Current Trends European Union

Secondary Source Article: Your Textbook Author, Dr. C. Brooks on The European Union, pp 265-267

The European Union. As of this writing, Britain is poised to exit the EU in the near future.

At the start of the postwar boom, most of the nations of western Europe entered into various international groups that sought to improve economic relations and trade between the member nations. Those culminated in the creation of the European Community (EC) in 1967, essentially an economic alliance and trade zone between most of the nations of non-communist Europe. Despite various setbacks, not the least the enmity between French and British politicians that achieved almost comic levels at times, the EC steadily added new members into the 1980s. Its leadership also began to discuss the possibility of moving toward an even more
inclusive model for Europe, one in which not just trade but currency, law, and policy might be more closely aligned between countries. That vision of a united Europe was originally conceived in large part in hopes of creating a power-bloc to rival the two superpowers of the Cold War, but it also encompassed a moral vision of an advanced, rational economic and political system, in contrast to the conflicts that had so often characterized Europe in the past.
The EC officially became the European Union in 1993, and various member nations of the former EC voted (sometimes barely) to join in the following years. Over time, passport controls at borders between the member states of the EU were eliminated entirely. The member nations agreed to policies meant to ensure civil rights throughout the Union, as well as economic stipulations (e.g. limitations on national debt) meant to foster overall prosperity. Most spectacularly, at the start of 2002, the Euro became the official currency of the entire EU except for Great Britain, which clung tenaciously to the venerable British Pound.
The period between 2002 and 2008 was one of relative success for the architects of the EU. The economies of Eastern European countries in particular accelerated, along with a few unexpected western countries like Ireland (called the “Celtic Tiger” at the time for its success in bringing in outside investment by slashing corporate tax rates). Loans from wealthier members to poorer ones, the latter generally clustered along the Mediterranean, meant that none of the countries of the “Eurozone” lagged too far behind. While the end of passport controls at borders worried some, there was no general immigration crisis to speak of.

Unfortunately, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, the EU has been fraught with economic problems. The major issue is that the member nations cannot control their own economies past a certain point – they cannot devalue currency to deal with inflation, they are nominally prevented from allowing their own national debts to exceed a certain level of their Gross Domestic Product (3%, at least in theory), and so on. The result is that it is terrifically difficult for countries with weaker economies such as Spain, Italy, or Greece, to maintain or restore economic stability. Instead, Germany ended up serving as the EU’s banker and also its inadvertent political overlord, issuing loan after loan to other EU states while dictating economic and even political policy to them. This led to the surprising success of far-left political parties like Greece’s Syriza, which rose to power by promising to buck German demands for austerity and by threatening to leave the Eurozone altogether (it later backpedaled, however).
In the most shocking development to undermine the coherence and stability of the EU as a whole, Great Britain narrowly voted to leave the Union entirely in 2016. In what analysts largely interpreted as a protest vote against not just the EU itself, but of complacent British politicians whose interests seemed squarely focused on London’s welfare over that of the rest of the country, a slim majority of Britons voted to end their country’s membership in the Union. The political and economic consequences remain unclear: the British economy has been deeply enmeshed with that of the EU nations since the end of World War II, and it is simply unknown what effect its “Brexit” will have in the long run.

2. Another Historian Writing About more specifically about the Euro (A History of Western Society, Volume C: From the Revolutionary Era …, Volume 3
By John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Haru Crowston, Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, Joe Perry)
In January I, 2002, the residents of many European Union countries exchanged their familiar national currencies for the euro, the newly approved coins and banknotes that signaled the arrival Of the EIJ monetary union. The German deutschmark, the French franc, the Italian Jira, and many others passed into history, collectibles, perhaps, but no longer legal tender.

The move to the euro was one of the most controversial aspects of the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 that reshaped the EU and laid out a timetable for this monetary union, While some countries signed up, Britain, Denmark, and Sweden accepted the main terms of the treaty but refused to join the currency union (or Eurozone, the group of countries that use the new money). Citizens there rejected the euro, fearing its economic impact and its effects on national autonomy.

To join the Eurozone, a country had to maintain stringent economic conditions inflation, tight budgets, and small deficits. In 2013 only seventeen of the EU’s twenty seven member states used the euro as their official currency. The former East Bloc nations, such as Poland and Hungary, that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 were excluded from the Eurozone, and so remained something of second-class members.

The euro raised basic questions about a common European identity, what images could be portrayed on the new coins and bills that would do justice to both membership in a larger European community and the variety of national states that made up what was in fact a very diverse continent? The solution was ingenious. The front of the coins would show the denomination and a map of Europe, but the reverse would portray national images chosen by individual EU members. Thus the two euro coin minted in Ire-
land features a traditional Celtic harp, while that made in France portrays the liberty tree. Banknotes, by contrast, would feature generic architectural images on both sides that looked real but were not, in order to prevent any national prejudice. Thus the arches on the five-euro note resemble a Roman viaduct; the bridge on the ten-euro note resembles a Renaissance bridge; and the glass and steel facade on the five-hundred-euro note resembles a modern urban office building. All are imaginary structures that look “European” but do not actually exist.

