The European Union is a political and economic Union that brings together 27 independent Countries. These States are largely situated in Europe. The Union traces its origin to EEC (European Economic Community) and ECSC (European Coal and Steal Community) that began in 1952. Since then, it has enlarged through accessions and added policies.
In 1993, (EU) European Union was established under its present name after the Maastricht Treaty. Over the years, it has undergone various amendments, latest of which being the Lisbon Treaty that came into force in 2009. It operates under a hybrid system where member States and independent institutions negotiate decisions.
These include the European Council, the European commission and the European Central Bank, among others. It has a parliament, which is elected by citizens from member States. In addition, it has a single market, which applies in all member States.
It is also quite important to note that it contributes about 20% of world GDP and is home to an estimated 7.3% of global population. Moreover, it has continued to enlarge with more countries in Eastern Europe expressing interest. This paper will explore enlargement of European Union and analyze its challenges (Trichet 1).
Enlargement of European Union
After the Second World War, it was decided that Germany and France be united in order to institute a lasting peace. The two nations were very strong both economically and politically. This began with ECSC in 1952 as six nations signed the Paris Treaty. Later on, EEC was established in 1958 to eliminate trade barriers between member States. What followed was merging of institutional communities into EC (European Community).
Its enlargement started after institution of European parliament. This can be traced back to 1973, when Denmark, Ireland and the UK were added; this increased its number to 9. Further activities in 1980s saw expansion with inclusion of Greece in 1981 as well as that of Portugal and Spain in 1886.
This brought the number to twelve. Thereafter a major breakthrough came in form of Maastricht Treaty of 1992, which established ways for cooperation in defense and foreign policy. This included formation of policies on internal affairs, judiciary and economy as well as monetary Union. It is under these conditions that it was named the EU (CIA.gov 1).
However, it was still different from (EC) European community. This enlargement continued with inclusion of Sweden, Austria and Finland, thus making the number 15 by 1995. In 1999, it introduced a new exchange rate known as the euro. This became a unit of exchange in all member States except Denmark, Sweden and the UK. Citizens of remaining member States started using the euro in 2002 and this has continued up to date.
Enlargement of European Union did not stop at this; in 2004, additional ten States were included. These were mainly from Eastern Europe namely the Czech Republic, Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland.
This increased its member States to 25. Further enlargement was witnessed in 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria also joined, increasing their number to the present 27. This led to formulation of the Nice Treaty in order to run it efficiently (CIA.gov 1).
Their efforts to establish a constitution failed through referendum in Netherlands and France. However, many of these features were incorporated in 2007. Subsequent efforts led to European Union succeeding European Community. After 2007, a number of countries have applied to be incorporated into the Union. Some of which had applied at an earlier date.
European Union has also laid strategies of helping candidates and potential candidates to reform their policies in line for accession. In this regard, the Union has also revised funding for candidates in form of pre-accession assistance to 14110 million euros, which is to be utilized between 2014 and 2020.
In addition, Croatia’s accession to EU was approved by parliament in 2011. It had applied for membership in 2003. This was approved in 2004 and subsequent approval done in 2011. The country is expected to join EU as its 28th member State in 2013 (CIA.gov 1).
States planning to join EU have been categorized into two main groups namely, current and potential candidates. The former include Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. On the other hand, the latter include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia. Iceland applied for accession into European Union in 2009 with negotiations starting in 2010.
Macedonia also applied for its accession in 2004. It was confirmed as a candidate in 2005. Other countries such as Montenegro and Turkey applied for accession in 2008 and 1987 respectively. They were confirmed as candidates in 2010 and 1999 in that order. Potential candidates applied for their accession in the following years. Albania applied for membership in 2009.
However, its accession is not expected until 2015. This is same with Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is still relishing on the aftermath of 1992 -1995 war. Serbia and Kosovo have also expressed interest in joining the EU even though a lot is yet to be done in ensuring smooth accession. It is quite important to note that several programmes have been put in place to help in accession on these countries into EU by 2020.
These include police reforms, fostering of ethics, modernizing of infrastructure, economic reforms, efficient energy use, reinforcement of democracy, peace treaties and banking standards, among others. However, these have come with several challenges. Some of which have been contained while others persist. For instance, ethnic conflict between Serbia and Kosovo is paramount, among others (Trichet 1).
