The prospect of a united Europe has been in the minds of people since ancient times. The Romans, during their heyday, desired to conquer the entire European continent, and nearly succeeded. It is seemingly only now though that European Unity could fully succeed (taken from www.June29.com). There are though a number of barriers to increased unity, namely barriers of both legal and economic sovereignty.
One of the major concerns of government and the educated of Europe is the reduction in sovereignty that increased European unity would entail. There is a conflict within much of Europe and especially within the United Kingdom over whether the EU should become increasingly supranational or increasingly intergovernmental. Despite broad acceptance of the supranational principle, national governments have been reluctant to cede control over all policy areas to EU institutions (taken from http://encarta.msn.com). The increased use of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council of Ministers (in preference of unanimity) indicates though that the EU is becoming more of a Supranational organisation.
The fear of a loss of national Identity- Increased association with Europe in preference to GB. The EU is making a concerted effort to indoctrinate School children to think as European and not British. Once the children think European the Parents will soon follow. A report in the Guardian newspaper of 27 February indicated the existence of a team of psychologists and cultural experts, recruited by the European Commission to target school children in the promotion of economic and monetary union. Schoolchildren are identified by the team as “strong vectors of information on the Euro” to sell the new single currency to a sceptical public. Education Departments of local authorities across Europe are being advised to start preparing textbooks, and teaching aids promoting Europe (taken from http://www.marxist.com). This could also explain why the British National Party is opposed to the European Union.
The attempt of a common defence policy is also strongly protested against in the UK because it affects the status of the monarchy withdrawing one of the Queen’s few remaining prerogative powers. The desire of some countries to build a common defence policy is resisted by others that insist that at best a European defence force can only be supportive of and subordinated to NATO.
The further unity of the European Union is being held back by the unaccountability of Community Law (the most powerful law in the European Union, overruling all domestic legislation); the Legislature of the European Union; the Council of Ministers has no direct accountability to anyone (nor do the individual ministers). On the same token the European Parliament; the only accountable body of the EU has no real powers in the decision making process. This barrier of unaccountable law though will not easily be removed by any member states as if the Law becomes accountable it will negate the need for a national sovereign law maker effectively meaning the end of the nation state. Any extension of QMV voting in the Council of Ministers reduces the viability of the nation state.
It is reputed that in the 1980’s the Eurosceptic Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher described the European Community as a “Trojan horse for German domination of Europe”; a sentiment clearly felt by many of the politically unaware British “great unwashed “. They fear federalism, with the UK simply becoming a region in a European Super state dominated by either the French or the Germans . The 1992 Maastricht Treaty tried to allay those fears with the principle of Subsidiarity; Subsidiarity implies that decision-making should take place as close as possible to the citizen. Only when local, regional or national decision-making is inadequate — e.g., because they have external effects which exceed the level on which they are taken — should it be lifted to the European level. (taken from http://www.techcentralstation.com/)
European economists, especially British also have real concerns over the loss of economic sovereignty, there is real pressure from Europe for monetary union across the whole European Union to create a single super economy.. Britain opposes European monetary Union (EMU) for numerous reasons; firstly for Historical reasons; Pounds Sterling have long been the currency and secondly for fiscal reasons; joining the Euro would mean ceding control of interest rates to the European Central bank who would set a European wide interest rate. This loss of control of the interest rate would mean that the Bank of England would no longer be able to prompt the economy; by for instance lowering interest rates when inflation is low to stimulate the economy.
Britons may also be hostile to EMU because of memories of the Exchange Rate mechanism where British interests rates were tied to the exchange rates of various other countries including Germany. As inflation started to rise Britain could not change interest rates to counter the rise resulting in “Black Wednesday”(16th of September 1992); Britain’s last day of membership of the ERM where inflation rates rose by 3% in a single day. This though was not just a British story; Denmark and Germany also considered very similar experiences, damaging future confidence in the Euro across Europe.
