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The European Union Explained

Institutions, Actors, Global Impact

Andreas Staab

Publication Year: 2008

The European Union Explained provides a concise overview of the structure, history, and policies of the European Union. Anyone who needs a quick and accessible introduction to the EU -- including scholars and professionals in government, business, media, or the nonprofit sector -- will find this volume a valuable tool. Ideal for advanced high school and college text use, it is also useful background reading for those planning overseas study, work, or research. Drawing on many years of teaching and consulting, Andreas Staab offers basic terms and interpretive frameworks for understanding the evolution of the EU; the overall structure, purpose, and mandate of its main constituent divisions; and key policy areas, such as market unification.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

The European Union (EU) today differs considerably from the integration project that began in the 1950s. Initially conceived as a way to safeguard peace and enable economic recovery among six Western European countries, the EU has developed into one of the world’s most formidable trading blocs spanning much of the European continent. Its future, however, is very...

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pp. xi-xii

This book first took shape as a series of handouts designed for participants of seminars organized by EPIC—the European Policy Information Centre, which itself originated within the European Institute at the London School of Economics, where I taught until the summer of 2000. During that year a number of colleagues encouraged me to establish EPIC as an...

List of Acronyms

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pp. xiii-xv

List of Tables

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pp. xvii-xviii

Part One · The Evolution of the European Union

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pp. 1

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1. Parameters of European Integration

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pp. 3-28

European integration is most frequently associated with the period after the end of the Second World War, as Western European states increasingly cooperated during various developmental stages of the European Union. But the concept of governing Europe actually has a far longer history. From the Roman Empire of Julius Caesar, to Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin, European...

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2. Enlargement

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pp. 29-38

During the 1950s and 1960s the emerging European Union was only one of several alternatives for fostering cooperation among European states. The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) at one stage had more members than the European Union had.1 But when Britain first applied for membership to the European Economic Community in 1961, it became clear that the EU was indeed highly attractive, especially because the development of a unified market...

Part Two · Institutions

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pp. 39

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3. The European Commission

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pp. 41-47

The European Commission is led by the Commission President, with the assistance of twenty-six commissioners, the equivalent of “ministers” at the national level.1 Just as with any national administration, these politicians have staffs made up of many civil servants, the so-called Eurocrats. Whereas the commissioners usually come and go at five-year intervals, the Eurocrats have longer-term appointments, with many staff members...

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4. The European Council

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pp. 48-51

The European Council, commonly termed the “Summit,” is made up of the political leaders of the member states, such as prime ministers, as well as the president of the European Commission. Foreign ministers also attend, but they are not considered members. The Summit usually meets four times a year.1...

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5. The Council of Ministers

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pp. 52-55

The Council of Ministers is a unique political body, having no equivalent in the democratic world.1 It epitomizes the special nature of the European Union as an international organization that balances supranational tendencies but also has to safeguard and represent national interests. Its main objective is to set the EU’s medium-term policy goals. It also...

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6. The Presidency

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pp. 56-58

The Presidency is not an EU institution but a distinctive organizational feature that has a bearing on the workings of the Council of Ministers and the European Council, and therefore profoundly influences the outcome, shape, and direction of EU politics. Every six months a different member state takes its turn in assuming the Presidency of the European...

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7. The European Parliament

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pp. 59-66

The European Parliament stands out as the only directly elected political body in the EU that has seen its powers increased significantly over the last fifty years. Yet, organizational problems persist, which prompt many analysts to criticize the EU’s democratic deficit: the gap in power between executive institutions such as the Council of Ministers, the Commission, and...

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8. The European Court of Justice

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pp. 67-74

Although the ECJ is not explicitly mentioned in the Treaty of Rome, it has twentyseven judges, one from each member state, who are appointed by each member state government for a six-year term. The treaty only mentions that judges must act independently and past records show that decisions have been reached without national biases. The judges are assisted by six advocates general who consider cases and give opinions for...

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9. Checks and Balances

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pp. 75-80

Once in place, a court should be able to rule and act as independently as possible in interpreting and applying law. Throughout its existence, ECJ judges in Luxembourg enjoyed a quiet existence outside the political limelight of Brussels. Granted, legal wrangles have occurred with national supreme courts that often criticized the establishment of a superior European legal order by the ECJ’s case law, but, from an institutional perspective, no...

Part Three · Policies

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pp. 81

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10. The Single Market and Competition

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pp. 83-93

The founding fathers of the European Union envisaged the establishment of a Single Market—the free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor—as a crucial guarantor of peace, stability, and economic progress for a region recovering from the catastrophe of World War II. In the early nineteenth century, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant argued, in Perpetual Peace, that trading nations do not go to war with one another simply because war...

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11. Regional Policy and Cohesion

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pp. 94-100

Cohesion intends to close the prosperity gap between rich and poor, or, more specifically, is the process of reducing economic and social disparities between regions. The EU has 268 regions, 81 in the 12 new member states and 187 in the old EU-15. Some regions are simply synonymous with established historical entities, such as Catalonia in Spain, Tuscany in Italy, or Bavaria...

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12. The Common Agricultural Policy

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pp. 101-111

From its beginnings in the 1950s the Common Agricultural Policy was a cornerstone of European integration, yet it has always been severely criticized. At first glance it seems odd that a program providing for only 2 percent of the EU’s GDP and employing only 5 percent of its workforce should swallow up nearly half its budget. Ever since 1967, when for the first time we had free trade in practically all agricultural products across the European Community, the CAP has...

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13. Economic and Monetary Union

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pp. 112-120

The introduction of a single European currency and the coordination of economic and monetary policies are perhaps the most ambitious aspects of European integration. Without historical precedent, the launch of the Euro in 1999 was awaited with much euphoria, but also some skepticism. This chapter establishes the reasons for launching EMU and points up the criteria that...

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14. Justice and Home Affairs

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pp. 121-127

The Maastricht Treaty added a further dimension to the construction of Europe: Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), which brings together the member states’ ministries of justice and the interior. JHA allows for dialogue and cooperation between police, customs and immigration services, and justice departments. The areas JHA covers are vast and include all internal security issues. Among...

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15. Common Foreign and Security Policy

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pp. 128-136

Discussions on foreign and defense policies in the European Union have often been nebulous, more pretence than substance. Crucial questions of whether and how to move beyond national interests toward a truly supranational authority in foreign policy have hardly been considered throughout the fifty-year existence of the EU. The early failings in the 1950s...

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16. Trade and the Common Commercial Policy

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pp. 137-143

Shoes, pullovers, and food are just three areas in which trade policy has reached the headlines in recent years. The shoes and pullovers have concerned the effects of opening trade with China and the massive increase of cheap Chinese imports that are said to threaten the European shoe and textile industries. Food became an issue as a result of a trade dispute with the United States about whether genetically modified food can be allowed to enter European...

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pp. 144-146

Looking back on more than fifty years of European integration, the EU has clearly transformed the political and economic landscape of Europe. These five decades have witnessed some remarkable successes such as the creation of an internal market of 485 million consumers; some hitherto unimaginable projects, particularly the implementation of a single European...


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pp. 147-160


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pp. 161-164


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pp. 165-171

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253001641
E-ISBN-10: 0253001641
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352330

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008