Sunday, May 02, 2004
Due to the lack of coverage on this topic in North American blogs, the NWB has decided to post a special about EU enlargement.

European Union enlargement -- what is it? what is the history behind it? why is it significant? All your FAQs answered....


Q: How has the European Union changed since its creation?

A: Since its original establishment as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952, the European Union has seen four (five as of yesterday) enlargements, the abolition of all trade tariffs and barriers, the establishment of a Single Market, and the adoption of a single currency, the euro.

Q: Why is the EU significant?

A: Many areas of high politics have been increasingly put under the supranational scope in the EU.
It is indisputable that in its progression from the original ECSC to its present form, the European Union has grown considerably in both the scope and influence it holds over member states. Member states have been advancing towards a project of integration, giving up areas of national sovereignty to the European Union to achieve greater cooperation. In fact, the growing impact of the European Union has been so significant, the term “Europeanization” has been coined to refer to this phenomenon.

Q: How has international politics been affected by the EU?

A: Previously European foreign policy cooperation had been restricted to the European Political Cooperation (EPC) council, a broad institution established in the 1970 Luxembourg Report where “European Community (EC) member states sought to consult one another on foreign policy issues and, where possible, to co-ordinate respective national positions.” Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, the plan for a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) has been launched. While member states still retained sovereignty under the new CFSP, since Maastricht increased cooperation has been established than had previously occurred under the ECP.
However, as the European Union’s official words on the topic explain, “the Union has made less progress in forging a common foreign and security policy over the years than in creating a single market and a single currency.”

Q: Why can't people just agree about what the EU is?

A: The thing is, the EU has been interpreted in several ways. With perhaps what was notable foresight, Ernst B. Haas wrote in 1961 that “The established nation-state is in full retreat in Europe.” Haas’ interpretations were to spark a controversy still in place today about the extent to which European states retain their sovereignty in the face of increasingly influential supranational, European institutions. Nonetheless, while it can no longer be regarded simply as an intergovernmental organization, the extent to which the European Union has succeeded in developing its own authority and autonomy is highly contentious.

As a response to this controversy, several schools of thought have offered different interpretations of the foundation and influence of this institution. These have focused along two axes of debate, mainly realism vs. functionalism, and intergovernmentalism vs. supranationalism. Accredited as the founder of the Functionalist school, Haas had argued as early as 1958 that European governments were increasingly taking part in a process whereby cooperation supplanted competition and heeded the “invisible hand” of integration. Since then, various theorists have come forth attempting to explain and predict the phenomenon of European integration that is taking place.

Q: What is happening right now?

A: As of May 1, 2004, the Eu now has 25 rather than 15 member states. This is a very big deal because the impact of this could have major economic and political consequences not only for the region but for the world.

Q: Where can I find out more?

A: The main European Union site,, has a wealth of information on the topic.


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