From the inception of the European Union, there have always been competing visions of
its end-goal, as well as disputes as to the best means of getting there. The pioneering
states have been in the vanguard of those urging a more federalist approach, although
interpretations of what this implies differ considerably. Britain has usually been regarded
as the staunchest supporter of intergovernmentalism.
In this chapter, we briefly review the history of the Community and its evolution into a
Union, noting the nature, pace and direction of change. Finally, we consider some issues
concerning the way ahead, following the failure to achieve ratification of the
Constitutional Treaty in 2005.
Supporters of the European Union argue that its growth is a force for peace and democracy. They point out that the wars which were a periodic feature of the history of Western Europe have ceased since the formation of the European Economic Community in the 1950s. Others contend that peace in Europe since World War Two is the product of different causes, such as the moderating influence of the United States and NATO, the need for a unified response to the threat from the Soviet Union, the urgency of reconstruction after World War Two and a collective temporary tiring of waging war.
In more recent times, the European Union has been extending its influence to the East. It has accepted several new members that were previously behind the Iron Curtain, and has plans to accept several more in the medium term. It is hoped that in a similar fashion to the entry of Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1980s, membership for these states will help cement economic and political stability.
The setting up of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 was an attempt to achieve unity in Europe by mutual consent rather than by force and because of its success the Six decided to further their experiment. The Treaty of Rome (1957) which brought about this development was a landmark in postwar Europe, for it created a common market in which the members were prepared to sacrifice some of their economic independence in the cause of closer economic and political harmonisation.
The Common Market was a means to an end, not the end in itself. The aim of the Rome Treaty was economic unity. It does not directly mention political unity, but it is quite impossible to divorce economics from politics in this context. Governments are by their nature political and decisions on economic matters