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Über dieses Buch

The European Union Illuminated: Its Nature, Importance and Future is addressed to the average educated person. This is because the EU is under great stress due to misconceptions held by the general public, propagated by certain EU political parties, especially by the UK's Conservative Party and UKIP.




The European Union (EU) is going through hard times. Some would even go so far as to claim that it is in the midst of a serious survival crisis. What are the reasons for such concerns? And to what extent are they justified? This book aims to analyse, discuss and illuminate such questions.

Ali M. El-Agraa

1. The EU within Regional Integration Worldwide

The European Union (EU) is a voluntary association whose membership is open to all European nations, provided they have democratically elected governments. At the beginning of 2014, it comprised 28 such nations and it has been getting much closer to encompassing the whole of Europe. Moreover, the EU has decided that Europe’s traditional geographical designation should not be sacrosanct, and so has extended the right to negotiate membership to Turkey.

Ali M. El-Agraa

2. The Passage to the EU

It was established in Chapter 1 that the EU is the most significant and influential of all international economic integration (IEI) schemes. But why have the Europeans pursued IEI? That was one of the questions raised at the end of that chapter. The purpose of this chapter is to provide the answer.

Ali M. El-Agraa

3. Decision-making in the EU

We now turn to the second and third questions raised at the end of Chapter 1. How does the EU reach decisions and what institutions has it created to enable it to achieve its integration aims? Obviously, the two questions have to be tackled together since decisions do not drop from the sky and decisions to promote EU integration have to be implemented through agreed channels.

Ali M. El-Agraa

4. EU Policies

As can be seen from the number of the EU Commission’s Directorates General (DGs; Table 3.1), the EU has a wide range of policies. These policies can be classified into three main groups. The first covers areas that constitute the very foundations needed to facilitate a properly operating Single European Market (SEM). There are six such areas: (a) competition rules; (b) industrial and competitiveness policy; (c) tax harmonization; (d) transport policy; (e) energy policy; and (f) environmental policy. Industrial policy is included because variations in it would be tantamount to affording differing protection to national domestic industry. The absence of tax harmonization would have consequences equivalent to those of disparate industrial policies. Similar considerations apply to transport, energy and the environment. Of course, transport and energy are also dealt with as industries in their own right, as well as providers of social services, and the environment is treated in terms of tackling pollution and the consequent health benefits.

Ali M. El-Agraa

5. The EU General Budget

We now turn to one of the final questions raised at the end of Chapter 1: how does the EU finance its policies? The answer to the question requires an examination of the EU’s general budget, but recall from Chapter 3 that EU institutions, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB), carry out specific EU policies which are financed by their own loans, hence they do not fall under the EU’s general budget; the interested reader is therefore advised to turn to that chapter (endnote number 2).

Ali M. El-Agraa

6. Economic and Monetary Union

I now tackle the final question raised at the end of Chapter 1: what does the future hold for the EU’s ‘economic and monetary union’ (EMU). The answer requires an understanding of what the EMU means, what problems it has been facing and the prospects for its future survival.

Ali M. El-Agraa

7. The Importance of the EU

It was established in Chapter 1 that the European Union (EU) is the most significant and influential of all schemes of international economic integration. This is due to several EU attributes. Because of its Single European Market (SEM), people, goods, services and capital (both money and the right of establishment) are free to move across the entire EU. It speaks with one voice in international trade negotiations through the Commissioner in charge of Trade. Eighteen of its twenty-eight Member States have the same currency (the euro), with the European Central Bank (ECB) in charge of the Eurozone monetary policy, and all the remaining Member States bar two (Denmark and the UK) must join the Eurozone when ready by meeting the Maastricht criteria. It has a system for monitoring and influencing fiscal policy, the Stability and Growth Pact. It has its own budget, financing a wide range of policies. It has a single president of the European Council who speaks on behalf of the entire EU for two and a half to five years. There is no more ‘who to call when one wants to speak to Europe?’ It has, as a member of the Commission, thus in office for five years, a Foreign Policy Chief (High Representative, HR) who deals with all foreign policy matters on behalf of the whole EU and controls a vast diplomatic corps. It has the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) as well as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) with huge funds to assist Eurozone Member States in financial trouble, and it is in the process of creating a banking union.

Ali M. El-Agraa

8. The Future of the EU

The introductory chapter and Chapters 1–7 have together established the nature and importance of the European Union (EU). On the importance of the EU, it was argued in Chapter 7 that if each Member State decided to go it alone, it would stand no chance of coping well, if at all, in a dramatically changing world economic and political order. This implies that the future for the EU is in this respect already predetermined: the Member States need to stick together and to integrate even more in both the economic and political fields if they are to survive, let alone succeed. But has this message struck a sensitive chord amongst the EU political leaders? This final chapter is devoted to providing a somewhat brief answer to this question.

Ali M. El-Agraa


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