Free «The EU from the Past until Now» UK Essay Sample
International economic integration is a characteristic feature of the present world economy. At the end of the twentieth century, it became a powerful tool of the rapid development of regional economies and enhanced competitiveness in the global market of countries-members of integrated groups. The process of European integration has a long history. From the very beginning and until now, the EU has transformed from a union of countries trying to strengthen their position on the continent and in the world to one of the greatest powers on the same level with the USA in America and Japan in Asia. One of the main similarities why different states decided to join the EU in the period from 1945 to 1957 and at the modern times remains the economic reason. It is not a surprise that after integration all members have gained great commercial success. As for differences, one must admit that new countries of the union in the twenty-first century had also other reasons, namely, the European way of life, democratic trends, and cultural peculiarities.
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The idea of united Europe was based on thoughts of European politicians, and only in the second half of the twentieth century, it found its practical implementation. It is explained by the fact that integration cannot be a product of political will; certain prerequisites are required to develop it. “It is insufficient unless there exists a ‘European integration’ political space, in the sense that opinions about European integration and/or the EU may be sensibly ordered along a single dimension” (Ray, 2007, p.13). In the past, the ideological and political basis of European integration was the understanding of the common historical destiny of Europe, unity of the European and Christian civilization, the same type of social and political regimes of Western European countries, and the weakening of the dependence of the latter on the United States.
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The European Union is a clear example of vertical integration, which has several aspects: economic, political, and military. It has been actively developed since the early 50s. Its beginning marked the implementation of the Marshall Plan. “European integration was not only conceived as an alliance of interests but was also founded on values and ideals, that is to say, on an ethical vision which rose above political convenience and ever-changing power games” (Areliza, 2009, p. 11).
Currently, the European Union is a unity, which has no full analogs. It is a powerful geopolitical and economic center of the world. European countries are linked by strong ties, rights of communities, general institutions and close economic relations in a single domestic market space. However, the current stage of integration processes and the desire to join the EU are related to the presence of certain challenges that require a quick and adequate response. Globalization is the most common issue, which erodes the social and cultural framework of European integration processes, speeding up individualization. As a result, the indigenous foundations of the Western civilization, namely, the family, church, Protestant ethics, Catholic traditionalism, political multi-party system, and nation-states, are losing their influence. The rapid aging of the population in Europe, low birth rate, and the influx of immigrants have caused a palpable violation of ethnic and cultural balance in society and in general a decline in the quality of life of certain groups of people. It is compounded with a rise in extremism and right-wing radicalism, the victory of radical parties in elections to state bodies, and, as a consequence, the spread of the phenomenon of euro-scepticism. There is a huge difference between the objective reality to be “European” and the subjective sense of European self-awareness. Residents of the EU of course understand dissimilarities in lifestyles, cultures, and worldviews, but nothing has been mentioned about the true European identity. The last EU enlargement to the East has become an unbearable economic burden for its leading members. The situation of citizens’ distrust of the pan-European government is also aggravated due to the exacerbation of a political struggle among European institutions and their weak coordination.
From 1945 to 1957, Western Europe had the fastest development of integration processes. Entrepreneurs of a number of European countries affected by war sought to expand relations with each other, unite their efforts to increase production, preserve old markets and to win new ones. “The Single European Act in 1986 was the first major step towards a common market since the Treaty of Rome in 1957” (Ogrokhina, 2015, p. 57).
Considering the current causes of integration, it must be noted that all parties participating in the integration process have their own interests and try to solve their own problems. There are many such reasons, in particular, the desire to gain access to the foreign sales market and cheaper inputs, improving terms of trade, reducing the cost of production, achieving sustainable economic growth, and attracting foreign direct investments and companies, which are more likely to enter large markets. Non-economic objectives are also important and include establishing a friendly relationship with neighboring countries, strengthening cooperation in cultural, scientific, social and political fields, as well as increasing power on the world political and economic arena, because the opinion of such communities has much more influence than individual countries. In addition, many less developed countries consider integration as a method of initiation to the economic and technological experience of richer neighbors, as well as a guarantee of political and economic stability in the process of economic reforms.
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In conclusion, summarizing the aspects above, the majority of Europeans has a more positive attitude towards the expansion of the European Union and recognizes the importance of this process, understanding that the larger the Union, the more important its role on the geopolitical arena of world politics. Since the middle of the twentieth century, new members are still interested in integration processes in order to raise the standards of living and strengthen their economic position. It is obvious that national states are looking forward to the realization of their own national interests in the process of integration, but not the implementation of hypothetical supranational goals.