Why the European Union?
a. Members and Membership Conditions, European Values
In this lesson, participants are going to find out about why the idea of a European union was ever created.
We will find out what’s the idea behind EU, what does it represent, which countries it consists of, how to join and what values does it stand for.
Lesson time foreseen
80 minutes = 2 lessons
- World war I lasted from 1914 to 1918. It spread from Europe to Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, China, Indian Ocean, and off the coast of South and North America. It caused more around 20 million deaths.
- World war II lasted from 1939 to 1945. It spread from Europe to Pacific, Atlantic, South-East Asia, China, Middle East, Mediterranean, North Africa and Horn of Africa, briefly North and South America. It caused more than 70 million deaths.
• The first phase of European integration (1945-1959) began in the immediate post World War II era. A “political agenda” to draw together a divided Europe and usher in a period of peace was accomplished beginning with the Marshall Plan from the United States. This political cooperation was facilitated by economic cooperation and NATO.
• The second phase of the development of the European Union (1960-1999) was expansion from the initial six-member states to 15-member states that began the process of reuniting Eastern and Western Europe after the collapse of communism between 1989 and 1991 and the end of the Cold War.
• Today Europe is defining its role as a world leader in the 21st Century both politically and economically. During 2000-2013, the EU grew from 15 to 28-member states.
The longest period of peace and stability in Europe’s written history – 70 years since the end of World War II – started with the formation of the European Communities.
In recognition of its role in helping to transform most of Europe from ‘being a continent of war to becoming a continent of peace’, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
For Europe, peace matters everywhere: in a world with more than 40 ongoing armed conflicts, the EU is the largest contributor of contingents to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
In 1957, only twelve of the current EU Member States were democracies. Today, there are 28.
The EU is the largest union of democracies in the world.
All citizens of the Union have the right to vote and to stand as candidates in elections to the European Parliament, as well as in municipal elections, regardless of where they live.
Six of the top ten countries in terms of voter participation in the world are EU Member States.
Following the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, France requested mutual assistance from Member States to fight the terrorist threat. The response was instant and unanimous.
Within less than two weeks, several Member States, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia, had already agreed to provide military assistance for operations against the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq, or for other European Union security and defence missions. Other Member States rapidly followed suit.
European solidarity also extends to economic matters: in more than ten countries, EU funding accounts for more than 40 percent of total public investment.
Freedom is one of the core values of the EU, enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. Among others, it gives citizens the right to move and reside freely within the Union.
Individual freedoms are protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, comprising, respect for private life, freedom of thought, religion, assembly, expression and information.
EU Member States represent one third of all free countries in the world.
Europe is by far the freest continent globally and tops international freedom of press rankings.
The EU is home to 24 official languages and over 60 indigenous regional or minority languages.
The EU is based on the concept of ‘unity in diversity’. National identity is protected by Article 4(2) of the Treaty of the European Union. In order not to infringe on national or regional competences, the EU has enshrined the principle of ‘subsidiarity’, ensuring that action at European level addresses issues that cannot be resolved by Member States on their own, such as air pollution.
Europe’s wealth of cultural attractions has made it the world’s top tourist destination. In 2015, France, Spain and Italy ranked number one, three and five respectively in a global survey of international tourist arrivals worldwide.
From the beginning, European integration has been based on the principle ofnon-discrimination, which underpins all European policies.
Equality between women and men is one of the European Union’s founding values. It goes back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. The gender pay gap has been narrowed down to 16 percent.
Today, there are more women graduating from European universities than men.
European women have the world’s highest average score in the Personal Freedom Index.
EU membership has resulted in increased and shared prosperity. Average GDP per capita in the Union has almost doubled over the past twenty years. The increase has been over tenfold for some of the poorest members.
10 million jobs were created between January 2013 and September 2016 so that the EU27 employment rate stands at an almost all-time high of 69.7 percent.
The euro is the second most important global reserve currency, with almost 1.5 trillion euro held by central banks around the globe.
As Europeans, we are free to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe. Thanks to the Single Market, flights are cheaper, traveling is less bureaucratic and the cost of making and receiving a call when abroad is now 73 percent cheaper than in 2005. Roaming charges will soon be abolished altogether.
6.5 million Europeans are currently working in another EU Member State.
Since its establishment in 1987, the Erasmus programme has given 9 million people the chance to study, train, volunteer or gain professional experience abroad.
The EU has the highest rate of early childhood education among G20 countries, with 94.3 percent of children aged four or more enrolled in school before compulsory education starts.
Since 1972, when the first European environmental policy was launched, the EU has tackled the problems of acid rain and the thinning of the ozone layer.
Today, European cities have among the lowest air pollution levels worldwide, largely thanks to early bans on pollutants such as lead in petrol. Recycling of waste in Europe’s municipalities has increased from 30 percent in 2004 to 43 percent in 2014. 96 percent of our beaches are clean enough to swim at and 85 percent received the ‘excellent’ label.
In the fight against climate change, the EU has demonstrated that sustainable development and economic progress can go hand in hand. It has cut CO2 emissions by 22 percent between 1990 and 2015, while growing its economy by 50 percent.
Between 2010 and 2015, the EU invested more in developing renewables than any other energy source. There is now three times more renewable power installed per person than the world average.
The European social model has acted as a powerful equalising force, erasing a significant amount of market income inequalities, ranging from 22 percent in Estonia to 43 percent in Ireland, against just 18 percent in the US or 15 percent in Japan.
Citizens of the EU live more than eight years longer than the world average (life expectancy at birth in the EU28 is 79.6, against 71.4 worldwide).
All EU workers are entitled to four weeks paid holiday a year. In countries like Canada and Japan, the initial annual paid leave entitlement is just ten days, whereas in the United States there is no statutory minimum paid leave.
What’s more, all European women have the right to at least 14 weeks maternity leave and all parents have individual entitlement to parental leave on the grounds of the birth or adoption of a child.
• United Kingdom
• Czech Republic
The EU covers over 4 million km².
The EEA includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market.
On 1 January 2017, the population of the European Union was estimated at 511.8 million.
Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, and Swedish are all official languages at the national level in multiple countries (see table above). In addition, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Slovak, and Slovene / Slovenian are official languages in multiple EU countries at the regional level.
Becoming a member of the EU is a complex procedure which does not happen overnight. Once an applicant country meets the conditions for membership, it must implement EU rules and regulations in all areas.
The Treaty on the European Union states that any European country may apply for membership if it respects the democratic values of the EU and is committed to promoting them.
The first step is for the country to meet the key criteria for accession. These were mainly defined at the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 and are hence referred to as 'Copenhagen criteria'. Countries wishing to join need to have:
• stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
• a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU;
• the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.
The EU also needs to be able to integrate new members.
In the case of the countries of the Western Balkans additional conditions for membership, were set out in the so-called 'Stabilisation and Association process', mostly relating to regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.
What is negotiated?
The conditions and timing of the candidate's adoption, implementation and enforcement of all current EU rules (the "acquis").
These rules are divided into 35 different policy fields (chapters), such as transport, energy, environment, etc., each of which is negotiated separately.
Other issues discussed:
• financial arrangements – such as how much the new member is likely to pay into and receive from the EU budget (in the form of transfers)
• transitional arrangements – sometimes certain rules are phased in gradually, to give the new member or existing members time to adapt.
Quiz on EU http://europa.eu/teachers-corner/quiz_en
Ode to joy (Beethoven 9th symphony): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo_-KoBiBG0
Show the interactive map on https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries_en#tab-0-1
The European story (pdf)