS | SUPRA-NATIONAL CHARACTER | MEMBERSHIP CRITERIA | POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT | PROBLEMS



Introduction /Background.
            The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 members states located primarily in Europe and committed to regional integration. The EU was established by the Maastricht treaty of 1993 based on the foundations of the European communities. The EU was developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which applied in all member states to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital including the abolition of passport controls. It maintains a common policy on trade, agriculture, fishery and regional development. It member countries have adopted a common currency, the Euro. Consisting the Euro zone.

            As a legal personality, the EU is able to conclude treaties with countries and enact legislation on justice and home affairs. The EU have devised a common foreign and security policy, thus developing a limited role in European defense and foreign policy. Permanent diplomatic mission of the EU are established around the world with representation at the WTO, G20,UN, Agencies and other major economic institutions and around of the world. The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism.
            In certain means, decisions are taken by independent supramational institutions while in others, they are made through negotiations between member states. Important institutions of the EU include the Euro commission, the council of the European union, the European council, the court of justice of he European union and the European central Bank. The European parliament is elected every five reats by citizens of member states to whom the citizenship of the EU is guaranteed over the years. The EU has grown size and strength through enlargement and in power and influence through the addition of policy means to its reunite. The last amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU came into force in 2009. this was the Lisbon treaty by virtue of which the character of fundamental rights of the European union was elevated to a legally binding status.

History and origin:            this idea of a unified Europe has a long and complicated history behind it. As far back as the beginning of the modern states system, political actors in Europe came continued to toy with the idea of a supranational empire. By 14AD, Caeser Augustus has successfully established a vast Roman Empire with a single currency and political influence that act across the entire world.
            Other aggressive European politicians like Charle Marge, Alexander the great, Napoleon Bonarparte, Adolf Hitter, etc. have also desired to create large European empires through the use of force rather than mutual agreement.  The result was countless wars and conflicts which ed to massive destructions beyond the borders of Europe. The most recent of these human-imported tragedies were the first and second world wars.
            The agony and destruction which the two wars brought on the continent led to an entirely new way of thinking and a new search for solton. Other problems thrown up at the end of the war were the growth of American power which placed her in position to apply economic, political and military pressure on European. The revolution in Russia also led to the creation a strong and hostile communism empire with unprecedented capabilities.
            As a result, the idea of a unified European which has almost become a utopian concept, began to gain real meaning and focus. While the united states under the leadership of Woodrons Wilson favoured a new brand of diplomacy built around the institutions of the league, European voices were strongly raised In favour of a strictly European solution to the incidence of conflict and wars that had almost become a permanent feature of European life.
            At the end of world war ii, European leaders began extensive consultations on how to pool European economic resources together, minimize blind nationalism and create a new and more peaceful and more prosperous Europe. The first major success was the Schumann plan which established the European coal and steal Community, ECSC, in 1951 under the treaty of Paris signed by France, Belgium, Italy, West Germany, Netherlands and Luxembourg. The brain behind the treaty of Paris was Robert Schumann, the French Foreign minister.
            N 1957 THE Treaty of Rome was signed establishing the European Economic Community, EEC, was Henri Speak, the Belgian Foreign Minister. Later the same year, the European Atomic Energy community,  EURA Town, was signed. The aim of Eura town was to promote and supervise the development of nuclear and atomic energy for peaceful purposes and to ensure international co-operation for the use of nuclear materials. In 1967, the merger treaty brought the three communities above under a common umbrella known as the European community, EC.
            In 1973, the community enlarged to include Denmark, Ireland, and the UK. The first democratic elections into the EU parliament was held in 1979. in 1986 the European flag began to be used by the community and the single European Act was signed. The Fall of the Iran curtain was a bossil to EU membership. In 1990, the former East Germany became part of the community as part of a newly united Germany in 2002. in 1991, the treaty Establishing the European Union was sign, and it came into effect in November, 1993. the union Treaty also known as the Maastricht Treaty marked the final and most ambitious stage in the process of heating an ecver closer union among the people of European. By 2009, a total  fo 16 countries have adopted the European zone. In December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty came into form which reformed many aspects of the EU and created a permanent of the European council.

