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European Union (EU)

I. Introduction:

1. European Union (EU):
A union of 27 democratic European nations, committed to working together for peace and prosperity. The member States of the EU have set common institutions to which they delegate some of their sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at the European level.

2. May 9 - Europe Day:
The idea of European integration was first proposed by the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman on May 9, 1950. This day is celebrated annually as the Europe Day.

3. Members:
27France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, Britain, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on January 1, 2007.

4. Countries Negotiating for Membership:
Turkey, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia & Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina are also negotiating for the membership of EU. However, they have to fulfil certain criteria before they are eligible for EU's membership.

5. Five Key EU Institutions:
EU Parliament: Elected directly by the citizens of the member states.

Council of EU:
Representing the Governments of member states.

European Commission:
Driving force, executive body and guardians of treaties.

Court of Justice:
Ensures compliance with the law.

Court of Auditors:
Control the sound and lawful management of the EU budget.

6. Five Other Important Bodies:

European Economic and Social Committee:
Expresses opinions of organised civil society on socio-economic issues.

Committee of the Regions:
Expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities.
European Central Bank:
Responsible for the monetary policy and for managing the euro.

European Ombudsman:
Deals with citizen's complaints about maladministration by any EU institution or body.

European Investment Bank:
Helps achieve EU objectives by financing investment projects.

7.President of European Commission:
Jose Manuel Barroso

8. President of European Parliament:
Joseph Borrell Fontelles.

9. Tasks Handled by the EU:
Matters related to trade, economy, citizen's rights, security, regional development and environmental protection.

10. The EU's Clout:
As a unit the EU has much more economic, social, technological, commercial and political clout than individual efforts of its members. The EU has built a single market and launched a single European currency, the Euro. It is seen as a leading trade power in the world. It has also done commendable work in environment and wildlife protection.

II. EU's Reform Treaty Signed (Lisbon, Portugal, December 13, 2007):

1. Landmark Treaty Aimed at Easing Decision-Making and Integration in an Enlarged EU:
On December 13, 2007, the leaders of the 27-member European Union (EU) signed a landmark Reform Treaty to address the complexities of decision-making and integration of an enlarged EU.

2. Main Aspects of the EU Reform Treaty:

Will Replace the Aborted EU Constitution:
The EU Reform Treaty would replace the aborted EU Constitution. It is a slimmed down version of the European Constitution, rejected by the French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Charter of Fundamental Human and Legal Rights:
The Reform Treaty includes a 50-article Charter of fundamental human and legal rights. The Charter would be legally binding for 25 of the 27 EU members. Britain and Poland opted out as they were against making the Charter binding.

Elected President of the EU Council to Replace the Rotating Presidency System:
Envisages an elected President of the EU Council -comprising all the Heads of State and Government - for a two-and-a-half-year term to replace the cumbersome six-month rotating presidency system.

More Powerful Foreign Policy Chief to Bolster Common Foreign and Security Policy:
Revamped post of a more powerful Foreign Policy Chief to bolster common foreign and security policy. The Foreign Policy Chief would be answerable to EU Governments but is a member of the EU Commission.

Smaller European Commission:
The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, would be cut from the current 27 members to 17. Commissioners would be selected on a rotation system among the States for a five-year term.

Voting System - Votes Allocated to Members According to the Population Size:
The number of votes allocated to members would be according to the population size. The introduction of this voting system has been delayed until 2014 to accommodate Poland’s concerns that the system penalises smaller countries.

Drops All References to EU Flag or Anthem:
In order to assuage eurosceptic fears of another step towards a federal Europe, the Reform Treaty drops all references to EU flag or anthem.

Entry into Force by 2009 After Ratification by Individual States:
The EU Reform Treaty is set to enter into force by 2009 after ratification by individual States through Parliamentary adoption or a referendum. Ireland is the only State where a referendum is constitutionally mandated.

