The European Union
The European Union is a political and economic organization founded in 1950 with Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, and Italy as the founding members. European Union was a group formed out of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was aimed at finding a solution to revive the region’s industry which was left staggering after the Second World War.
The European Union’s main objective is to promote international economic cooperation which can help in putting an end to the ongoing conflicts within the region. Nowadays, the European Union is composed of 27 member states which is constituted by half a million people and is considered as the world’s largest economy today. Through the European Union, a single market has been established wherein all member states are expected to operate under the standardized system of laws and policies set by the organization. This step was taken by the proponents of the European Union in order to guarantee freedom of movement in delivering goods, services and capital for the member states. In addition to this, the union also provided common policies that could encompass all the needs of the member states, including trade, agricultural and fisheries, and regional development policies.
In addition to these policies, member states of the European Union operate within a policy of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, which strengthened the bond among the member states of the organization. The European Union also developed their own set of foreign policy, which became the organization’s foundation in representing the member countries in international organizations like the World Trade Organization, United Nations and G8 summits. As such, the developments and progress made within the European Union became the basis of the euro, rising as the world’s strongest currency, gaining an advantage against the dollar value.
Although the growth and development that the European Union has achieved, received fair enough amount of recognition from the international community, nevertheless there are still issues and limits that the European Union was not able to address. As such, there have been observations that the organization was not able to properly cater to the needs of individual countries. Some have viewed the way that the European Union has run the organization to be undemocratic, and has rather stripped off the rights of smaller member countries their freedom and right to create decisions that they believed will benefit their own countries and citizens.
The European Union went to exert extended efforts on trying to push in certain rules and policies to member states without giving proper orientation to their members and ensuring that their members have fully approved of the policies that the organization wishes to amend and implement. In addition to this issue, the European Union has difficulties in assessing and allowing new members into the organization. In contrast to the United States-sponsored policies of admission to organizations controlled by the United States which are more accommodating in accepting members, the European Union is rather reluctant and careful in accepting new members (“Charlemagne, Europe’s Marxist Dilemma”).
Although the constitution held by the European Union and the policies and practices that the Union has incorporated were enticing enough to attract European non-member countries to join the Union, the Union rather implemented intensive reforms that made it more difficult to admit new members. As such, the Union formulated new benchmarks and more intense scrutiny programs to assess a country’s qualifications in joining the organization. In addition to this, politics has always intervened with the decisions made by the Union. In the case of Greece, during the deliberation set to decide whether Greece is qualified for membership in the Union, no one among the countries repelled to veto the decision set for it even though only a few members have deemed to believe in the suitability of Greece to become a member of the Union (“Charlemagne, Europe’s Marxist Dilemma”).
Aside from these issues, the European Union was also strongly driven towards imposing their rules and policies to the members of the Union, regardless if some member countries feel that such laws and policies will serve people in their countries less adequately. The Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in June 2008 is a distinct example. The Lisbon Treaty is a rough revised version of the rejected treaty in 2005. This treaty would have allowed the Union to elect a full-time president and would have created a new foreign policy chief to control the distribution of development aid. Although Ireland was not the only country to reject the treaty, nonetheless one vote was enough to reject the entire treaty.
Ideally though, the constitution of the European Union suggests that no treaty can be signed and approved unless all 27 member countries would vote for it. In essence, the constitution gives importance to the democratic ways of ratifying a treaty and spurs an idea of respect towards the decision made by the Irish people. However, with this event, the rest of the efforts made by the leaders of the European Union became directed towards encouraging the Irish government in voting for the second time and persuade them to vote for the treaty (“EU Summit: Rancour in Brussels”).
Thus, the scenarios following the Ireland’s decline led to European Union trying to reverse the effects of the Irish vote. Aside from Ireland, the Czech Republic also voted against the treaty. As such, apart from the Union’s efforts in persuading Ireland for a second vote, the Union also pressured the Czech Republic into reversing their vote. The Union used several tactics in order to coerce the Czech to agree in the treaty. Although the efforts made to persuade the Czech were rather less pronounced and more discrete, the leaders of the organization still believe that by the start of the Union’s next session, Czech will buckle up with their resistance. The European Union is banking on the fact that in the next session of the Union when the Czech holds on the Union’s presidency in January 2009, the Czech government will be forced to accept the treaty (“EU Summit: Rancour in Brussels”).
In the efforts to save the treaty from being totally scrapped, the leaders of the European Union and the active proponents of the Lisbon Treaty made counteractions in trying to persuade the rest of the members of the organization to recast their votes in favor of the treaty. And as such, the French President Nicolas Sarkovy used a rather more peaceful and rational way of attacking the issue and trying to get the Irish vote to sway in favor of the Lisbon Treaty in the second voting.
As such, Sarkovy used economic issues in trying to shed light to the issue. He used the grim economic outlook for the European Union in order to convince Ireland to rethink over its vote made. Sarkovy implied that the second vote being offered to Ireland and other countries which previously voted against the Lisbon Treaty was a second chance given to them in order to allow them to reflect on the possible consequences that might be caused by their negative vote and in turn, to redeem their votes and eventually vote in favor of the treaty.
However, some supporters of the Lisbon Treaty resorted into using philosophy and reason rather than the usual and conventional way of the European Union. Some have argued that the more democratic way of dealing in the Union was to pass the treaty even if Ireland has revoked the treaty (“Democracy in Europe”). Some believed that given the fact that the majority of the European Union favored the treaty, then the Union must be allowed to be passed because it is the more “democratic” way (“The future of the European Union Just Bury It”).