Primary Source: Speech by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle of Verdun, May 29, 2016

The French lieutenant Alfred Joubaire was hardly older than you when he lay in a trench near this very spot. He wrote in his diary that “not even hell could be as horrific as this”. With these words, the young lieutenant was attempting to describe the horrors he had witnessed – they were written by a person who should have a long life before him. Only shortly afterwards, Alfred Joubaire was dead – one of the countless casualties of the battle of Verdun.

Behind us is the ossuary, which houses the mortal remains of more than 100,000 unnamed soldiers. Here, we are surrounded by an ocean of graves. To this day, the earth holds remnant bones of young Frenchmen and Germans who were robbed of their lives. The entire landscape still bears the scars of that battle. Here, history is uncomfortably close. Verdun still has us in its grip. Verdun can and must remain in our consciousness. Verdun stands for the sheer horror and senselessness of war.
. . .
After the First World War, efforts were made to create long-term peaceful coexistence in Europe. . .
After the Second World War and the Holocaust, it was more or less a miracle that the door to rapprochement and reconciliation was opened by the signing of the Élysée Treaty in 1963. The bonds of trust established by French President Charles de Gaulle and Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer are invaluable, and they have been passed down to us. More than two decades later, French President François Mitterrand and Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl stood, side by side and holding hands, at the graves of Verdun. This gesture says more than any words could express. It was and still is an expression of deeply-felt solidarity.
Of course, it may sometimes require great effort to extend a hand to others and to familiarise ourselves with their points of view. But only by opening up to one another can we also learn and benefit from each other. That precisely is the key to Europe’s success. It is particularly apparent these days, when we are also witnessing weaknesses in our community. Still, I maintain that the 21st-century challenges we face can only be tackled together.

With European integration, we have left behind us the trenches of enmity. We have gained peace and prosperity. We have overcome quite a number of crises during which we feared the many things we’ve accomplished through integration may forever be lost. After the recent Franco-German Council of Ministers, President François Hollande said: “We have always managed to overcome the obstacles in our path”. That is exactly why today, as well, despite numerous difficulties and setbacks, we can confidently set our sights on the future.

In the European Union, we will at times different opinions on certain issues. That is only natural. However, all sides will benefit if, in the end, we always prove that we are able to reach compromises and adopt common positions. Thinking and acting as pure nation states would set us back. We would not be able to successfully defend our values or promote our interests, neither internally nor abroad. This is true for overcoming the European sovereign-debt crisis, for dealing with the many people who have come to Europe seeking refuge, and for all other great present-day challenges.

We must visibly demonstrate on a daily basis our shared commitment to the fundamental values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Primary Source: Nigel Farage, from “Speech to the European Parliament, 6/28/16”

“You as a political project are in denial. You’re in denial that your currency is failing. You’re in denial — well, just look at the Mediterranean! As a policy to impose poverty on Greece and the Mediterranean you’ve done very well.
“You’re in denial over Mrs. Merkel’s call last year for as many people as possible to cross the Mediterranean into the European Union [which] has led to massive divisions between within countries and between countries.” . . .

“The biggest problem you’ve got and the main reason the U.K. voted the way it did is because you have — by stealth, by deception, without ever telling the truth to the rest of the peoples of Europe — you have imposed upon them a political union.

. . .what the ordinary people did — what the people who’ve been oppressed over the last few years and seen their living standards go down — they rejected the multinationals, they rejected the merchant banks, they rejected big politics and they said, ‘Actually, we want our country back. We want our fishing waters back.

We want our borders back.’ …we want to be an independent, self-governing normal nation, and that is what we have done and that is what must happen. And in doing so, we now offer a beacon of hope to democrats across the European continent. I will make one prediction this morning: the United Kingdom will not be the last Member State to leave the European Union.

Questions

According to the textbook articles, what were the reasons behind increasing unification in Europe after WWII? (5 points)

1b. Angela Merkl also speaks to the issue of European Union, – what does her speech add to our understanding of the reasons for European Union? (5 points)

How do the images portrayed on European coins and banknotes reflect the dilemmas of establishing a workable European identity? (what are the dilemmas?) (5 points)
How is the creation of a European identity similar to the attempts in the early 19th century to create national identities? (5 points)
Compare and contrast an example of a 19th century nationalist symbol with a current symbol of European identity (10 points)

You need to include the 2 images in your assignment.
When you compare and contrast the 2 images you can talk about their message, how it is achieved, and its potency-or lack of.

In Farage’s account, how did the 2016 British referendum express the voice of ordinary Europeans? (5 points)
Based on these 2 speeches, what issues are dividing Europeans, what ideology informs Farage’s view point? (5 points)
And finally, does this European problem have any resonance with Americans today? Are the problems faced by Europeans right now similar at all to problems faced in our society? Explain. (5 points)

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