3. Significance of the EU Reform Treaty:

Could End a Six-Year Uncertainty over Political and Institutional Future:
The Reform Treaty signed by the EU leaders in December 2007 could end a six-year period of uncertainty over the political and institutional future of the World’s largest trading bloc, according to analysts. The Treaty was signed after long and acrimonious negotiations between supporters and opponents of closer integration.

Treaty Not a Threat to National Sovereignty of Member States:
The Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates stressed that the Reform Treaty was not a threat to the national sovereignty of member States. The Treaty excludes issues of national autonomy and identity that could turn volatile.

Provision for a More Coherent Foreign and Security Policies:
Analysts point out that the EU Reform Treaty provides provision for a more coherent articulation of foreign and security policies with complete protection for the autonomy of member States.

Greater Power to National Parliaments to Scrutinise Common Legislation:
The EU Reform treaty provides greater power to national Parliaments to scrutinise common legislation.

Provision Safeguarding the Right of Countries to Delay the Implementation of Majority Decisions:
Another significant aspect of the Reform Treaty is giving up the principle of unanimity as the basis of decision-making in many areas. A provision safeguarding the right of countries to delay the implementation of majority decisions was included at the instance of Poland.

III. EU's Economy:

1. Economy May Surpass the US:
The 27-member EU has a $11 trillion plus GDP economy which could soon surpass the US economy, according to analysts.

2. Growing Confidence in the Single Currency Euro:

Steady Rise of Euro as the Second Global Currency after the US Dollar:
There has been a steady rise of the euro as the second global currency after the US dollar, with about 25 per cent share in the global foreign exchange reserves.

Fall in US Dollar Made Euro an Attractive Currency for Holding Foreign Exchange Reserves:
The fall of the US dollar to a record eight-year low against the euro has led to a rethink among Asian and other countries on the dollar as the sole currency for holding foreign exchange reserves. Governments are looking at spreading the risk and hold an increasing proportion of their foreign exchange reserves in euro due to eurozone's global attraction as the world's biggest trading zone with a stable currency.

Eurozone Expanded to 15 Countries:
On January 1, 2008, Cyprus and Malta adopted the euro increasing the number of countries using the currency to 15. The euro has risen more than 11 per cent against the US dollar during 2007. Nine eastern European countries are waiting to adopt the euro as the common currency.

3. Economic Challenges Facing EU:
Rate of Inflation touching 3.5 per cent against the 2.5 per cent parameter set by the European Central Bank. 20 million people unemployed in member States. Concerns that the economic prosperity cannot be sustained for long with Asian economic giants - India and China - fast capturing the European markets.

4. EU to Negotiate FTAs with India and Other Asian Countries:
In April 2007, the EU Foreign Ministers approved mandates for the European Commission to negotiate Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with India, South Korea and the ASEAN. The agreements could add more than 40 billion euro to EU exports annually and provide wide trade opportunities for all sides, according to the EU executives.

5. EU Energy Policy to Tackle Climate Change:
The EU's broad new energy policy would tackle climate change by boosting renewable fuels, cutting consumption and curbing dependence on foreign suppliers of oil and gas.

IV. Conclusion:

1. EU Completes 50 Years:
In March 2007, nearly 500 million citizens of the European Union (EU) commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic founding treaty of Rome of 1957. The pan-European vision was given a concrete shape through the inter-connected process of economic integration, geographical enlargement, rule of law, fundamental civic and political freedoms, and human rights.

2. EU an Enormous Success:
Analysts point out that the establishment of the European Union has been an enormous success. The EU has been an exemplary model of building peace, prosperity, stability and solidarity within a single entity. The 27 members, many of whom fought bloody wars or were separated by ideological divisions, have now joined in a single entity sending a message in the current unipolar world, according to analysts.

3. Voice for Global Peace:
A strong EU can be a voice of global peace and counterweight to the sole superpower, according to analysts. The international community has welcomed the consolidation of European unity and the global stability it promises.

4. India’s Shared Attributes with EU:
India, a multilingual and multicultural, country has shared attributes with EU. It is hoped that an enlarged EU will remain a voice of global peace and respond reasonably to the needs of the developing countries.










Published date : 23 Sep 2009 01:00PM

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