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At the core level of the EU are the Member States the 28
countries that belong to the Union and their citizens. One of the
unique features of the EU is that, although these nations are all
At the core level of the EU are the Member States the 28 countries that belong to the Union and their citizens. One of the unique features of the EU is that, although these nations are all sovereign in nature and independent countries, they have pooled in some of their sovereignty in order to gain the strength and the benefits. Pooling sovereignty means, in reality, and practice that the Member States will delegate some of their decision-making powers to the shared institutions they have previously created so that decisions on specific matters and issues of joint interest are made democratically at European level. The EU thus sits between the fully designed federal system which is found in the United States and the loose, intergovernmental cooperation system which is seen in the United Nations. The EU has achieved great deeds since it was created in 1950. It has built a single market for goods and services that cover 28 countries with over 500 million citizens free to move and settle as they wish. It created a single currency, the Euro which is now a major world currency, and it makes the single market more efficient. It is also the largest supplier of development and humanitarian aid programs in the world. These are just a few of the achievements that have taken place so far. Looking ahead, the EU is working to get Europe out of the current economic crisis that it is suffering from. It is at the forefront of the fight against climate change and its consequences; as it plans to keep growing, it helps its neighbor countries prepare themselves for EU membership; and it is trying to build a common foreign policy which will do all it can to extend European values around the world. The success of these ambitions will depend on the ability to take effective and timely decisions and to implement them well.
Myth or no?
The self-assessment of the EU's achievements is deeply problematic. Considering the peace and stability, the EU's narrative ignores, the roles played by Germany's unconditional surrender, Anglo-American occupation of West Germany, the rise in the communist threat in the East, and the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationall of which preceded the creation of the first and extremely tentative pan-European institutions. It also timely ignores the EU's failure to deal with the Yugoslav crisis in the early 1990s, which was eventually "resolved" by the application of American military strength.
Moreover, many Europeans have seen the EU as responsible for the growing instability in Europe. They see monetary policy as a source of friction between nation-states, with the relatively well-off Germany and Austria on one side, and of course failing Greece and stagnating Italy on the other side. The same is true of the EU's failure form an effective response to the recent wave of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, thus having pity on the generally welcoming German government against the not so welcoming governments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The role of the Marshall Plan in stimulating the economic growth is, at best, controversial, but omitting it totally from the EU's narrative of Europe's post-war recovery is self-serving. Similarly, Western European economies have begun to recover, as was to be expected, when the war ended and long before the signing of a free-trade agreement known as the European Economic Community in 1958.
That is not to say that intra-European trade liberalization was not at all beneficial. It was, beginning in the 1960s. (The last intra-European tariffs did not disappear until 1968.) . During this time Western Europe benefited from all the domestic reforms, such as the Ludwig Erhard's liberalization of the West German economy in 1948, and the global reduction of tariffs, all under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which began in 1947. The official EU narrative tends to omit all of the above inconvenient facts.
That is not to deny that there is a strong desire for peace and prosperity among European people and their leadership after World War II. Rather, the EU institutions were, for the most part, were not really effect full, and have increasingly become liabilities. As the basic example of Switzerland shows, there is no a priority reason to think that such a weak cooperation between European states, which would follow British withdrawal from the EU, is not really compatible with peace and prosperity.