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The History of the European Union




Universität Koblenz Landau, Abt. Landau

- Canterbury Christ Church College -

 

ITE / ERASMUS - Program

"The History of  the European Union"

 



 

 

 

The History of  the European Union

 

In this Assignment I want to make clear and visible the "red line" in the History of the European Union, I am not going to make a complete overview of all the treaties and institutions.

The Idea of the of a European Union and its development from its  beginnings till today should be explained here.

 

 

The European Union as it exists today is the result of a development that started after the second World War; but even before the idea of a Unity among the States of Europe existed, even when it was only popular among philosophers and visionaries.

In the Years after the first World War this Idea became more and more popular, one of the main goals of this time was to prevent a further war in Europe.

But the history took a different way, instead of forming a Union, or at least a partnership among the European States during the thirties the nationalism the idea of a powerful, strong national state was followed in many European States.

A very good example for this is the Initiative of the French foreign minister Briand who spoke for a federal Union of Europe in the League of the Nations, but his ideas where turned down in 1929.[1]

During the second World War the vision of a new Europe that would worked together was developed from national resistance movements; two of the most important people in this context are Altiero Spinelli, the Italian federalist, and Jean Monnet.[2]

Directly after the second World War many people in the United State of America believed, that a strong, united Europe was necessary to prevent a further war; the economical help the USA gave in the background hat the idea, that the United States of Europe could develop, if from the beginning the reconstruction of the destroyed Europe was not limited to some countries.[3]

Especially  after the first conflict in the Alliance of the Winners became clear, and the partnership between the western Allies and the Soviet Union started to vanish, it became clear that Germany was one of a very great strategic importance to stop the Communism in Europe; if Germany would become a communist state, most certainly the rest of Europe would follow. Out of this reason plans like the "Morgenthau - Plan" were replaced by direct economical help.

In 1947 the American President Harry Truman said in his famous speech in Fulton, that the USA would help all states which were in danger of the Soviet Union, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs George Marshall spoke at the Harvard University of a Program to rebuild Europe.[4]

The first direct step towards the European Union was taken in 1948, as on initiative of Winston Churchill European politics like Adenauer, de Gasperi and Schuman gathered on a European Congress in Den - Haag and developed ideas for the political and economical partnership of the European states.

On the 5th of May 1949 the European Council was founded by Great Britain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden; even if the competence's of this council are very limited, the first step in the right direction was taken .

That Germany was included into this development was not without problems, you have to consider that in 1948 France and  Great Britain signed the Treaty of Brussels (later on also the Benelux- states where included), to get help in the case of a further German aggression.[5]

In 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community was set up by France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux - states, especially the French foreign Minister Robert Schuman can be called the "father" of this plan; already in 1945 Konrad Adenauer had said, that only a unity of Western Europe and the overcoming of the Nationalism could guarantee the security of the States and help the destroyed economy to recover.[6]

Central to the federalist approach is the idea, that local, regional, national and European authorities should co - operate and complement each other, but also the other approach, the functionalist one, which favours a gradual transfer of sovereignty from national to community level, is very important and developed in this time.[7]

During the time of the War in Korea the necessity of a common defence plan completed these steps on the economical level; the European Defence Union should set up an army out of soldiers from the six countries, many people hoped, that this common defence project would led to a emerging of these countries.

 But in 1954 this plan was stopped, as the French parliament did not agree to the plan.[8] As an result of this agreements on the modified Treaty of Brussels where made to found the Western European Union, this time including Germany, even if the Treaty of Brussels started in 1947 as an anti - German pact[9]. Due to the foundation of the NATO in 1949, this institution did not develop into a very important institution.[10]

In these years the Community was seen  as a way of securing peace ; but in 1957 the Six decided to create an economic community, built around the free movements of workers, goods and services.

In the years till 1968 the custom duties in intra community trade in manufactured goods where abolished.[11]

The success of the Six founder states led to expansions over the following years, and in 1973 nine members belonged to the European Community. This enlargement was matched by further deepening, the community being given responsibility for social, regional and environmental matters.[12]

But the development of as political Union was a very difficult process, as all the member Countries accepted the economical success, but did not want to loose any of there political influence on national level to a supranational community. Maybe the best way to articulate was the French president de Gaulle, as he spoke of a "Europe of the fatherlands".[13]



But the economical interest showed the need to change the common market into a economical and monitory union.

Due to the acceptance of new members the negotiations on a single position became more and more difficult, but as the USA suspended the convertibility of the dollar the need for an economic convergence became apparent, especially after the two oil crisis (1973/1979) and the world-wide monetary instability, the launch of the European Monitory System helped to stabilise exchanges rates and encouraged member states to pursue strict economic policies, enabling them to give each other mutual support and benefit from the discipline imposed by an open economic area.[14]

More and more Europe developed into a third power in the world arena, and in international conferences the European states spoke with "one voice", as the co-ordinated their plans and ideas[15], but the international role of the union also becomes clear in the four successive Lome`Conventions, which linked states in Africa, the Caribbean and the pacific more closely to the Union.

