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Historical Development of the European Union

The developments in Europe from her conception to date have been intriguing being accompanied by a number of factors based on decision of various states and neighbouring countries. The Second World War, according to Michelle, was a catalyst for renewed interest in European unity (p. 14)1. The war contributed to arguments that nationalism and nationalist rivalries that culminated into the war according to Michelle had discredited and bankrupted the independent state as the foundation of political and international order (p. 14)2. These arguments were a move proposing for the introduction of a replacement comprehensive organ found in the continental community.

In reality, the story of integration is complex as Michelle states, with numerous subplots, varying strategies and different ambitions (p. 15)3. Berglund says that the use of conceptual map to understand European integration invites us to apply a longer time perspective. Explaining the argument for the integration, Berglund says that two modes of understanding consisting of institutional integration as well as constituent states (p. 13)4. According to Berglund a unilinear model of understanding departs from the notion that there is a ‘normal’ European condition of competing and warring states and principalities throughout the last millennium (p. 13)5. The usage the ‘normal’ condition on few instances has been combined with a series of very vital attempts to conquer entire European continent and place it under the ruler-ship of one person or entity.

It is documented in the history of Europe that Charlemagne (747-814) was the first in line attempting to re-establish the West Roman Empire that led to incorporation of most of Central European Christendom, but according to Berglund, the integrity of the realm did not survive his succession and this resulted to the disintegration of the entire empire being formalized by the compromise of Verdun in 843 (p. 13)6. Despite the spirited attempts to take over Europe to have it under one rule were constant thwarted and by far not helping. This implied that other mean of integration had to be resorted to hence the introduction of economic benefits to the co-operating states. This kind of amalgamation between cities, principalities and states to mutual economic benefit has been going on more or less continuously throughout Europe.

The processes of duality of military political incorporation and political economic integration have sometimes reinforced one another or worked against unity according to Berglund (p. 13)7. The two modes were regarded as top-down and bottom-up approaches to integration of Europe. The development of the integration has thus resulted into a number of stakes including economic, social, political and even military or space integration. Majone states that economic and social nature of integration was set to promote a harmonious development of economic activities, and an accelerated rising of the standard of living (p. 6)8. The elimination of customs duties between member states; the establishment of a common tariff and commercial policy towards third countries as stated by Majone ensured the free movement of services, people, and capital; common policies in the spheres of agriculture and transport; a system that ensured competition in the common market not being distorted (p. 6)9. It is very important to note that in the process of integration many states were still rivals including France and Germany as noted by Michelle and that there was need for peace and stability in Europe which, could only be achieved through a rapprochement between these rivals. Later on relations between East and West had reached a nadir in 1948 and as a result the USA backed by UK and a reluctant France decided to form a German State out of the western military zones of occupation in the country (p. 19)10. The leadership of the then politically weak West Germany then approved of a proposal viewing it as a potentially valuable element to tying the Federal Republic firmly to Western Europe politically, economically, and militarily.

A significant announcement made for structure that enables the pooling of French and West German coal and steel resources was welcome and open to the other countries. These new structures as noted by Michelle, would be created even if no other state wished to join and the plan was overtly about more than just coal and steel emphasizing the need for strong and sound ‘common bases for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe’ (p. 19)11. The result of which led to formation of European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a product of combination of integrationist impulses and ideas, national self-interest, and international circumstances, documents Michelle (p. 19)12. Economic factors led to the wide spread integration of the states and the ECSC was just but a mind cracker to a wider and more complex integration of states. Transport and agriculture would then be an additive to the integrative forces as a phase shift considered sectoral economic integration. Many countries then begun to join the ECSC including Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The failure by the High Authority established within ECSC in bringing national coal and steel policies and practices fully under its control with little or no control of other sectors might have led to the forces of re-evaluation of strategies of sectoral integration (p. 19)13.

