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  Why European Integration?

      The countries of Western Europe were willing and able to make the first concrete steps towards integration in the immediate postwar years after World War II because Germany needed to be rebuilt and integrated into a coherent Europe, to ward off the military threat of an expanding Soviet presence, and to resuscitate the ailing countries of the continent. The principles that drove European integration; the hope of peace and stability in Europe through integration (the noble purpose), the necessity to have a militarized Germany to deter an iron curtain from falling over Europe and threatening the whole continent, an economic interest in free trade, and the need to bolster a now weak Europe, led to a new vision of a unified Europe.

After World War II ethnic nationalism and nationalist pride needed to be replaced by a new ideology that would prevent instability and war in Europe and promote its strength and prosperity. At the same time the ideological rift between the communist East and Capitalist West in Europe had to be dealt with. Germany had been split between Communist controlled East Germany and West Germany controlled by the three occupying powers. The French did not trust a strong Germany, nor did the rest of Europe, and so remilitarization and eventual reunification had to be done in a way that would allay fears of a strong Germany.

  Europe had been “reduced to a low depths and in conjunction with the Cold War division sparked an interest in cooperation and independence.”[1] Europe was rebuilding after WWII and needed a theory to accommodate Franco-German hostilities so soon after war, and this allowed for the French under Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, on May 9 1950, to propose a plan under which Europe’s coal and steel industries could be brought together under a joint authority. In this way control over the mining resources of the Ruhr could be brought under a supranational authority. In doing so Germany could become strong again without alarming French fears or European animosity towards a reviving German economy and Germany could avoid a French veto over its national affairs.

When the plan took effect only six member states (France, West Germany, Italy, and the BENELUX countries, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) took part. Yet when French entrepreneur Jean Monnet and Foreign Minister Robert Schuman agreed the starting point of any integration plan would have to be Franco-German relations the process of bringing Germany back into the comity of nations had begun. “By 1950 it was clear that West Germany had to be allowed to rebuild if it was to play a useful role in the Western Alliance, but this would best be done under the auspices of a supranational organization that would tie West Germany into the wider process of European reconstruction.”[2]

Monnet decided that coal and steel were the building blocks of production and the foundation of German industrial power. Bringing coal and steel and the resources of the Ruhr under a supranational committee would not only make war with Germany and France unlikely but almost unthinkable. Monnet stated it was “A first step in the Federation of Europe…making war between France and Germany materially impossible.”[3]  According to the neo-functionalist doctrine spillover should have occurred once the ECSC became a reality and more sectors of the economy and related fields should eventually have integrated

The European Union came into being by a series of treaties. On April 18, 1951 the Treaty of Paris created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). It was the first supranational organization to which European government had transferred significant power. It was followed by the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 created by the Two Treaties of Rome, which also created the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

The European Economic Community was based on the ECSC structure with an appointed commission, a council of Ministers, a European Parliament and a Court of Justice. The treaty of Rome committed the EEC to a common market within 12 years.

McCormick argues these early developments must be seen in light of international developments. Western Europe was threatened by the Soviets, the Cold War had been in place at least since Russia blockaded East Berlin necessitating the Berlin airlift. The nuclear age had started with the superpower cold war stand off and arms race. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. were reaching for outer space, Sputnik was launched in the 50’s and Europe was caught in between and generally needed protection against Soviet expansionism. When the Suez Canal crisis was settled Great Britain and France had shown that individually they could no longer lead the world as independent actors. At the same time America was unable to counter Soviet aggression in Hungary.

 Germany and France had reestablished a relationship by the 1970’s, and the pace of integration slowed because the need to rebuild Europe or fears of war between the two rival states had receded. The major fear that remained was the Communist Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet expansion.

Great Britain applied for EEC membership in 1961, along with Denmark, Norway and Ireland in 1962, but French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed their accession until 1969. In 1973 they eventually became members.

By 1986 European integration had created a European Community that was made up of 322 million people and accounted for one fifth of all world trade.[4] It had its own administrative structure and own body of law. It had direct representation through the European Parliament. But until the mid-1980’s progress on integration had all but stalled. EC leaders decided that monetary union had to come first. In 1987 they signed the Single European Act (SEA) creating a single European market. The Heads of Government had legal authority in the European Council, there was also a Council of Ministers and a European Parliament and the European Court of Justice.

Events in the world started pushing the movement for European integration again. In 1989 the Berlin wall fell allowing for the reunification of Germany and in 1991 the U.S.S.R. collapsed and Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia broke up.  In 1991 the Maastricht Treaty, also called the Treaty of the European Union, was signed with the aim of a monetary union. By 1999 the Euro began circulation and became the world’s second leading reserve currency in the following decade.

In 2007 the EU agreed on the Treaty of Lisbon which created a new president for the European Council, abolition of the Maastricht three pillar system, a charter of fundamental rights, increased qualified majority voting and more powers for the EU in common interests such as the environment, public health, climate change and other shared interests.

The European Union by 2014 had a common market of 500 million and was made up of 27 countries.[5]

  In conclusion, the European Union had different goals for different people. To some it began as an idealistic move towards a more peaceful and united Europe that could be a model for eventual world government. To others it served the self-interests of their countries to remove trade barriers or to create a strong Europe out of the tatters of WWII and the destruction it left behind. It did accomplish the objective of rebuilding Europe and reintegrating a unified Germany into the European scheme. A common currency and single market were created, but that Europe became a model of world governance and an example to the world of how it could work peacefully remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen whether Europe can act decisively and cohesively in foreign and defense policy and exert influence in the same sense that a nation state would.

It can also be argued that the greater initiative to integrate served the purposes of trying to maintain European power as it began to wane after WWII and that idealists had dreams of lasting peace after the experience of two world wars and hundreds of years of fighting amongst themselves. In terms of population and GDP no European country that survived WWII could individually compete or compare with the United States save cold war Russia. By integrating the European market could eventually rival U.S. economic, political and military hegemony. Thus intergovermentalists would stress the self interest in terms of power for European states to integrate, while neo-functionalists would stress more idealist goals such as lasting peace through supranational bodies.   According to intergovermentalists such as Hoffman in the areas of “high politics” such as defense or national identity, policy integration would be more difficult. But in the economic sphere or “low politics” integration has been more achievable.

[1] McCormick, John. Understanding the European Union. (Palgrave Macmillan, N.Y. New York), 31.

[2] Ibid. at 51

[3] Ibid. at 53

[4] Ibid. at 59.

[5] Bomberg, Elizabeth, John Peterson, Richard Corbett. The European Union How Does It Work. (New York, Oxford University Press).4.

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2 comments on “After The Brexit Vote: A Brief History Review of the European Union by Barath Nagarajan Jun 26, 2016 – 12:38am

  1. Opher says:

    The creation of the EU, the UN and NATO has done wonders to reduce the level of war and promote trade and prosperity.
    It is only the selfish conservatives, with their philosophy of ‘us first’ who are keen to rip these institutions apart. They profit out of chaos and war. Runaway capitalism is a selfish thing – the strong prosper and the weak count for nothing – they are there to be exploited.

  2. Opher: I would argue that your basing your argument on an opinion, though there is some truth in it.. The EU never worked economically because how can the the ECB regulate a common currency for such economically disparate states. The U.N. often tilts towards communism and can rarely enforce its charter or decisions. NATO has ofteb become a tool in the hands of the U.S. and Western states looking for dominion.

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