THE MAJOR AIMS OF THE EU
            The treaty establishing the European community provided the following as the aims and objectives of the EC.
1.         To encourage free movement between membership states of goods unimpeded by custom duties and quantitative restrictions
2.         To encourage free movement of labour, services, and capital
3.         Trade protection against non-member states by way of common eternal tariff and custom barrier.
4.         The harmonization of laws of member states to ensure that competitive distortions do not exist.
5.         The harmonization of indirect taxation
6.         A common development policy by member states especially on agriculture and transportation.
7.         To ensure common co-ordination of economic policies.
8.         The creation of a European social fund
9.         The creation of a European investment bank
10.       To promote trade and industry with third world countries.
            The EU Treaty of 1993 further expanded the responsibilities and functions of the union to include.
1.         The promotion of an international identity leading possibly to a common defence policy.
2.         The establishment of a single currency in the contest of economic and monetary union.
3.         The reinforcement of environmental problems
4.         The creation of a fund to promote cohesion in the context of economic and social progress including improvement in the quality of life.
5.         The establishment of a common citizenship
6.         To facilitate the free movement of people with security guarantee.
7.         The development of closer co-operation injustice and affairs.
8.         An improvement in the effectiveness of the community institutions.
9.         Reinforcing the powers of the European parliament
10.       The re-affirmation of the principle of respect for human rights and the rule of law.
                                                     
THE SUPRA-NATIONAL CHARACTER OF THE EU
            The concept of supra-nationalism concerns the relationship between the states and the international organization that belong to it. The supra-national elements of the EU are structured to promote collaborative behaviour and minimize the existence of discord and rancor in the management of the affairs of Europe. The EU member adopted the structure of supra-nationalism as an institutional mechanism to promote unity among member states in order to attain their common objectives, values and aspirations. The following supra-national elements are found in the European Union.
1.         The decision of the EU are binding on the citizens as well as national governments of member states. This implies the penetration of the national legal system of member states by the legal system of the EU.
2.         The organs of the EU notably the commission, the council of ministers and the European parliament are not entirely dependent on the co-operation of the participating member states. The independence of the organs of the EU are maintained in two ways.
a.         By allowing binding decisions of EU to be adopted by majority votes and
b.         The organs of the EU are composed by independent individuals who do not receive directions from their national governments.
3.         The EU has power to enforce its decision on member states. Governmental organs and arms of member states like parliament, and judiciary may force their national governments to fulfill its obligation to the union.
4.         The EU enjoy financial autonomy and some measure of budgetary independence. The EU do not just depend on dues and contributions from member states enjoy a steady flow of funds from levies an imports and tariffs from manufactured goods and other commercial activities within the union.
5.         The EU laws enjoy supremacy over domestic laws. EU Members accepts that the laws made by EU institutions in Brussesl should have direct effect in the territories of member states. EU laws are accepted by domestic courts without the amendment or approval of the national parliament. In the event of conflict between EU law and domestic law, the EU laws takes precedence over domestic laws.
6.         Unilateral withdrawal from EU membership is not allowed. Any application for withdrawal must be approved by the stipulated majority vote of the council the commissional the parliament.
           
EU MEMBERSHIP CRITERIA:
To join the EU, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European council. The requirements are:
1.         A state democracy that respects human rights and the rule of laws.
2.         A functioning market economy capable of compelition within the EU.
3.         The acceptance of he obligations of membership including EU laws.
            As at 2010, the EU ha 27 members. There are four official candidate countries-Croatia. Iceland , Macedonia and Turkey; potential candidates are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo. Four western European countries have chosen not to join but have partly committed themselves to the EU economy and regulations. These are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The EU also maintain relationships with the European Micro-states there are Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican through the use of the Euro and other means of co-operation. Some overseas territories are part of the EU even through geographically, they are not part of Europe. There are Azores, the canary Islands, Madeira, Lampedusa, French Guiana, Gvade Loupe, Saint Barthelemy, Martinique, Reunion, Center and Melina.  