It is important to note that economic integration was integral to the policies on environmental protection through completion of internal market as pointed out by Baker (p. 107)14. This raised a substantial concern over the environmental impact of the integrative process since such had previously been voiced by environmental NGOs, and were now clearly expressed by a task force of experts appointed by a commission for environment. As noted by Baker, the report argued that no serious consideration had been given to the fact that while removal of physical, technical and tax barriers as explained above would certainly improve intra-Community trade, it was also likely to have serious negative environmental impacts as excess pollution from transport if no counter-measures were taken (p. 107)15.

The introduction of the European Defence Community (EDC) modeled upon the ECSC, would later establish a Western European army including military units from all the member states. However, the exercise failed when one member state failed to ratify a treaty as the consequence of the EDC debacle were severe and seemingly only the ECSC survived the damage to the integration cause even though fears were eminent that it too would fall as described by Michelle (p. 20)16. It appears that the hostility towards the formation of the EDC was an impediment to the integration as it contributed towards the discretion of the sectoral strategy and threatening to destroy the overall process of integration as Michelle writes. In 1955, the Treaty of Rome, whose preamble read in part ‘to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’, with implications far reaching (p. 21)17. More specifically, the Treaty enjoined its signatories, among other things, to establish a common market, defined as the free movement of goods, persons, services, and capital, to approximate national economic policies, and to develop common policies, most specifically in agriculture. Michelle indicates that although the Treaty was expressed in economic terms, as the preamble implied, political purpose lay behind them (p. 21)18. Critically analyzed the Treaty indicated that the problems of one state would eventually be problems of all

A clearer pattern of integration developed by Berglund specifies four kinds of institutions for economic integration. These included financial institutions such as stock exchanges and banks. More to this were institutions and standards for monetization, particularly standards for national coins and currencies, infrastructural institutions such as mail systems, telecommunications and regulatory agencies for transport networks and lastly the institutions supervising and maintaining national standards of measurement and weight (p. 19)19. These structures being established have ensured that all modern states with the existence of European Central Bank replacing the national currency banks in some member states and threatening existing currency banks in others. Currently it’s noted by Berglund that twelve of the member states have replaced their national currency with the euro. This implies the structural funds and other European infrastructure programmes interfere with the traditional authority structures in the member states (p. 19)20.

The above exploration can be used to study the developments of the integration process keenly being fronted by economic factors and security concerns. Lipgens and Loth comment that many nations in the union were skeptical about the formation of a union that would imply compromise to a number of national interests, while other victims of the fascist ideologies and aggression were bitter and needed to overcome the bitter feelings before they could accept nationals of the defeated states as economic and political partners (p. 3)21. These forms of skepticism presented other ways of resistance towards the integration.

Another difficulty in the way of integration was that, while the problem of security henceforth called for solution on a world scale, federal associations were only feasible, if at all, in Europe, where the peoples were sufficiently homogeneous and national problems were more or less similar (Lipgens & Loth p. 3)22. In Russia, it was regarded that any kind of association of the continental states as contrary to their own security as noted by Lipgens and Loth. It was considered that joining other states and being under other forms of rulership implied that national interest were no longer going to be prioritized. The fact that security of a state was of major significance to its citizens and power not transferred to other organ.

The World War II end was a major turning point for the integration of Europe. Questions arose whether the system of nation states in Europe would be restored or whether, and to what extent, national interests would be tempered by a policy of integration. As Lipgen and Loth noted that it was equally uncertain which countries an integrated Europe would comprise. The question of the union comprising al countries with common economic and security interests, or only those that had been profoundly affected by the defeat in the War (p. 4) 23. After the war, European politics was dominated by hopes for a ‘Third Force’ Europe, equidistant from the US and the Soviet Union as regards it social system and foreign policy thus capable of mediating between them. Lipgen and Loth indicate that the less disagreement there was between the US and the Soviet Union the more chance European nations had of remaining independent, while the maintenance of peace also depended first and foremost on amity between the two world powers (p. 4) 24. In the later years after the war, the absence of concrete moves towards union had a disintegrating effect on the ‘Third Force’ movement, before its many disparate elements could form a single political front. Lipgen and Loth say that some of its supporters failed to perceive that developments in Europe were directly contrary to their hopes for the future; in consequence they soon lost touch with the political reality.

