This March (2007) marked the 50th anniversary of the European Union (EU), established under the Treaty of Rome. Today, there are 27 member countries with three candidate countries waiting to join. These member countries have set up common institutions to which they have delegated some of their sovereignty.
However, while the EU may appear united, tension exists among the member states regarding sovereignty. This has led to disagreements over EU policies. One important example is the proposed EU Constitution. The hope is to have a treaty that establishes a constitution for Europe to replace all existing treaties with a single text. This must be ratified by all the members, but two member countries, France and the Netherlands, rejected it in 2005.
Another example of discord among the EU members is the fact that the U.K., Denmark, and Sweden have not joined the Eurozone, which consists of members that have adopted the euro as the official currency. In contrast, Slovenia adopted the euro in January 2007.
This lack of harmonization in a purportedly harmonized organization presents challenges for researchers. Are you looking at an EU-wide issue or one that requires individual country research? For example, you may need to know the future of particular legislation or policies within a certain sector. Or, you may need to know whether a particular member will adopt an EU policy or retain its own until a compromise can be reached. There are several ways to stay current with European Union affairs and policies.
EUROPA: GATEWAY TO THE EUROPEAN UNION
The official gateway to the European Union is EUROPA (http://europa.eu/index_en.htm). Click on "The EU at a glance" on the left side for background information about the EU, such as how the EU is organized with a list of its institutions.
The Your Europe section (http://ec.europa.eu/youreurope/index_en.html) contains two useful sections: Information for Citizens and Information for Business. These sections can be useful for researching policies within the EU as well as policies at the national level. For example, suppose you are researching product-safety policies and regulations within the EU. Access Information for Citizens. On the left side, click on "Consumer protection" and then "Product safety." You will find The Protection Provided By Community Law, which consists of a listing of general rules, reference to official directives, liability, and damages, etc., within the EU.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to search for product-safety policies within a specific country. There will be general information on national provisions as well as references to official texts. This is useful to compare any differences in policies between EU and national regulations.
Information for Business contains information aimed at businesses and entrepreneurs working within the EU. Topics include registering companies, taxes, business directories, and employment laws.
EU PRESS RELEASES
EUROPA has a press room (http://europa.eu/press_room) containing the latest press releases, agendas, speeches, and actions taken by the various institutions. Click on "Last 7 days" at the bottom of the page for these.
On the top, you can choose Midday Express, which is news from the communication directorate general's midday briefing. For example, it contains clearances granted for mergers. There are also lists of meetings and publications, among other resources. Rapid Database, which allows you to do an advanced search, is also on top. You can search by any type (speech, press release, Eurostat, agenda, etc.), institution, date range, and keyword. Categories include the following:
* Daily News of the European Parliament
* Press Release
* Midday Express
* Court of Justice
* European Investment Bank
This is useful if, for example, you are keeping track of a particular case before the Court of Iustice or you need statistics for a specific sector such as trade. …