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT OF THE EU:  
The institutions of the EU operate solely with in those areas of competence conferred on it by the treaties and according to the principle of subsidiary which states that action by the EU should only be taken where an objective cannot be achieved by organs of the EU are as follows
1.         The European Council: The council is the major decision making body of the EU. It comprises one  representative each. From the member states and meets four times in a year. The council is the supreme authority of the EU. It is involved in the negotiation of EU treaties changes and defines policy agenda and strategies. It deals with other matters such as European monetary system, budget matters and integrated Mediterranean programmes.
2.         The European Commission: which acts as the executives aim of the EU and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day to day running of the EU. It operates a cabinet government  with 27 Commissioners from each member states for different areas of policy. EU commissioners represents more the interests of the union rather than that of their home states.
3.         The European Parliament:  The parliament which sits in Strasbourg forms half of the EU legislature while the other half is the council of the European union member of the EU parliament are directly elected by EU citizens every five years. The council is accountable to the parliament and requires its approval in several areas of its action. The parliament is inverted with consultative, advisory and supervisory powers.
4.         The council of the European union: also called the council of ministers, from the other half of the EU’s legislature. It consists of a government minister from each member state and meets in different compositions depending on the policy bring Goldessed. In addition to its legislative functions in relation to the common foreign and security policy.
5.         European courts: This is the judicial branch of the EU with its headquarters in Luxen bamg . It consists of three courts:
a.         the court of justice,
b.         the general court, and
c.         the European union civil service tribunal
            Together they interpreter and apply the treaties and laws of the EU. The council of justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions and cases referred to it by the courts of member state. The general court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU courts while the European union civil service tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the EU and its civil service.

GENERAL ISSUES
            (a)         Competences: The member states of the EU retain all powers not Explicitly handed to the union, as is the cases in most federations. In some area however, the EU does not have Exclusive competence. It plays a supporting role. The distribution of competences in various policy area between member state and the union is divided into three categories Exclusive competence, shared competence and supporting competence the EU has competence in the following areas:
             1.          The customs union.
2.           The establishment of competitive rules necessary for the    functioning of the internal market.
3.           Monetary policy for the member states whose cumency is the Euro.
4.           The conservation of marine bio resources under the common fisheries policy.
5.           Common commercial policy.
6.           The internal market.
7.           Social policy for the aspects defined in this treaty.
8.           Economic, social and territorial cohesion.
9.           Agriculture and fisheries, exchanging the conservation of marine bio resource
10.         The environment.
11.         Transportation
12.         Consumer protection.
13.         Trans-European net works.
14.         Energy and industry
15.         Areas of freedom, security and justice.
16.         Common safety concerns in public health matters for the aspects defined in the treaty.
17.         The protection and improvement of human health.          
18.         Cultural and tourism.
19.         Education, youth, sport and vocational training.
20.         Civil protection and disaster protection.             
(b)         Eu legal system: The EU is based on a series of treaties. These are power- giving agreements which set are broad policy goals and established the institutions with the necessary legal powers include the ability to event legislation which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants under the principle of supremacy. National courts are required to enfore the treaties that their member states have ratified and are required to ignore conflicting national laws if both conflicts.
(c)         Fundamental Human Rights: According to Article 1 and 2 of the EU chanter, “Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected. Every one has the right to life. No one shall be condemned to death penalty or executed” 6 the chanter of fundamental rights of the EU was drawn up in 2010 and by the Lisbon Treaty of 2009. the EU is how legally bonded by the charter which considers a large array of citizen rights and liberties. The EU opposes the death penalty and promotes its round wide addition. Abolition of the death penalty is a  condition for EU membership.
(d)        Regulations- Directives-Decisions: The main legal acts of the EU came in three forms- regulations, directives and decisions.
Regulations- Because law in all member states the moments they come into force without the requirement for any implementing measures. They automatically override conflicting domestic provisions.
Directives: This requires member states to achieve certain result while leaving than discretion as to how to achieve the result. The details of how they are implemented are left to the member states.
Decisions; This offers an alternative to the above two modes of legislation. They are legal acts which only apply to specified individuals, companies or a particular member state. Regulations, directives and decisions are of equal legal value and apply without any formal hierarchy.
(e)        Justices and Home Affairs;  Since 1993, the EU has developed its competencies in areas of justice and home affairs, initially at an inter-governmental levels, and later by supranationalism. To this end, agencies have been established that co-ordinate associated nations. These are
1.          Europolice for co-operation of police forces
2.          Eurojast for co-operation but mean  prosecutiors
3.          Frounfere for co-operation between border control anthorities
4.          Schegen information system which provides a common data base for police and immigration authorities. Other means include legislation in areas such as cross-border crime, extractions, family law, Azylun law and criminal justice. Production against sexual and nationality discrimination are a long standing in EU treaties. The EU can now also legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age and sexual orientations.
(f)         Foreign Relations: Foreign policy co-operation between member states dates back to the establishment of the community in 1957 when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the common commercial policy. Co-ordination in foreign relations widened in 1970 with the establishment of European political co-operation which created informal consultation between members in foreign policy matters.
             The Maastricht Treaty established the common European and security policy which aims to promote both the EU’s own interest and those of the international community as a whole including the furtherance of international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The CFSP requires unanimity among member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The perceived benefits of full membership are the political and economic incentives for states desiring EU membership for reforms. This has encouraged former communish countries of Eastern and central Europe to embark on series of economic and political reform measures. This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as soft power as opposed to military power-hand power.
(g)        Military and Defense: The EU does not have an national army. NATO was largely seen as appropriate and Efficient for defenstive purpose. A total of 21 members belong to the NATO Alliance while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality following the Kosoro war in 1999, the European council agreed that the union must have the capacity for autonomous action backed by credible force; the means to decide to we them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to the action of NATO 7.
            A number of efforts were made to increase EU’s military capacity. The most concrete result was the EU is attle groups  initiative each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 personnel. EU forces have been deployed on peace keeping missions from Africa to the former Yugoslaria and the middle East.
(h)        Humanitarian Aid: The European commissions Humanitarian Aid office ECHO. Provides humanitarian aid to developing countries , in 2006, a total of E671 million about 48% of its budget went to the African, Carribbean and pacific countries. Added to the individual contributions of member states. The EU stands as the largest aid donor in the world.8 EU aid however have been criticized by Eurosceptics as inefficient, mis-targetted and linked to economic objectives. Critics have also claimed that EU governments have infliated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including among spent on dept relief, foreign students and refuges.
             Over the year, the EU has established a strong relationship with the UN. Co-operation takes place on a board range of areas- development, climate change, peace building in conflict zones, humanitarian assistance in crises, fighting corruption and crime, global health concerns such as Hiv/ Aids, labour issues and cultural matters. The EU  and its member states also play a crucial role as the major contributor to the UN system.

