Government & Politics A2 Unit 5

A2 Politics Unit 5


Introduction - The European Union

The European Union

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic community of twenty-seven member states, located primarily in Europe. It was established in 1993 by the Maastricht Treaty, adding new areas of policy to the existing European Community. With almost 500million citizens, the EU combined generates an estimated 30% share of the world's nominal gross domestic product (US$16.8 trillion in 2007).

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, guaranteeing the freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital. It maintains a common trade policy, agricultural and fisheries policies, and a regional development policy. Fifteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro. It has developed a role in foreign policy, representing its members in the World Trade Organization, at G8 summits and at the United Nations. Twenty-one EU countries are members of NATO. It has developed a role in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport control between many member states under the Schengen Agreement.

EU operation is a hybrid of intergovernmental and supranational. In certain areas it depends upon agreement between the member states. However, it also has supranational bodies, able to make decisions without the agreement of members. Important institutions and bodies of the EU include the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank. EU citizens elect the Parliament every five years.

The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among six countries in 1951 and the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Since then the EU has grown in size through the accession of new member states and has increased its powers by the addition of new policy areas to its remit. The Treaty of Lisbon, signed in December 2007 and intended to be ratified by the end of 2008, is planned to amend the existing treaties to update the political and legal structure of the union.

1 of 4

Impact Of The EU on The UK

The Impact of The European Union

Easy Travel

  • Border posts abandoned
  • The single currency
  • EU members fully covered for hospital treatment
  • Driving licences valid in any EU country

Living Abroad

  • Europeans generally free to go where they want within the EU
  • Europeans free to live or work anywhere within the EU
  • An EU citizen living in another EU country enjoyes equal treatment with nationals of the host country in terms of welfare protection
  • Eu members can stand for local elections in local countries

Equal Pay And Non Discrimination

  • The principal of equal pay for men and women was inshrined in the 1957 treaty of rome
  • The principle has been turned steadily into a reality. A 1975 directive ensured that women paid less than men for the same job gor the right of redress through the courts
  • Discrimination on the basis of race or secual orientation is alo outlawed
  • Age discrimination laws came into force in 2006

Paid Leave

  • All EU members get at least four weeks of paid holiday per year
  • The same directive guarantees workers 11 hours rest in every 24 hours
  • Sets minimum standards for paid maternity and paternity

Foreign Study

  • Students can apply to do their whole degree in other countries without having to pay extra non-EU charges
  • Helps students to learn a foreign language and gain experience of another culture

Cheap Flights

  • Barriers of free air competition abandoned in the 1980s
  • Consumers benefitted from a wider choice of carriers and destinations

Cheap Phone Calls

  • EU broke monoploies held by public telecom operators in the 1990s
  • introduction of the new technology and lower prices
  • The price of international phonecalls in the EU has fallen by 80% since 1984#

Consumer Protection

  • Consumers can send back a product bought anywhere in the EU if it breaks
  • No excise duty on personal products

Food Labelling

  • All ingredients in food products must be listed
  • GM ingredients must be flagged as well as colouring, preservatives and other ingredients
  • Gives the definition as to what is organic

Clean Rivers And Air

  • EU has improved the air and many rivers and beaches
  • The return of offers to the British countryside
  • Reduction in the problems with Acid Rain
2 of 4

European Integration

Prime Ministers And EU Integration

Ted Heath (Labour)

  • Took the UK into the EEC after 1973
  • At the time, right wingers were aginst membership
  • They argued that the UK should keep its traditional trading partners with the commonwealth
  • Argued against the loss of sovereignty

Wilson (Labour)

  • Application was vetoed by the french president
  • Labour was divided as left wingers were reluctant to join
  • Loss of sovereignty concerned some members
  • 1975 - Referendum - Held Under Labour

Thatcher (Conservative)

  • Conservatives wanted to resist giving decision making to the EU
  • Conservatives opposed the idea of federalism
  • Delohrs angered Thatcher with his support for the European Social Charter, and was responsible for drawing up the timetable for the single currency

Major (Conservative)

  • The party whip was widthdrawn from 8 eurosceptical conservative MPs who failed to support their government
  • By the 1997 election the party was openly divided, which aided their downfall
  • Divisions severely weakened major authority and contributed to his crushing defeat

Key Developments

  • Devastation caused by WW2 led to a desire to build international relationships as a safeguard to proect themselves in the future
  • The philosophy of building European ties created by Jean Monnet and Robert Shuman was the foundry of the Treaty of Paris of 1951 - joined by France, West Germany, Italy the Netherlands, Belgium And Luxembourg
  • Treaty Of Rome - 1988, these six countries founded the EEC
  • Although European Integration was initially based on 3 communities, it was often referred to collectively as the common market
  • 1967 - 3 communities merged to become known as the EC whose main focus was on cooperation and economic and agricultural affairs
  • The EC became the EU following the Maastricht Treaty after 1992

The UK did not apply for membership of the EEC

  • we had established trade links with the commonwealth
  • special relationship with the USA
  • We has an island mentality which did not identify with continental

Political Attitudes Towards the EEC Changed In The 1960s, because economies of member countries were growing faster than the UK..

  • Applicants by both the french and the conservative/labour governments were vetoed by De Gaulle. A third application by Ted Heath was successful finally in 1973

UK was vetoed because:

  • De Gaulle didn't want UK mambership to rival french domination of the EEC
  • French were seeking to develop the community in a way that would suit french interests e.g CAP
  • The official reason: UK links with the commonwealth and the USA meant that it was not sufficiently european in its outlook

Third Application

Successful mainly because de Gaulle was no longer president and West Germany was starting to challenge french dominance. The UK was therefore seen by France as a balance to West Germany's growing influence. The UK, Denmark and Ireland became full EC members in 1973.

Greece joined in 1981

Portugal And Spain joined in 1986

Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995

10 new members, consisting of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary Latvia joined in 2004

Turkey and Croatia started membership talks in October 2005 and Macedonia gained candidate status in Dec 2005

EU Integration is seen as a gradual transfer of political decision making from member governments to European Level, with national sovereignty being a central debate.

Key Factors Of The European Union

Maastricht Treat 1991

  • formerly established EU and EEC as successors
  • Maastricht expanded the concept of the EU into new areas
  • Introduced a common foreign and security policy

The Social Chapter

The Social chapter in the European Union refers to parts of the treaty which deal with the equal treatment of men and women under Article 141 EC and the regulation of working time under the Working Time Directive. One recent piece of anti-discrimination legislation is Directive 2006/54/EC "on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation".

  • laying down EU policies on worker's rights
  • established a timetable for economics and monetary union

The Single Currency

  • Officially adopted by 11 member states in 1999 of those countries sufficiently developed
  • Greece - 2 years later
  • Denmark, Sweden and the UK chose not to join

The EU Constitution

  • rejection in referendums in France and Netherlands in 2005
  • Dec 2007 - 27 member countries signed the Lisbon Treaty (had to be ratified by all members)
3 of 4

The EU And Political Parties

4 of 4


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all The state, nation and sovereignty resources »