European integration refers to the process of incorporation of different aspects and characteristics of European nations to form a joint union. The elements include; industrial processes, political features, legal consideration, economic, social and cultural aspects. This integration has been done partially with some European countries (Pelkmans, 2006). The success has come about through the European Union. The alliance was based on the following aspects; economic union, free trade agreements, and the standard market. The free trade agreements eliminated the tariffs and import quotas between the countries. The early steps of European integration were a mix of achievements, failures, and crisis. To solve the crisis, a series of treaties as well as policies were formulated. Different acts were enacted to revive the community. However, an essential step in the European integration process which occurred in the early nineties was the transformation of the European community into a union, i.e., the European Union.
The process of integration began after the Second World War. The process relied heavily on the horrific incidences of the war; this raised favorable conditions to start a new alliance of the nations (Dorfler et al, 2017). Mostly, the western European countries took coordinated actions to the reconstruction of their countries after much weakening from the war. The countries suffered from destroyed economies, infrastructure, and population. There was, therefore, a necessity to defend human rights and democracy. In this integration, states were looking a future of guaranteed security and thus provide an avenue for reconstruction and proper development (Sweet & Sandholtz, 1997).
By 1986 the European community accounted for close to twenty percentage of the world trade. The community had its administrative structure which had an independent regulatory structure which allowed citizens to have direct representation in its parliament. However, this representation was limited. Decisions about trade policies were yet primarily made by government leaders and technocrats (Radielli, 2017). These individuals had little knowledge of the trade policies a factor which led to the integration process remaining uneven. There were barriers to free movement of people and capital in the community. This included varying rates of taxation and different technical, health and quality standards. These conditions challenged the development of a true single market. Economists proposed a common European currency but faced a lot of criticism since a common currency would lead to the loss of a significant move towards political union as well as national sovereignty. EC leaders understood the need for stable exchange rates (Hill et al, 2017). On the other hand, the disagreed on whether the European monetary union or the economic union should come first.
Efforts to develop the European Union were initially challenged by speculation by some leaders who argued that it was impossible to achieve a political union without economic union (Baldwin et al, 2016). However, the collapse of the Soviet Union fuelled further the call by leaders to develop a political union. The decision to form the union was agreed at a summit in Maastricht in December 1991 in a treaty referred to as the Maastricht treaty. The agreement was signed and ratified by twelve member states in February the next year. The convention called for European citizenship, single currency, common defense arrangements as well as cooperation o home and justice affairs.
The European Union made some significant changes to the contract among member states. First, the treaty allowed for the development of three pillars which were aimed at improving the justice and home affairs, increase intergovernmental cooperation among the member states as well as develop a standard and security policy. Secondly, the European monetary union was formed as a result of the treaty. The European Union provided for the formulation of The Delors threes stage plan which was used for the formation of the monetary union (Rosamond, 2010). Thirdly, European Union (EU) responsibility was expanded to newer areas. This includes; transport, education, social policy, consumer protectionism and public health policy. Fourthly, EU allowed for a more significant intergovernmental cooperation between the member states on asylum and immigration. The association was improved through the formation of a European police intelligence agency referred to as Europol. This body was tasked with combating drug trafficking, migration as well as organized crime. EU also provided for the formation of a regional fund which was meant to boost the economies of the weaker states in the union (Bekaert et al, 2017). Fifth, the European Union provided for the creation of EU citizenship. This allowed citizens from member states to attain EU citizenship states thus could work and live wherever they choose. Lastly, EU provided for extraordinary powers to the European parliament. This allowed the European Parliament to debate certain kinds of legislation before the legislation could be passed and adopted as law by the council of ministers (Bekaert et al, 2017).
In conclusion, the European community has evolved widely over the years since its formation. Different steps were taken during the integration to build on an economical and secure foundation for the member states. The effects of the various actions taken in the integration process have had effects on a number of areas in the European economy, i.e., culture, consumer protection, working conditions, agriculture, etc. However, it is important to note that the formation of the European Union in the 1990s has been so far the most crucial step in the integration process. The transformation to a political union has led to the growth of the region economically, politically as well as socially.
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Bekaert, G., Harvey, C. R., Lundblad, C. T., & Siegel, S. (2017). Economic and Financial Integration in Europe.
Dorfler, T., Holzinger, K., & Biesenbender, J. (2017). Constitutional Dynamics in the European Union: Success, Failure, and Stability of Institutional Treaty Revisions. International Journal of Public Administration, 1-13.
Hill, C., Smith, M., & Vanhoonacker, S. (2017). International relations and the European Union. Oxford University Press.Pelkmans, J. (2006). European integration: methods and economic analysis. Pearson Education.Radaelli, C. M. (2017). Technocracy in the European Union. Routledge.
Rosamond, B. (2000). Theories of European integration.
Sweet, A. S., & Sandholtz, W. (1997). European integration and supranational governance.Journal of European public policy, 4(3), 297-317.
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