This essay will try to explain the uncontested process of European integration pointing out the difficulties involved.
In order to answer this question it is important to distinguish between the different dimensions of European identity as well as to establish what exactly we mean by the term ‘Europe’. Looking critically at the term basic distinctions can be drawn between three totally different conceptions where each of these usages has its own complications, contradictions and divisions. These involve ideas of Europe as a geographical entity, Europe as a sequence of ideas and Europe as a project.
The first use of the term seems to be simple as the idea of a stretch of land that covers from the Atlantic through to the Ural Mountains that constitutes a geographical entity called’ Europe’. Firstly Britain, Ireland or Malta are islands that exist off the coastline of mainland Europe, but form part of it. Secondly, we have the question of the inclusion of the transcaucasian countries like Armenia or Georgia.
The second use of the term refers to ‘Europe’ as a sequence of ideas, a system of values or beliefs that characterise what Europe is all about socially, culturally and politically. It emphasises things from the aspect of religion by focusing on Christendom, or analyse it from the political point of view for example through liberal democracy. Europe has been associated with a set of ideals that are seen as a positive set of values and also with some negative elements.
And then the third usage of the term the idea of a European project that is to create a united, peaceful and successful economic entity of ‘Europe’ through the idea of the European Union. However, there were several projects launched for European integration during history such as Napoleon’s ambition to unite Europe under French rule or a modern ‘project for Europe’ after the First World War but, like the League of Nations, made little headway against established state interests (Lewis and Brown, 2005pg.26).
‘Europe has never existed. It is not the addition of sovereign nations met together in councils that makes an entity of them. We must genuinely create
Europe.'(Jean Monnet, 1950)
The process of European integration began shortly after the Second World War with two initial primary objectives: to reconstruct the war ravaged Europe, and to create a unified region promoting peace, development and democracy. These objectives were set out to help prevent the rise of totalitarian regimes and the outbreak of armed conflict on the European continent. On 9 May 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, inspired by the visionary ideas of Jean Monnet, proposed the creation of a supranational European institution to co-ordinate the French-German production of steel and coal.
This date is seen as the most important step in the process towards European unification. Six countries, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg responded to Schuman’s declaration and on the 18th of April in 1951 they signed the Treaty of Paris establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).This comprehensive economic integration of the coal and steel industries was intended to lead eventually to a political union. Then in 1957, the European Atomic Energy Community was formed by the same six countries trying to encourage the growth of the peaceful use of nuclear power.
Signing of the treaty of Rome in 1957 also created a range of common policies and some forms of governance. Governance is generally to denote the processes and institutions by which a political system maintains itself in existence and seeks to achieve certain objectives (Lewis and Brown, 2005pg132). The first pan-European governance being implemented was The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This policy had five main objectives, to increase agricultural productivity to ensure a fair standard of living for farmers, to stabilise markets, to guarantee available of supplies, to ensure fair prices for consumers. It was hoped that CAP would be able to achieve the objectives by regulating the agricultural industry within the EU. In 1958; on 1 January the European Economic Community (EEC) was created. This community withdrew all tariffs between the six countries. Not only did it allow the free flow of goods, but also of labour and capital, between the six countries.
Later in 1979 the European Monetary System was established and aimed towards a single currency. This policy had a difficult aim, as many barriers still remained between countries, although some had been removed. For example the French government would only purchase computers from a French manufacturer. While the UK only bought military equipment from UK companies. Later in 1985 members of the EU signed the Single European Act. This made members remove all trading obstacles. However modern European identity can be defined to a large extent by reference to non-European others, either internal or external, and the contemporary idea of ‘united Europe’ continues to emerge as a problematic process .
If we look at Europe and the European Union there are certain things that definitely unite them geographically, socially, economically. At the same time there is diversity within these states and societies, such as religious, political, ethnic and regional divisions. For instance there are division between the mainly Roman Catholic south part, the mainly Protestant north and the Greek Orthodox area of the east of the European Union. There are economic division between the more agricultural south and the industrialised northern part of the Union. There are political divisions between different parts of the EU in terms of democracy, for instance between Poland and France where democracy does not have the same conditions. So the whole area of the European Union is characterised by similar things that unites them and things that stress division, therefore makes them diverse at the same time.
The second theme is the question of conflict and consensus within the EU. However there is a basic agreement throughout members of the European Union in a sense of a name for economic and political stability. As Jean Monnet was arguing, the aim was to make war impossible in Europe and that is one thing that all members and all the people of Europe would hold in common. At the same time there are important conflicts within the European Union as some of the member states want to continue the expansion to include Turkey and the states of the former Republic of Yugoslavia as full members as quickly as possible.
Others are more sceptical, perhaps seeing a threat to the wealth of the existing members, and perceiving problems with migration from the east to the west. Some members want more power to the EU, not just a common currency but perhaps a federal Europe while others would not support that development. Again some people in the European Union see Europe as a union of business stressing the commercial motivation involved, whereas other equally strong supporters of the European Union have seen it as a great defender of workers’ interests, as something moving towards a more social democratic Europe.
Another difficulty with integration is the question of tradition and transformation. Modern Europe identified itself with traditions of civilization, there are traditional national identities, and we can see that in many members demanding or reasserting their own identity. The fear of the nations is that somehow their language can be threatened by developments of the European Union. Some areas are reasserting tradition such as in Scotland where they’re using membership of the European Union to re-establish as well as to maintain traditions. At the same time there is undoubtedly transformation of urbanization, and industrialization taking place. There are several changes in technology that mean that communications are now very easy to establish between areas, increase of tourism; increasing movement of people in every sense between them. Such processes contributed to the rapid pace of European modernization.
The fourth theme of integration is the contemporary patterns of exclusion and inclusion which refer partly to physical location, but elements of social ranking are also closely involved (Lewis and Brown, 2005pg36).Many people are unhappy with the exclusion of what they regard as the’ outsiders’ to Europe and the European Union, for instance the northern part of Africa and parts of Eastern Europe such as Ukraine and Belarus. And there are also issues in terms of certain people like gypsies and migrants that even if they are in states that are within the European Union there is resentment against them in attempts to exclude them from full statehood and full citizenship and so on. One current issue is that of the two-speed Europe that some proponents are advocating. That so some states and some people will be more included than other.
These different themes are intimately related and the further transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, that began with the collapse of the communist regime in the period of 1989-1991, opens up radically new perspectives on the possibility of a more inclusive Europe. All of the above movements that took place in developing the EU created a common market, which allowed free movement of goods and services, and factors of production creating harmony between the member states of the EU.