The European Union Explained: Institutions, Actors, Global Impact

The European Union Explained: Institutions, Actors, Global Impact

The European Union Explained: Institutions, Actors, Global Impact

The European Union Explained: Institutions, Actors, Global Impact

Synopsis

This brief and accessible introduction to the European Union is ideal for anyone who needs a concise overview of the structure, history, and policies of the EU. This updated edition includes a new chapter on the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone. Andreas Staab offers basic terms and interpretive frameworks for understanding the evolution of the EU; the overall structure, purpose, and mandate of its main constituent divisions; and key policy areas, such as market unification and environmental policy.

Excerpt

The European Union (EU) today differs considerably from the integration project that began in the 1950s. Initially conceived as a way to safeguard peace and enable economic recovery among six Western European countries, the EU has developed into one of the world’s most formidable trading blocs spanning much of the European continent. Its future, however, is very much in flux. The controversies over the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and disagreements concerning policy reforms and how to finance them evoked fundamental disagreements over the future direction of the EU. The Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis brought economic hardships to many countries which prompted some analysts to conclude that Economic and Monetary Union had indeed been a step too far for European integration. Given the prospect of enlargement to the western Balkans and Turkey, a growing number of member state governments argue for less “Europe,” while others view the events of recent years as compelling reasons for ambitious policy and institutional reforms.

Regardless of the outcome of this debate, the European Union represents a hugely influential vehicle for organizing Europe and constitutes a unique experiment of “deep” international cooperation. Economically, at least until the Eurozone crisis, it has boosted prosperity levels. Politically it has fostered the democratic transition of former fascist and communist dictatorships. It has helped to overcome the artificial division of Europe caused by the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, and has also assumed a global vanguard position in the fight against climate change. On the other hand, the EU has often been criticized for favoring big business over the economic and social needs of its citizens. Others accuse the EU of lacking transparency and accountability in its institutional processes, and . . .

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