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European Union Basics (FAQ), Part2/8

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                                               EU Basics FAQ: General questions
   [generalquestions]
   
What is the European Union or EU?

   +European Union; is the name of the organization for the member countries
   that have decided to co-operate on a great number of areas, ranging from a
   single market to foreign policy, and from mutual recognition of school
   diplomas to exchange of criminal records. This co-operation is in various
   forms, officially referred to as three +pillars;:
   
      The [three] European Communities (EC, supranational)
      
      The Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP, intergovernmental)
      
      The Co-operation in the Fields of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA,
      intergovernmental)
      
   The Conservative government of the UK decided not to take part in
   co-operation on social matters, which was designed to be part of the revised
   EEC Treaty (and thus of the first pillar). All other member states then
   decided to include this co-operation in a separate  Social Chapter, or
   rather a separate social protocol, added to the Maastricht Treaty, and which
   is not applicable to the UK. As such, this area could now be considered a
   fourth pillar, although most observers still consider it part of the first
   pillar as it is a supranational form of cooperation. Note: The UK Labour
   party has repeatedly promised to remove the British opt-out to the Social
   Chapter if it gets elected.
   
When did the EU come into being?

   The European Union as an umbrella organisation has come into existence only
   in November 1993, after the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty. Its
   constituent organisations were founded/organised as below:
   
  1952                   The European Coal and Steel Community  (ECSC) was
                         established by the Treaty of Paris (1951).
                         
  1954                   The European Defence Community (EDC) Treaty, signed in
                         Paris (1952) and ratified by all five other ECSC
                         member states, was vetoed by a majority of left-wing
                         and right-wing radicals in the French Assemblie
                         (August 30th). The Treaty had provided for a European
                         army, a common budget and common institutions, among
                         which a directly elected Common Assembly and for this
                         Assembly to study ways of creating a federal
                         organisation with a clear separation of powers and a
                         bicameral parliament. The French veto against the EDC
                         Treaty also meant the end of the draft Treaty
                         establishing a Political Community, approved by the
                         ECSC Assembly on 10 March 1953.
                         
  1958                   The European Economic Community (EEC) and the European
                         Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) were established by
                         the twoTreaties of Rome (1957).
                         
  1967                   The institutions of the ECSC, EEC and Euratom were
                         merged, with a single European Commission replacing
                         the ECSC High Authority, EEC Commission, Euratom
                         Commission. A single +European Parliament;  (though
                         officially still called the European Parliamentary
                         Assembly) replaced the three virtual Assemblies of the
                         Communities, too, although the members of these
                         Assemblies had always been the same people acting in
                         different capacities on different matters.
                         
  1979                   For the first time, Members of the European Parliament
                         were elected directly by the people of all Member
                         states (June 7-10).
                         
  1987                   The  Single European Act of 1987 provided the
                         implementation provisions for the Single European
                         Market[1], and it codified agreement on majority
                         voting in the Council[2] on a range of questions. It
                         also formally codified the European Co-ordination in
                         the Sphere of Foreign Policy, which was known as
                         European Political Cooperation and dating back to the
                         1970 Davignon report.
                         
  1993                   The European Union was established by the Maastricht
                         Treaty which came into force in November 1993. It
                         created an explicit three-pillar structure with a new
                         Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) replacing
                         the Single Act provisions in this field, and codifying
                         the Co-operation in the field of Justice and Home
                         Affairs (JHA). It also reexpanded the scope of the
                         EEC, to include provisions for an Economic and
                         Monetary Union with a single European currency from
                         the end of the century onwards, and it re-baptised the
                         EEC to simply European Community (EC).
                         
  1996                   A new Intergovernmental Conference (IGC, ie a round of
                         negotiations over changes to the Treaties) will start
                         in Turin on March 29. As the debate over the European
                         Union is likely to focus strongly on the IGC in the
                         course of this year, we have added a special
                         section[3] on it to this list.
                         
What countries are members of the EU?

   The EU now consists of 15 member states. Its original membership of six was
   gradually enlarged as follows:
   
  From 1952 (original ECSC membership):
                         
      Belgium (BE);
      
      Germany (DE), the 5 new Ldnder of the former GDR joined in 1991;
      
      France (FR);
      
      Italy (IT);
      
      Luxembourg (LU);
      
      Netherlands (NL);
      
  From 1973 (first enlargement):
                         
      Denmark (DK);
      
      Republic of Ireland (IE);
      
      United Kingdom   (GB);
      
      [Norwegians rejected membership];
      
  From 1981 (second enlargement):
                         
      Greece (GR);
      
  From 1986 (third enlargement):
                         
      Portugal (PT);
      
      Spain (ES);
      
  From 1995 (fourth enlargement):
                         
      Austria (AT);
      
      Finland (FI);
      
      Sweden (SE);
      
      [Norwegians rejected membership again].
      
  Countries being considered for the fifth enlargement:
                         Bulgaria (BL);
                         Cyprus (CY);
                         Czech Republic (CZ);
                         Estonia (EE);
                         Hungary (HU);
                         Latvia (LV);
                         Lithuania (LT);
                         Malta (MT);
                         Poland (PL);
                         Romania (RU);
                         Slovakia (SK);
                         Slovenia (SL).
                         
   Of these, only Malta and Cyprus have been promised that the actual
   negotiations for their accession will start six months after finalisation of
   the Intergovernmental Conference.[4] In December 1995, the European
   Council[5] decided that indidividual assessments of the remaining ten
   candidates' prospects as well as a collective assessment of enlargement
   should be ready by that time as well, so that membership negotiations with
   some of the other countries could start at the same time as those with
   Cyprus and Malta.
   