In addition to this retaliation from the supporters of the treaty, the European Union’s political leaders have reacted to the expression of some countries’ unwillingness to pass the treaty. As such, they have reached to the point of threatening members to leave the union if, on the second voting, they would continue rejecting the treaty. Furthermore, the European Union’s political leaders also declared the possibility that Europe’s economy will deteriorate if the treaty will not be passed.
In light of the disagreements that took place within the decision making process in the European Union, certain reactions were spurred that placed the viability and usefulness of the European Union as an organization when it comes to creating and implementing rules. The Irish rejection of the treaty caused the organization body to ponder on the effectiveness of the Union’s rule in amending treaties and laws. They considered the Irish rejection and the consequence of having to veto the entire Lisbon Treaty because of one negative vote as a setback to the European Union’s constitution.
Democracy cannot always go in harmony with efficiency (“The future of the European Union Just Bury It”). This was the statement released by supporters of the Lisbon Treaty after the disappointment that they met when the treaty was not amended. Arguments were centered on the fact that, in the constitution of the European Union which suggests that any amendment cannot be passed without the entire votes of the whole organization body, such rule is utterly inefficient and totally does not support the Union’s aim for carrying out policies which they believed would be of great benefit to the member states of the Union. And as such, supporters of the Lisbon Treaty believed that it should be amended whether or not the Irish body supports it. Because of the incidents that delayed the decision-making in the organization for the sake of upholding the democratic principle held by the European Union, suggestions have been made to amend this part of the Union’s constitution and make efficiency the first priority of the organization.
However, while there were member countries of the European Union who fully believed to the advocacies and principles held by the organization, there are also countries and critics who have thought otherwise. In line with the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and the claim that the Union will not be able to function well without the treaty, critics and international academes believed that even without the treaty, the European Union has been and shall continue to function as efficiently as before. And as such, employing all means of coercion or exerting all of the organization’s member states towards convincing Ireland and other countries that opposed the treaty was utterly nonsense and a waste of time.
And in a more specific sense, the Lisbon Treaty was not at all a perfect pretext for the entire members of the European Union. Like any other treaties composed by the Union, the Lisbon Treaty was likewise a “messy compromise” for the members (“The future of the European Union Just Bury It”). And comparable to the entire constitution of the European Union, the Lisbon Treaty was also unsuccessful in meeting the objectives set by the Union seven years ago.
Although the Lisbon Treaty was not entirely bad with all its contents, nonetheless the provisions set within the treaty are not as useful and efficient as how it is perceived to serve the people within the organization. According to some critics, though the Lisbon treaty might be able to improve a few aspects of foreign policy making and bring in a fairer and more efficient policy of voting for the Union’s members, nonetheless the treaty can not provide full assurance that these changes can fully enhance the current conditions of the European Union’s members (“The future of the European Union Just Bury It”).
Apart from the loopholes found in the Lisbon Treaty, the political leaders of the European Union should be more aware of the differences that lie among the countries that the Union should be catering to. Take for example the case of Ireland. The Ireland did not agree with the basic proposals from the Lisbon Treaty because the Irish government felt threatened with the possible impact that it may occur for small countries like Ireland, or Czech Republic for instance.
The Irish government feared certain things and as such suffered from certain dilemmas that it felt might occur if the treaty has been ratified. The Irish government feared that their country might lose its autonomy and freedom to stand on its own and make decisions for the welfare and benefit of the larger Irish population. In addition to this, the Irish government felt that agreeing to the second voting as suggested by the European Union’s political leaders will imply that the Irish government has been “bullied” enough to succumb to the demands of the organization.
Although the European Union has made decisions in the past that led to the development and growth of the organization’s member states, it is still relevant that each country is being given the handful participation in amending or rejecting the policies that are being imposed to the members. Indeed, the intergovernmental cooperation instilled by the European Union towards its members is highly commendable. However, there are instances wherein the Union must give its members enough space to decide on their own and ponder on the things and decisions that will help emancipate individual countries’ growth.
With the recent developments in the European Union and the continuous and rigid opposition of the Irish government against the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the political leaders stirring behind the European Union must understand that the Irish government has already stood their ground. And although Ireland is relatively a small country compared to the giants that are active in the European Union, the organization’s constitution provides that, as an intergovernmental institution, a full consensus must be attained before passing an amendment. And as such, there are no other ways of convincing Ireland to change decisions. Thus, the perfect time has come for the European Union to drop efforts in trying to reverse the decision that the body has finally come up with. Respecting the verdict of the Irish government would mean moving on to make new amendments that will better cater to the needs of the entire European Union.
“Charlemagne, Europe’s Marxist Dilemma.” 2008. Economist.com. 6 August 2008 <http://www.economist.com/research/articlesbysubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=682266&story_id=11089474>
“Democracy in Europe.” 2008. Economist.com. 6 August 2008 <http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11579372&CFID=15877157&CFTOKEN=76948108>
“EU Summit: Rancour in Brussels.” 2008. Economist.com. 6 August 2008 <http://www.economist.com/research/articlesbysubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=3833071&story_id=11605152>
“The future of the European Union Just Bury It.” 2008. Economist.com. 6 August 2008 <http://www.economist.com/research/articlesbysubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=3833071&story_id=11580732&CFID=15137392&CFTOKEN=92476277>