With the foundation of the European Parliament in 1978 some deficits in legitimisation and democracy, which were mentioned again and again by critics, started to vanish, but of course there is still a far way to go to transfer the existing European institutions into a Supranational, democratic legitimated institution.[16]

Since 1995 the European union consist out of 15 members, already the world ´`s major trading power, the Union is now working on developing structures which would give a higher profile on the international stage, the aim being to introduce a common foreign and security policy.[17] 

The Collapse of the Berlin Wall in1989 and the following development in  eastern Europe transformed the political structure; in 1991 the Treaty of Maastricht marked the new development, this treaty makes the progress towards a single currency irreversible; the treaty on European Union sets an ambitious programme, the monitory union, new common policies, European citizenship, a common foreign and security policy and internal security.

The Union has no choice but to progress still further along the road towards an organisation both efficient and democratic, capable of making decisions and taking action while preserving the identity of its consistent states.[18]

In the following conference of Maasstricht which will take place in 1996 the structure of the Union to enable it to face the new tasks, to prepare the Union for a further enlargement in order to bring stability to the whole continent, will take place, and this conference will be one of the moist importance in the history of the Union, because from this Conference the success of the Idea of a European Union as it was dreamed in 1945 will come true in the new Millennium or not.

Personal Impressions

Of course not everyone is satisfied how the Union developed, many people are against the whole idea; it was interesting for me, taking part in a programme of the European Union ( the ERASMUS Program ) studying in England for six months, to see the attitude towards the European Union  one time from a different point of view.

Some of the things I noticed were quite interesting for me, this began already on my first day in England, as I found out that I was officially considered as an "overseas student". For me this was very surprising, as I never had thought that I would be considered something else than coming from Germany or out of a different state of Europe.

It was then when I realised for the first time that some people in Great Britain still have problems top accept that there is one Europe, ad not England and the Continent. Of course my notes are not representative; very often in discussions with English  Students I ended up defending the idea of a European Union, some English Students even preferred that England should step out of the EU.

In many of the tabloids the Institutions of the European Union are dealt with like an enemy, and everything that goes wrong is due to the European Union, but the positive effects of the European Union, the help the England gets from the European Union and all the positive aspects are ignored ( at least in the tabloids I read during this time ).

Sometimes I had the idea, the some reporters still have problems with the fact, that the Empire has stopped to exist long ago, and the political realities are ignored; the idea that due to the history England cannot accept to loose part of its influence to supranational authorities is quit common in some of these papers.

During my stay in England I  recognised, that Europesimism is quite common, and as discussions came to the European Monetary Union, the idea was that England should not take part in it.
I personally was surprised as in one TV Report of BBC 1 some reporters showed the danger of isolation for GB if it would not take part in the EMU.

As I said before, this cannot be representative, and I meet man Europe Supporters, I only wanted to mention some of the things that surprised me.




References

Pascal Fontaine, Europe in ten points, Office for Official   Publications   of the European Communities, Brussels,  Luxembourg, 1995 

Jacques Freymond, Die Atlantische Welt, in:  Weltgeschichte - Eine Universalgeschichte -, Editor :Golo Mann, Prisma Verlag, Gütersloh, 1980  

Hanns Joachim Friedrichs ( Editor ) , Weltgeschichte - Eine Chronik-, Naturalis Verlag, München/Köln, 1988

Wolfgang W. Mickel, Bertholld Wiegand, Geschichte Politik und Gesellschaft, 2. Auflage, Cornelsen Verlag Hirschgraben, Frankfurt, 1989

 



[1]  Mickel, Wolfgang W., Wiegand, Berthold, Geschichte Politik und Gesellschaft, Cornelsen Verlag Hirschgraben, 2. Auflage, Frankfurt 1989, S. 369

[2]  Fontaine, Pascal, Europe in ten points, Office of Official Publications of the European Communities, Brussels-Luxembourg, 1995, vgl. S.5

[3] Freymond, Jacues, Die Atlantische Welt in Weltgeschichte - Eine Universalgeschichte - edited by Golo Mann, Bd. 10, Prisma Verlag Gütersloh, 1980, S.231

[4] Friedrichs, Hanns Joachim (Hrsg), Weltgeschichte - Eine Chronik - ,Naturalis Verlag, München 1988, S.437

[5]  Mickel, Wigand, Frankfurt 1989, S.369

[6]  Mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 370

[7] Fontaine, Luxembourg, Brussels 1995, S. 5

[8]  Mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 370

[9]  Mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S.369 f.

[10]  Mickel, Wigand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 370

[11]  Fontaine, Brussels Luxembourg, 1995, S.6

[12]  Fontaine, Brussels, Luxembourg, 1995, S. 6

[13]  Mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 371

[14]  Fontaine, Brussels Luxembourg, 1995, S. 6

[15]  Mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 372

[16]  mickel, Wiegand, Frankfurt 1989, S. 372

[17]  Fontaine, Brussels Luxemburg, 1995, S.6

[18]  Fontaine, Brussels Luxembourg, 1995, S.7










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