PROBLEMS OF THE EU:  Today, the EU Stands as the greatest success story the world has know as far as regional integration is concerned. It has become a reference point to other aspiring regional bodies in many parts of the world. Yet despite these huge successes, the EU is still encumbered by several problems and set backs.
1.          The movement towards political union has been problematic because of what was perceived as direct assault on national sovereignty. The issue of sovereign control by the union over certain aspects of national life was central to the reluctance of many countries to join the European community. Britain and Denmark were in the fore front of countries opposed to excessive reduction of national sovereignty and the transfer of too much powers of control to the union level.
2.          There were differences on the extent and pace of unification and collaborative behaviour. Some member states, for instance, Britain again, wanted a slow and gradual movement from one stage to another in the integrating process while other countries wanted a more rapid and radical move In both political and economic matters.
3.          As is common in all integrated unions there is often the problem of distrust by members responding the intentions of others, this feeling of distrust promotes discord and dissension rather  than unity among members. When distrust occurs, it impedes progress. In Europe, there remain an old and latent distrust, even fear of Germany that dates back centuries. Germany is seen as a very aggressive nation which may from time to time seek to dominate or improve its will in the rest of Europe through unorthodox means as has happened so many times in the past.
4.          America also poses a threat in some specific ways to a unified Europe. As a dominant power in global politics, America exerts influence in Europe. This pressure, at times, makes it impossible for Europe to act uniformly. eg relations with the soviet system and the middle east. Further more, US dominance in the western alliances, both military and economic have often understood the cohesiveness, of European action.
5.          American’s traditional “special relationship” with creat Britain has not worked in the over all interest of the EU. When issues are joined, Britain is often constrained to stand behind the US rather than keep faith with EU positions. In 2003, the EU position was that genuine evidence must be provided about Suddan Hussen’s possession of nuclear weapons before military moves could be made against him. Britain took the US view and went to war without evidence.
6.          Another problem of the EU on the economic front is specifications which places barriers to European maked integration. Specifications are established either by law or by standard institutes in order to guarantee the consumer the safety and quality of the producer.
7.         Governments of member states of the EU distort trade by giving subsidies to their firms. Subsidies increase trade flow by promoting exports which could not be competitive. In the EU, subsidies are usually aimed at protecting firms against competitive trade relations from the US, Japan and other EU countries with more developed technology.
8.          Inequality: The EU is a union of unequal members. In political economic, military and diplomatic matters, there is great disparity. As such, the big members are bound to take advantage of their weight in several issues while on others, they are weighed down by the incapacitation of the smaller members all of whom must be carried along if the group must fulfil its specific and general objectives.
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