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This paper will look at the European Union being both a political and economic union made up of 27 independent states. These states include: Austria, Belgium and Bulgaria among others. These states are located primarily in Europe. All of the 27 states are bound by binding laws in exchange for representation in the EU legislative and judicial system.
The birth of EU can be traced back to the European Coal and Steel Community formed among 6 countries in 1951. These countries were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. In 1957, the members signed the treaty of Rome which led to the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). EECs main objective was to create a customs union that favored the member states while EURATOM’s main focus was the development of nuclear energy. On 1st November, 1993, the Treaty of Maastricht was signed. This treaty meant that the EU had formally been established. The last amendment to the EU constitution was in 1st December, 2009 when the members agreed to the Lisbon Treaty. The treaty aimed at changing the legal structure of the European Union. It also stipulated that there should be a permanent president of the European Council which led to Herman van Rompuv being elected as the first president of the European Council. By this time, more states had joined the union.
EU has managed to standardize the system of law, hence established a single market. This standard system of laws is applied to all its members and it ensures that there is free movement of people, goods, services and capital amongst the members. It also aims at maintaining common policies on trade to make trade easier. Moreover, sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the Euro, constituting the Euro zone.
The European Union has established various institutions to help in its implementation of duties. These include: European Commission, the Council of the European Union and the European Central Bank among others. In order for a country to qualify to join the EU, various conditions have to be met. These are; the country must be able to meet the standards set by the Copenhagen criteria. This requires the country in question to have a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law. Moreover, the country must have a functioning market economy that is capable of competition in the EU and above all, the country must agree to abide by the obligations of membership including the European Union
The European Union has made great contributions to raising the living standards of people in its member states. It achieves this by helping in the economic growth of its members. It focuses on national production and where necessary, it provides funding for development to its members. By doing so, it helps create more job opportunities for the population hence better living standards. This also leads to job stimulation as more opportunities arise. The European Union focuses in countries with weak economic structures. Once it recognizes them, it orients programs with the aim of economic growth and creation of employment.
The European Union has helped to develop infrastructure in its member countries. This is in order to facilitate the movement of trade commodities more easily. The infrastructure includes; transport, the road network, energy and electrification. International trade involves countries exporting goods which they have comparative advantage over and importing those goods which they do not from their trade partners. This process requires the transportation of goods from their country of production to the country they are tobe consumed. This results in the expansion of the transport network. By establishing better transport, the production process is more efficient. Also, it takes care of the technological constraint the firms may encounter (Richardson, 2006).
The European Union also helps to streamline the governance in its members. By so doing, it ensures the populations who constitute the labor force of the country are treated in a just manner. This is achieved through judicial reforms which accord the citizens their basic human rights. These include better health care and security among others. When the security is improved, it leads to the creation of a safe working environment for the people. The result of this is that production goes up since the labor force will be more willing to work. The same result is achieved when the healthcare is improved. By streamlining governance, the European Union ensures there is proper urban and rural planning as well as efficient territorial planning.
The European Union launched plans to promote the health of the citizens. These policies aimed at combining Public Health plus Consumer Protection strategies under a common framework. This was to aid in the promotion of healthier, safer and more confident citizens in its member countries. The main objective of this merging was to enable the citizens to access better healthcare which in turn would result in them making better decisions regarding their consumer interests. This move was also aimed at emphasizing the importance of upgrading the health and the consumer anxiety within the stipulated strategies such as the regulation of markets. Health is also a key factor in trade as citizens are required to undergo various medical tests before crossing borders. This is done to reduce spread of contagious diseases, for example bird flu.
The European Union encounters many challenges in its effort to promote efficient and fair trade. One of the challenges is found in the Fourth cohesion report. This report states and describes the major trends associated with regional development. Some of the challenges outlined here include, climate change, demography, social exclusion, globalization and limited sources of energy. Trade is an indirect channels through which climate affects the world. Temperature rise results in drying of crops and also hurts the performance of factory workers. The adverse effect of this is the increase in imports and decrease of exports or both. Hence trade deteriorates.
Global climate change affects countries in two main ways. One of them is that it affects production of goods and services in the exposed country. This results in direct losses or benefits, depending on the nature of the change, in the entire region surrounding the country. This is because the regions are usually linked with each other through trade. For example, if agricultural production in Germany declines, prices of the commodities in her neighboring region tend to rise hence worsening their terms of trade with each other.
Another major challenge faced by the European Union is the need to safeguard Europe’s competitiveness. The competitiveness that exists ensures that countries work extra hard to produce quality goods and services for their consumers. Europe’s strength lies in its ability to provide high quality products as well as innovative products and services that require a work force that has sophisticated skills. Therefore, to maintain this standard, the EU aims to promote innovation, research development programs and training opportunities for its workers as the necessary foundations for competitiveness and employment.
Demography is basically the study of the human population and its characteristics. The changing demography causes imbalances in tradde. This is because it directly affects the labor in an economy hence affects the production of a country. Low population may be as a result of rural-urban migration. This is usually common among young people in their search for better employment opportunities. As a result, the young and able bodied people in the society flood the urban areas leaving the farms and industries in the rural areas neglected. This in the long run negatively affects the economy’s growth and eventually alters the trade patterns in the trade union. Brain drain may also affect the economy where people with great potential and skills move to other regions rather than develop their own countries. On the other hand, when the population growth is too high, there are implications on the land, energy, food and biological resources. This in turn results to insufficient food, low incomes and inadequate distribution of food (El-Agraa, 2007).
Every industry uses energy in its production process. Natural gas and oil are the most used sources of energy used in the production process. Electricity is a secondary source although equally important as it is used to power operations. A decline in the level of energy results in a decline in production, hence low rate of economic growth. The availability of energy affects every individual citizen through the cost of good and services, the quality of the output inform of goods and services, strength of the economy and the availability of jobs. High cost of energy for use in production results in high prices of goods and services. As a result, industries supply fewer quantities of the commodities. This results in imbalances in the market in the trade union. Moreover, the use natural gas and oil in the manufacturing process in industries causes pollution which in turn results to global warming. This in turn negatively affects the climatic conditions in the region leading to the effects of climatic changes in trade. The slightest climate change affects economic activity and employment in Europe. Some areas are more vulnerable than others and therefore experience more damaging consequences than others. Therefore, there is need for better coherence between climatic and employment policies. Workers should be actively involved in the development of programs and policies that have a relation to climatic change.
In summary, the European Union has come a long way in developing trade. It has grown to become one of the greatest trade unions in the world today. The European Union has greatly influenced the world’s economy in both positive and negative ways. However, the positive outweigh the negative by far. The development of the euro as their currency has also helped eradicate the complications that usually arise due to differences in currencies. By helping to standardize trade, the EU has made trade easier to its members as well as more profitable. The union has helped its members develop and improve in both the welfare of its citizens and also in terms of infrastructure.
Despite the many positive aspects about the union, we cannot ignore its contribution to global warming and the adverse climate changes experienced in the world. This is as a result of increase in production in industries resulting in excess release of carbon to the atmosphere. This causes many ailments to the population. The union ought to carefully come up with a way of curbing this problem or look for alternative means of fuel for the industries. The union also ought to look for means to compensate those workers who fall ill as a result of work related ailments as well as establish centers to help them deal with this menace (Archer, 2008).
Generally, the European Union has led to great technological advancements and thus, this has greatly improved economic growth and development all over the world.