The EU has transformed international relations in Europe. Discuss

Topics: European Union, European Economic Community, European Coal and Steel Community Pages: 10 (3590 words) Published: April 10, 2014
The EU has transformed international relations in Europe. Discuss


The European Union (EU) is widely regarded as the most advanced project of regional integration in the world. Predisposed by the aftermath of World War II, European nations have embarked on a path of strong multilateralism in forming the EU’s predecessors – the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). These communities and subsequently the Union have pervaded the relations between the European nations, their policy-making, governance and even “Europeanized” national societies to some extent. Born in the aftermath of the World War II, the founders of the ECSC and the EEC had a bold vision of not only pooling some economic sectors under the supervision of a supranational ‘High Authority’ but also of creating “an ever closer union” among the peoples of Europe. Historical and geographical factors certainly played a role in those historical acts but such a predisposition to engage in cross-border regime-building seems to be connected to a political culture of investing in institutionalised cooperation with neighbours and partners. Before they joined the Communities member states made decisions for themselves on most matters. It is not easy, especially for large states or for states that believe themselves to have special interests, to have to cede sovereignty by transferring decision-making responsibilities to a multinational organisation in which other voices may prevail. Sixty three years later, after a number of successes and crises, the EU has transformed relations between its member states and even the states themselves. The EU can be seen in the context of political forces that have made it or are still making it. Some of these forces have pushed member states together, while others have resulted in progress towards cooperation and integration sometimes being slow, difficult and contested (Nugent, 2010, p. 1). This essay examines how the European Union and its predecessors have transformed relations between the European states on more than one level. It goes further to argue that the EU has transformed those relations much more than states anticipated, in a specific way, a way which regular internationalisation forces could not have achieved. From historical divisions to forming a Community

Throughout its history Europe has been through periods of tension or conflicts much more often than periods of harmony. Until after the Second World War rivalry and distrust prevailed in the relationships between most of the states. As a continent divided by languages, different historical experiences and cultural traditions the European states and people developed distinct identifications and loyalties. Varying political systems, economic and political differences further divided states apart. There were significant economic divisions as well. From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution until the middle of the 19th century Britain was in a dominant position whereas commerce and industry are concerned. Gradually its standing was challenged – by Germany, Belgium, France and others. By the early years of the 20th century competition between these countries for overseas markets was fierce. (Nugent, 2010, p. 4) Two world wars of unprecedented scale of destruction were fought in the 20th century. Both of them started as European wars – fuelled by nationalism, territorial and power ambitions. Though multilateral and bilateral treaties, agreements, and pacts existed, there was little overall pattern to them and few had any lasting effect. In such an international climate forging alliances or linkages were seen as acts with a national agenda in mind. The League of Nations – an intergovernmental organisation established in 1919 with a goal of providing collective international security failed. It failed as states wanted different things from it and were prepared to exercise their veto power or...

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