The European Union officially began in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty upon the foundations of pre-existent European Economic Community (EEC), with twelve states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. However, shortly after the end of the Second World War, six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) united to form the European Coal and Steel Community. there has been Since then the European Union only has extended and at the moment the European Union consists of 27 member states. The countries which have joined the European Union latest are Romania and Bulgaria in 2007. The countries which are applying at the moment for the European Union membership are: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo Serbia and Turkey. However, Croatia and Turkey are the only countries that actually have submitted their applications.
Enlargement has been one of the principal features within the European Union. The Inner Six, the countries willing to forge ahead with the European Economic Community, while the other countries remained sceptical, they thought it would probably take only a decade before the first countries changed their policy and attempted to join the Union, which led to the first scepticism of enlargement of the European Union. The French President Charles de Gaulle feared British membership would be an American Trojan horse and vetoed its application.
In 1990 the people saw the Cold War drawing to a close. East Germany was welcomed into the European Economic Community as part of a reunited Germany.
Shortly after, the neutral countries in times of war: Finland, Austria and Sweden submitted to the new European Union. However, Switzerland, which applied in 2002, froze its application because of the opposition from voters, while Norway, which had applied once more, had its voters reject membership again.
Meanwhile, the members of the former Eastern Bloc and Yugoslavia were all slowly moving towards EU membership. Ten of these joined in an enlargement on 1 May 2004, called the Big Bang enlargement, symbolizing the unification of East and Western Europe in the European Union.
Turkey’s involvement with European integration dates back to 1959 and includes the Ankara Association Agreement (1963) for the progressive establishment of a Customs Union (ultimately set up in 1995). Its negotiations started in 2005 but until Turkey agrees to apply the Additional Protocol of the Ankara Association Agreement to Cyprus, eight negotiation chapters will not be opened and no chapter will eventually be closed.
HOW TO JOIN
The European Union has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states. Thus, when a country wants to become a member of the European Union, it first must meet with these demands, the conditions for membership, which often takes a long time, so the already existing members of the organization don’t have to help the new state for example financially, and face an economic collapse themselves.
Joining the European is an long and complex procedure. When an applying country meets the conditions of membership, often called the Copenhagen Criteria, it must comply with European Union rules and regulations in every different area, including a free-market economy, the rule of law, a stable democracy plus they have to accept all European Union legislation, which includes the acceptance of the Euro.
A country who wishes joining the European Union, has to submit a membership application to the European Council, the government of the 27 countries, which asks the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (responsible of proposing legislation and upholding all the European treaties), to judge the ability of the applying country in meeting the Copenhagen Criteria. If the opinion of the European Commission is positive, the European Council has to agree upon a negotiating mandate.
Because of the huge volume of European Union regulations and rules every candidate of the European Union must accept as national law, it again takes a lot of time for this process to complete.
The enlargement of the European Union has a lot of advantages, both political and economic. Advantages like peace and stability, political reforms, development and protection, strong position in world affairs, diversity and the single market will be discussed one by one below.
Peace and Stability
Probably the biggest advantage of (the enlargement of) the European Union is the so called Pax Europeae (European peace). Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, there have been no conflicts in Europe, which is often attributed to the European Union and its predecessors. In fact, the Pax Europeae is the longest period of peace in the western part of Europe since the Pax Romana, which was established by the Roman emperor Augustus in 27 BC, and lasted for 207 years.
The European Union even received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace and for uniting countries that had been enemies for hundreds of years.
The European Union shares land and sea borders with a great variety of countries. Some of these countries are/have been politically unstable and most of them have a very different outlook on life. The European Union offers countries like these favourable relations, in exchange for them living up to standards such as the rule of law and democracy. For example, since the European Union has come into existence, there have arisen a lot of stable democracies in the eastern part of Europe.
Other countries, willing to join the European Union, are also encouraged to reform their national and governmental organisation in order to fit within the European democratic and liberal political model.
Development and Protection
The European Union continually works on raising the standard of living and equality for all its citizens. For example, by improving infrastructure, rural areas will be better accessible and more competitive on the market.
The European Union also protects the environment and the co-operation between countries makes it easier to track down terrorism, drug traffic and organised crime.
Strong Position in World Affairs
The 27 member states of the European Union have a total population of about 500 million people (or 7.3% of the world population). This is more than the USA and Russia combined! That is why the European Union is quite influential and represented at the United Nations, the WTO, the G8 and the G-20.
A good example is the WTO (World Trade Organisation), where global trading rules and standards, as well as tariffs are set and monitored. Here, the European Union represents the biggest single market.
All of the members of the European Union contribute to a greater diversity of ideas, culture and traditions. They also enable us to respect and understand other people better and remind us of the important aspects and values, i.e. they keep the European Union dynamic and self-aware.
Furthermore, a union of countries is able to find solutions and to solve global problems (such as the enhanced greenhouse effect) better and more effective than individual countries.
The Single Market
One of the main goals of the European Union is to keep the European economy strong. By creating a customs union and a single market is has been very successful at this, mainly because of the open borders, which allow free movement of people, goods, services and capital. This also implies that it is easier to get a job abroad, or to study elsewhere.
The GNP of the Netherlands has increased about 6% to 8% over the last 40 years. The European Union is a big advantage to the Netherlands, as we are very dependent on export. About 50% of the GNP of the Netherlands is based on export.
Enlargement of the European Union doesn’t only have advantages. Some disadvantages are the annual contribution, bureaucracy and problems (of the Euro), which will be discussed below.
Each member of the European Union has to contribute to the budget of the European Union, which it uses for, for instance, subsidies. However, in the Netherlands we pay more than we receive. It is estimated that we pay €150 per capita per year to the European Union.
There are a lot of rules and regulations, which make the European Union inefficient
and bureaucratic. Additionally, decisions are taken long-distance from the people by European Union institutions with a lot of power. People are less able to make their voices heard, and countries only have little saying in the policies.
Problems (of the Euro)
Members of the European Union are obliged to help other member states when they are facing problems. A well-known example is the huge government debt of Greece. It doesn’t matter whether or not the country is accountable for the problem, the rules of the European Union say that the country has to be helped.
We think that enlargement of the European Union is advantageous, and that countries like Turkey and Croatia are free to join, so long as the meet the Copenhagen Criteria. However, we also think that, since it’s called the EUROPEAN Union, there should be some limit to the expansion. According to us, there is only a handful of countries that can still join the European Union: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo Serbia, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey and Ukraine. The benefits of the enlargement will be for the new members in the beginning, but since it will be easier for ‘western’ companies to trade with the ‘eastern’ ones, after a while a stronger economy and more important, a stronger Europe will have been built.
Last consulted March 17th, 2013 – http://europa.eu/ – http://images.google.com/ – http://www.guardian.co.uk/ – http://www.bbc.co.uk/ – http://www.wikipedia.org/ – http://www.economicshelp.org/europe/ – http://dianiko.wordpress.com/tag/eu/