European Union is considered as the largest world economic zone; this has worked to improve its competiveness and prosperity. The Union has a policy, which is aimed at fostering peace, freedom, rule of law, tolerance and solidarity as well as democracy. However, it has also faced challenges to achieving these objectives.
This is mainly because of pre-accession strategies that have been difficult to achieve it terms of aspiring countries. For instance, it has taken Turkey about 12 years to be confirmed as candidate for accession despite having applied in 1987. In general, process of accession to EU community involves many activities that require countries to reform virtually every economic structure.
This is usually difficult for some countries as well as their citizens. In some cases, governments are willing but citizens reject policies to be enacted as pre-accession requirements. This has delayed possible accessions of countries such as Turkey, Montenegro and Iceland, among others (“EU enlargement: The next eight” 1).
There are other challenges that EU has faced over the years in its bid to enlarge. These challenges started in 2004 when 10 countries from Eastern block were admitted. After inclusion of 10 other States, its population was increased by about one-fifth. Moreover, a big gap separates rich countries from poor ones. Accession countries projected a GDP which is half that of EU.
In addition, indicator of backwardness showed that accession countries were twice that of EU. Moreover, its effects on United States were quite unpredictable, given that its population and market was the largest globally. Its decision-making is based on negotiations; this made it increasingly difficult with an increasing number of States. Besides, these States have diverse interests, which are difficult to merge.
Furthermore, incorporating uniform policies is quite difficult in a wider EU. Enlargement of EU affected United States in many ways. These included economic and political ramifications. For instance, it expanded market for US goods as well as created dispute over trade disputes, among others (Europa.eu 1).
Enlargement of EU has also caused balance of power between the four institutions. In fact, more power has shifted to Council as negotiation takes part in decision-making. Another challenge is about population of major States against small ones in EU. This is in line with voting powers in the council. For instance, major countries such as France, Germany, the UK and Italy have more people than small States.
Negotiations efforts were made on using population size in decision-making but this was rejected by middle-income countries like Poland and Spain, among others. Decision-making has therefore become more difficult with economic recession facing most member countries. The increasing number of States is also increasing financial spending by EU on small States.
Sweden, Germany and Netherlands have been the chief contributors to EU economy. On the other hand, Spain, Portugal and Greece have been the highest beneficiaries. Increasing number of accession countries will pit competition for EU funds. Besides, economic disparity between old and new countries compromised small countries in decision making since they have to concur with big countries in order to get donations.
It is also important to note that economic policies of transition economies are quite different from that of developed economies, which are advanced capitalists. This is likely to make compliance difficult for small countries as has been witnessed in Turkey and Greece, among others. These challenges, among others risks paralyzing the Union unless constitutional stalemate can be resolved (Pereira 1).
The European Union was established for purpose of fostering peace, solidarity, rule of law and democracy, among others. Its enlargement began in 1973 when Denmark joined the six initial States. It has since increased to 27, with accession of Croatia as the 28th State pending. Moreover, about eight States are expected to join by 2020. This has posed several challenges on its policy framework.
This is mainly because the countries are derived from diverse political philosophical thoughts. For instance, most countries that joined from Eastern Europe have small economies. Moreover, they are derived from communist regimes. On the other hand, those from Western Europe are based on capitalistic political philosophy, which are at advanced state. These differences pose great challenge to its success.
Moreover, this gap has caused more challenges in the Union as economic turmoil ravages most of its members. Besides, small economies are competing for help from big economy States although their citizens are not ready to comply with some economic reforms. It therefore remains to be seen how they will respond to these challenges (Sissenich 1).
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Europa.eu. “Enlargement: European Commission”. ec.europa.eu. EU, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/index_en.htm>.
Pereira, Manuel. “European Workshop: The Challenges of EU’ Enlargement on Science Literacy and Development”. hsci.info. HSCI, 24 July 2004. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <http://www.hsci.info/enlargement/ENLARGEMENT.html>.
Sissenich, Beate. “Challenges of European Union Enlargement”. apcentral.collegeboard.com. AP Central, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/courses/teachers_corner/32073.html >.
Trichet, Jean-Claude. “EU Enlargement: challenges and opportunities”. ecb.int . ECB, 27 OCT. 2004. Web. 9 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ecb.int/press/key/date/2004/html/sp041027.en.html>.