The European Union Essay

In this essay we will be firstly presenting a of the history of the European Union followed by a descriptive critical review highlighting the main Union treaties, institutions, the economy and lastly the social policies. After the Second World War, Europe had emerged from the devastating conflict with millions of casualties and an economic recession. In 1947 the US helped Europe by installing the 'Marshal Plan', named after U.S secretary at the time. This was an offer of economic aid to revitalize Europe and bring peace and safety within the community.

By 1948 Europe set up the Organisation for European Economic Corporation, to coordinate the integration. As the grounds for economic unity were set, in 1949 the focus turned to political integration with the establishment of the Council of Europe. This was also the year that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was set up. In 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community was founded by six European States, including Italy, France Germany and the Benelux States (Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands). This was a result of what is known as the 'Shuman Plan' which proposed that European nations integrate their coal and steel resources, which at that time were a vital source of asset to generate income, thus further strengthening ties which meant there was less chance of future conflict.

In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was established, aiming to remove trade barriers giving members freedom of movement, services and capital and social freedom. In the mid sixties European expansion was fully under way with many states applying to become members starting off with the U.K, Ireland, Denmark and Norway in 1973 joining the European Community, followed by Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986. Prior to the joining of Finland, Austria, and Sweden in 1995 the Maastricht Treaty was established in 1992. This proposed a common justice and home affaires policy amongst other issues. Creating what we know now as the EU.

The European Court of justice was founded in Luxembourg in 1952. Its purpose is to make sure all EU laws are equally applied. This is to avoid courts setting their own rules. EU courts each have one judge to ensure a well organised service for each state. Each court has advocates to judge court cases. The EU is responsible for assigning judges/advocates to the courts of justice. They run under an agreed contract up to six years which can be renewed. The European council is made up of prime ministers and presidents for each state. The president is the head and has a secretary which serves the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives are ambassadors that run the council. This consists of organising council agendas and issues to be discussed. The council comes to a final decision by a joint agreement of the ministers and the Committee of Permanent Representatives. Both have support from European career civil servants. They are there to help with giving legal advice and translation support. The European Parliament members are the representatives of European citizens from all EU members. The parliament was first elected in 1979 and happens every 5 years.

The European Central Bank is mainly used by Member states which have control over the financial policy of the 12 European countries which use Euros. Sweden, Denmark and Great Britain are the European states that don't use the Euro currency. The European Commission is like the management of the EU used for law making decisions. They are run by the college of Commissioners and can be picked every 5 years.

The council of Ministers handles revenue raising, institutional charges, security policy and tax harmonisation in all EU member states. The court of Auditors was set up to keep an eye on money spent by other EU intuitions. The Committee of Regions is elected by the EU governments and is set up to advise other EU institutions on law making matters. The Economics and social committee are the leaders of trades union, consumer interests and farming which is set up to advise other EU institutions on law making matters.

The economy is one of the most important factors regarding the EU. In this section we will be observing the role of the Euro and how this has changed, in both positive and negative ways, the lifestyle of companies and people within the EU. According to the International Monetary Fund, the EU has the largest economy in the world, ahead of the United States of America with a 2005 GDP of 12,865,602 compared to 11,734,300. The figure for the EU economy is expected to grow over the next decade as more countries will join the Union.

The Euro is the most widely used currency in the EU. The Euro has caused many debates; firstly, some countries such as Denmark, Sweden and the UK have special opt-outs regarding the Euro, deciding to not use this currency. Secondly, every member state needs to pass the Stability and Growth Pact which sets out fiscal financial criteria to maintain for stability and convergence. A positive factor regarding the introduction of the Euro is that internal trade between the member states is aided by the removal of barriers to trade such as tariffs and border controls. In the EU, trade is helped by not having any currency differences to deal with amongst most members.

On the other hand the Euro has affected the lifestyle of many people in different countries. One of these is Italy; 1,000 Lira (33.33p) was considered to be equal to �1 whereas the actual value of  is 2,000 Lira (66.66p). Due to this factor the price of every good doubled but wages didn't. This caused problems and difficulties within the Italian community, and showed by a dramatic drop in purchases.

There are three main reasons for which the UK classified the Euro as a problem. Firstly the difficulty of dealing with shocks without the use of independent interest rate and exchange rate movement, secondly the effects of harmonisation initiative associated with EU and lastly the concerns the UK could be involved in the bailing-out of continental countries with financial problems particularly associated with state pension deficits.

One of the major problems with the EU is that it provides a 'one size fits al' interest rate and this cannot possibly be suited to the needs of all the Euro zone economies. For the UK the particular danger of low interest rates is that they would further fuel the rise in house prices, which would then feed into genera inflation. The danger of an interest rate being too high would mean for the UK slower economic growth and higher unemployment.

Due to this change in currency many areas, such as employment and education, within the EU were affected. Employment is a main priority for the EU. Referring to the Lisbon criteria, which state a belief of reaching an employment rate of around 70% by 2010, we can clearly say that this will help to achieve an increase in quality and work productivity within the Union. As The EU hopes to make labour markets more accessible this will lead to an increase in employment opportunities in the service sector. Having created better working environments and promoting equal opportunities, the community that is willing to work will be able to do so.

Education is another main concern within the EU. More and more colleges and Universities are promoting how important it is to study, as this will lead to a better job prospects. The EU stresses the importance on continuous education in order to boost itself as the most competitive and dynamic economy. In the UK, the government stresses that everyone should continue education after college. In the few years students in Universities have nearly doubled, which is a great improvement compared to the last years. The main problem now will be that by September 2006 Universities fees will double; and this factor will probably reflect in the number of applicant's next years at university.

Another fundamental social aspect is research, which the Union believes holds the key to the future. Particularly in 2000, research and development, especially in technology, rapidly increased. The mobile phone industry augmented enormously, with better rates and integrated technologies within a phone. Similarly Airlines have improved and more destinations with more reasonable prices have been introduced. European citizens have now built better, harmonious and integrated relationships with one another. I high percentage of EU schools has been teaching at least another language, other than their own; in the UK its compulsory up to GCSE's.

Conclusion

Above is the content that our group has put together based on describing and critically reviewing the making of the EU. After critically evaluating the evidence that we have put together I can see that there are many parts that contributed in making the EU. Our group has provided different sectors of the EU which shows how and when it was developing. We have taken these different areas such as social, economic and institutions and showed critical views supporting the making of them. We have also implemented disadvantages showing what wasn't to successful during the development of the EU