Téma: The European Union
Zaslal(a): Radomír Gálíček
The EU is a group of 28 member states from all over Europe. The aim of the EU is to create a political and economic community across Europe, to promote and expand cooperation in economics and trade, social issues, foreign policy, security and defence, and judicial matters. Another major goal is to implement the economic and Monetary Union which introduced a single currency, the euro, for EU members. Another important principle is the open border policy. This means people from the EU are free to travel, work or live in other member states without needing a visa.
The EU was formally established in 1993. The EU headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
The EU is thought to have begun in 1951 when France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Paris and created the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The basic aim of this community was to make war among the members impossible. The next step was the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC). This organisation set out a common economic and agricultural policy. The UK, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal and Spain joined this community. In 1992 the governments of the 12 member states signed the Treaty on the European Union, commonly called the Maastricht Treaty. This Treaty transformed the EC into the EU on January 1, 1993. In 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU. In May 2004 10 more countries took up membership bringing the number of EU member countries to 25. The new members were Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the total number of EU countries increased to 27.
To be allowed to join the EU, a state must meet certain rules, called the Copenhagen criteria, such as having democratic government, a functioning market economy, and guaranteeing human rights.
The Schengen Agreement was adopted in 1985 and later expanded to include most continental European nations. There are no border controls within the Schengen Agreement area, so EU citizens can travel from one country to another without a passport. Not all EU members are part of Schengen Agreement (e.g. the UK and Ireland did not sign it) and not all Schengen States are in the EU (e.g. Switzerland and Norway).
The EU symbols:
The EU flag is the symbol not only for the EU but also of Europe’s unity and identity in a wider sense. The circle of gold stars on the royal blue background represents solidarity and harmony between the people of Europe. The number of stars has nothing to do with the Member States. There are 12 stars because the number 12 is traditionally the symbol of perfection, completeness and unity. The flag therefore remains unchanged regardless of EU enlargements. The anthem (Ode to Joy) is the anthem not only for the EU but of Europe in a wider sense. The melody comes from the Ninth Symphony by Ludwig Van Beethoven. The Europe day is celebrated on the 9th of May. This day has become a European symbol. It is an occasion for activities and festivities that bring Europe closer together to its citizens and people of the EU closer to one another. Another EU symbol is the Motto: United in diversity.
The EU is a political as well as economic organization. The major bodies of the EU are the European Commission, The Council of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors.
The European Commission is the highest administrative body in the EU. It proposes policy and laws for the Council to discuss and carries out Council’s decisions. It is also responsible for the day-to-day running of the Community.
The Council of the EU represents the national governments. It is the primary decision-making authority of the EU, and the most important and powerful body of the EU each member country has a seat in the Council. Usually a country is represented by its Minister of foreign Affairs, but other ministers can be delegated.
The European Parliament is made up of 785 members who are directly elected by the citizens of the EU for a period of 5 years. It can make corrections or suggest changes to laws before they are passed by the Council. The seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg (France).
The European Court of Justice is the judicial arm of the EU. It interprets the single market laws or decides on their meaning and how they should be carried out. It also makes sure that other EU institutions work according to these laws. The seat of the European Court of Justice is in Luxembourg.
The Court of Auditors is made up of 27 members, one from each member state. The court oversees the finances of the EU and insures that all financial transactions are carried out according to the EU budget and the laws.
Another important EU body is the European Central Bank, which is located in Frankfurt, Germany. It has authority for EU monetary policy (setting the interest rates or regulating the money supply).
The euro is the monetary unit of the EU. The euro went into circulation in 2002 and replaced the currencies of most EU members. The euro is divided into 100 cents. Euro notes are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. Coins are issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros. The bills are identical in all countries. But each country issues its own coins that have a unified design on one side and a national design or emblem of the country on the other. The benefits of the euro currency are that the citizens can travel within the EU without exchanging currencies and comparing the prices more conveniently.