Michelle states that the institutional structures established were modeled on that of the ECSC, with the quasi-executive and supranational European Commission intended to be the motor force of integration; its authority was counterbalanced by the Council of Ministers representing the member states (p. 23) 25. Later the instituting of European Court of Justice rapidly by its ruling that European Economic Community law took precedence over national law, asserted as a major bonding force. Besides the two organs mainly ECSC and EEC, a third organ set up to promote collaboration on the development of nuclear energy for peaceful economic purposes known as European Atomic Energy Community. These three bodies according to Michelle, were merged to form the European Communities (EC) (p. 23) 26. By the year 1961, EEC internal tariff barriers had been substantially reduced and quota restrictions on the industrial products largely eliminated.

Towards the end of the decade the EEC could proudly claim that the customs union had been implemented ahead of schedule and this meant that improvement was evident and so the more were voices fronting for the unification process. Michelle also notes that internal EEC trade flourished, rates of economic growth were impressive, and work had begun on establishing a common agricultural policy. These positive advances raised hopes among those committed to the establishment of a political union that the goal might also be expedited (p. 23) 27. Federalist movers that were thought to be derailing the integration process were subjected to a detailed process and instance to introspect as well as evaluate the EC ideas in terms of national interest and were seemingly reluctant to pursue an advanced federalist route. This was possible since the main two statesmen of France and Germany had to accept the need to utilize and develop the EC as an instrument of pragmatic integration as their active consent was vital for any progress to be made by the EC (p. 26)28.

The process of integration was later on withheld by the happenings of late 1970s, with EC experiencing both rapidly growing unemployment and inflation. The consequent political and electoral pressures as stated by Michelle, forced governments to turn more to national issues and national defense (p. 26) 29. Some stabilization was eventually realized after 1979 with the re-launch of monetary policy. The European Monetary System had to ensure currency stabilization as an objective even though Michelle noted that by its own the EMS still could not be able to achieve monetary union. Later in the 1980s the EMS was deemed, perhaps because of its modesty, to have had some success in curbing currency fluctuations, inflations and unemployment. These considerations are vital in any corporation of states or just individual states as all governments intend to see non fluctuating currencies and great numbers of unemployment since the economy does not benefit from such conditions. On the broader integrative front, the initiative had passed firmly to the European Council. Its formation in 1974 confirmed the central role that had to be adopted by the heads of governments in determining the future path of the European Community (p. 26) 30.

The classical European Union debate between the federalists and the inter-governmentalists was considered very problematic as concerning inclusion and exclusion. Berglund discovered that inter-governmentalists as they emphasise the importance of national governments, they have a more exclusive mindset than federalists, but there are alternative interpretations as well (p. 32) 31. He continues that inter-governmentalists may mean that states remain meaningful democratic entities, entities that can create inclusive social mechanisms. Federalism, in turn, necessarily involves the centralisation of power, which in the end could probably lead to less plurality and thus greater democratic deficit. In Eastern Europe there are a great number of people who felt that federalism meant and was to be embraced since it seemed to provide security guarantees for their states, guarantees against Russia as stated by Berglund (p. 32) 32.

In conclusion the thoughts that the integration of European states through distinction of community/individual as reported by Berglund, is evidence that it has been closer to the individualistic pattern and not to reflect the true meaning of the term ‘community’. Particularly during the early decades of the integration, European ‘citizenship’ was nothing more than a matter of freedom of movement and freedom of residence; there was hardly any idea of an overarching common Europeanness; the modest hope was that European nations would learn to live in peace with each other (p. 32) 33. Michelle records that in 1974, the Council of Ministers had eventually agreed to implement the Rome requirement that the European Parliament should be elected directly by the national electorates. The first direct elections being held in 1979 giving the EP a sense of greater legitimacy, a feeling that it now had a mandate to review existing structures and to urge the EC to progress to a more cohesive and genuine union (p. 26) 34. The formation of the EP led to a greater good towards the progress by proposing a Draft Treaty establishing the European Union which later in a decade was formed.

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