Another thing that is a barrier to closer European Unity is National Interests. In the April 2000 Summit in Lisbon, the EU heads of government agreed to a programme of further liberalisation with the aim of making the EU the world’s most competitive economy by 2010. This though has not happened with production per head of population and GDP falling against that of the United States, showing that each national government, while supposedly working towards the idea of closer European integration is mainly concerned with the defence of “national interests”. Behind this drive to maintain national interests stand the interests and ambitions of the most powerful European states, especially Germany and France, which seek to dominate Europe.
Common Agricultural Policy is also seen by many as a hindrance to further unity in Europe. Seen as unfair by countries with efficient farming methods Still, the CAP remained the largest item in the EU budget and continued to provoke resentment among many EU citizens and other world producers. The commitment to the CAP as a symbol of integration may not guarantee its future, however, especially given the EU’s decision to accept members from Eastern Europe. The economies of these countries are more agricultural and less efficient than EU states. Without major reform, almost all CAP expenditure would have to be redirected to these states, which would be politically and economically impossible, meaning all the current member states would be receiving significantly less funds then they gave.
In Western Europe (especially Britain which is seen as a favourite place to immigrate to) fears have arisen over expansion of the EU which will see the first of the Eastern European former Socialist states joining the EU. There are fears from many of the cost to the taxpayer of integrating poorer economies into the union, and the massive cost of paying support to many economic immigrants from east to west. Large Sections of society and industry in particular also oppose expansion because expansion of the European Union means the enfranchisement of huge pools of low-cost eastern labour. This will have two effects; encouraging industry to relocate to Eastern Europe where Labour costs are low and also encourage mass waves of job hunters from Eastern Europe to the West adding to already high numbers of unemployed.
American influence in Europe has also been a barrier to closer European Unity. This is particularly relevant in the case of Britain; torn between Europe and her special relationship with America. The split this caused could be demonstrated perfectly by the second Iraq war (2003) where Tony Blair who faced intense domestic opposition to his support for the Bush administration’s war plans, insisting that the European leaders must show a united front with America as the best method to attain Iraqi disarmament. This was against the European Common defence policy spearheaded by France and Germany calling war “a last resort.” (taken from http://www.intelmessages.org)
Another problem to European Unity is that many of the minorities (such as the Flemish speaking Belgians or the German speakers in the Tyrol) believe that their minority culture will be swallowed up by the European Union. These worries are though unfounded; EU leaders in their Laeken summit declaration of last year called Europe the continent of “liberty, solidarity and above all diversity, meaning respect for others languages, cultures and traditions.” The problem is how to ensure the survival of minority languages and cultures when general European unity seems to bebeing ceded to the drive for economic integration. There is also a worry that the EU has not found a solid balance between unity in terms of the common market and diversity, in terms of support for cultures and languages.
On the other hand the EU has tried to protect minority culture by funding minority languages and cultures such as the Welsh andf Cornish languages and cultures. The European Parliament has adopted a series of resolutions on this subject of minority language. The European Union has taken action to safeguard and promote the regional and minority languages of Europe. This action has taken two forms: l Financial support for the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages and project funding for practical initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting regional and minority languages (taken from http://www.ibeurope.com).
In conclusion the main obstacles to European Unity are a fear of change of the Status Quo, a fear of sovereignty and a loss of age old languages and cultures, being ceded to a common European identity.
* http://www.june29.com/Tyler/nonfiction/eec1.html taken on 10 January 2004 14:05
* http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761579567_4/European_Union.html taken on 9th January 2004 17:27
* http://www.techcentralstation.com/102003D.html taken on 9th January 2004 17:35
* http://www.marxist.com/Economy/launch_of_euro_101.html on Friday 9th Jan at 17:11
* http://www.bullen.demon.co.uk/cibcaef1.htm taken on 9th January 2004 16:01
* http://www.intelmessages.org/Messages/National_Security/wwwboard/messages_02/3906.html taken on 11th January 2004 13:53
* http://www.ibeurope.com/Database/Factsheets/F048lang.htm taken on 18th January 15:50