After World War II, Europeans were determined to prevent that kind of mass destruction and bloodshed from ever happening again. Not long after that war, the Cold War begins, and Europe is split into east and west. This lasts for 40 years. French Foreign Minister Schuman proposes a plan that would integrate the steel and coal industries of Western Europe, and the European Coal and Steel Community is created with six members (Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and the Netherlands). In 1957, the member countries signed the Treaties of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (goal was to remove trade barriers & form a common market) and the European Atomic Energy Community. A decade later in 1967, the institutions of the three European communities are merged together, which created a single commission, a single council of ministers, and a European parliament where citizens can vote for candidates. Finally, in 1993, the Treaty of Maastricht creates the European Union. It wasn’t long before they conformed to a single currency (the euro), signed a constitution, and expanded to include 27 countries and over 500 million citizens.
The European Union is an economic and political partnership between these countries that has delivered many years of peace, stability, and prosperity to much of the continent of Europe. It has allowed for people to travel freely throughout the land, created a single European currency, helped raise living standards, and made it easier to live and work abroad in Europe. Everything it does is based on treaties democratically agreed on unanimously by all members, which is known as rule of law. The EU is socialist with a greater emphasis on the common good. One of its primary goals is to promote human rights within the member countries and around the world. The core values, according to the leaders, are freedom, democracy, rule of law, equality, human dignity, and respect for the human rights. The Treaty of the Lisbon, signed in 2009, is the Charter of Fundamental Rights brings these rights together in a document. The institutions of the EU are to uphold them. Another one of the EU’s goal is to develop the single market to make sure that Europeans can draw the maximum benefit. The EU’s main economic engine is the single market, allowing most services, goods, money, and people to move freely. The EU grows today, remaining focused on making its government institutions more democratic and transparent.
The EU has faced and continues to face many challenges over time. While they have been quite successful with integration since the beginning, it has often proved difficult to get all countries in key areas. Language and cultural barriers will always impede integration. For example, Great Britain, among other countries, opted out of the common currency. The EU also faces challenges with its legitimacy and their ability to get people interested and involved. Their problem is often that not a sufficient number of people know what they are doing in order for them to make an impact. Finally, keeping a stable economy in all 27 countries with a common currency is a difficult task. Currently, the EU is dealing with the failing economy in Greece. Many years of spending without restraint, cheap lending, and a failure to implement financial reforms put Greece in a bad position when the worldwide economic downturn took place. Their debt (about $413.6 billion) is bigger than the country’s economy, and their deficit is 12.7%. The EU is closely monitoring Greece at the moment because of this situation and has implemented a reform program for a smart and sustainable Greek economy by 2020. This global recession also negatively affected trade in the Europe area, with the eastern European countries failing especially. However, the EU, along with many other countries worldwide, is working on making a comeback. While the EU faces many setbacks, it continues to benefit many European countries and promote peace between them.
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