   In preparation for this, all twelve countries are invited to one meeting of
   the European Council every year, although it has been made clear that this
   does not automatically mean that all countries will be invited as new
   candidate members.
   
   Turkey and Morocco have applied for membership in the past, but their
   candidacies were rejected. Turkey did finally get its long-awaited customs
   union treaty with the EU in 1996.
   
Which are the languages of the EU?

   Like most international organisations, the EU has two sorts of languages:
   official languages and working languages. Official languages are used for
   official public documents, especially those with legal value. Working
   languages are the languages used internally. Sometimes there is also talk of
   treaty languages: these are said to be official languages in which only
   basic legal texts are translated, and not all official public documents with
   legal value. Since EU legislation is directly applicable in national law,
   all languages with official legal status in one or more of the member states
   should be official EU languages as well. This means that there are now
   eleven official EU languages:
   
      German (88.8 million inhabitants of linguistic area*: in Germany,
      Austria, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg)
      
      French (63.3 million, in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy)
      
      English (60.0 million, in UK and Republic of Ireland)
      
      Italian (56.4 million, in Italy)
      
      Spanish (39.2 million, in Spain)
      
      Dutch (21.1 million, in the Netherlands and Belgium)
      
      Greek (10.3 million, in Greece)
      
      Portuguese (9.8 million, in Portugal)
      
      Swedish (9.0 million, in Sweden and Finland)
      
      Danish (5.2 million, in Denmark)
      
      Finnish (4.7 million, in Finland).
      
   Every member state has decided for itself what language(s) to make official
   EU languages; thus, these figures do not take into account recognised
   +minority; languages such as Catalan and Frisian, nor of officially
   recognised national languages such as irish (which is only a treaty
   language, not an official language) and Letzebuergesch (which has been
   recognised as a national language only in 1983).
   
   Council members have never been able to agree on a limit to the number of
   working languages within the institutions. All official languages are
   considered equal in every way. It should be noted though that, in practice,
   some languages are more equal than others. The Commission has limited much
   of its internal translations to French, English and German; some informal
   meetings do not have interpreters at all and are conducted in English
   entirely. Nick Bernard[6] says the Court of Justice uses French as an
   internal working language. According to Bart Schelfhout[7], this is due to
   the fact that French is far more considered a juristic language (precision
   and vocabulary) than is English
   
   EU interpretation services have already noted that the current expansion to
   eleven working languages will already be virtually unworkable; an expansion
   to sixteen or more (with some former Eastern Bloc countries joining) will be
   technically impossible. It is therefore to be expected, in my view, that the
   number of working languages will be limited to three (English, French and
   German) or five (with Italian and Spanish), if only for passive use
   (languages to translate into)
   
   Still, Marc Bonnaud[8] notes that
   
       +The EU Coucil of Ministers of 12 June 95 has not only reaffirmed i
     ts firm  attachment to Linguistic Diversity , it has also decided to
     setup a commission  to check that all the Institutions respect this,
     and first of all, those  concerned with the +information society; (DG
      XIII which violates daily the founding treaties and the regulation #
     1 of the Commission). The Commission has been invited to make yearly
     reports on the application of these decisions. [...]  I expect these
     decisions to be included one way or another in the revised Treaty.;
     
   Carsten Quell[9] of the Freie Universitdt Berlin has done extensive research
   on this topic.
   
How come the flag has only twelve stars?

   Questions that concern the European flag keep recurring. Especially since
   the enlargement of the EU from twelve to fifteen member states, people are
   wondering why there are still only twelve stars on the flag. The short
   answer is mainly that the number of stars was never intended to correspond
   to the number of member states; both just happened to be twelve between 1986
   and 1994.
   
   [IMAGE]
   
   The flag with twelve gold stars in a circle on a blue background was
   originally designed for the Council of Europe[10], founded in 1949. One of
   the founding members of this organisation was the country of Saarland, which
   had been part of Germany only since 1935, but was occupied by the French
   after World War II. At the time of the foundation of the Council of Europe,
   it was not at all clear whether Saarland (which was in the French zone of
   the allied occupation forces) would retain its international status under
   the custody of the United Nations, become part of France or rejoin Germany
   [it finally chose the latter in a 1955 referendum].
   
   To reconcile any possible differences over the sovereignty of Saarland, the
   founding members of the Council of Europe decided not to have a number of
   stars corresponding to the disputed number of founding states. Rather, the
   number of twelve stars was chosen to be a symbol of completeness and of
   unity, as it corresponded to the number of stars in the zodiac, the number
   of months in the year and (for the purpose of winning over the mainly
   Christian European people) to the number of Jesus's apostles. Thus the flag
   of the Council of Europe still consists of twelve stars, even though it has
   over thirty members now.
   
   The then European Communities +borrowed; the flag of the Council of Europe
   only in 1986, after its enlargement to twelve members. Thus, as far as the
   European Communities are concerned, there was indeed a (coincidental)
   correspondence between the number of member states and the number of stars
   in the flag. Still the enlargement of the EU to fifteen member states has
   provoked no changes in the number of stars on the flag; therefore, it must
   be concluded that the number of twelve on both the Council of Europe's flag
   and the flag of the European Union retains it symbolic value of completeness
   and unity, rather than of the number of members.
   
Quick guide to EU legislation

   EU legislation is known for its complexities and subtleties. The following
   Quick guide to EU legislation, however, gives a good overview of the main
   instruments used. It has been contributed by  Kevin Coates[11] and Richard
   Corbett[12] (who supplied a new version of the part about +decisions;)
   
       +All legislation is concluded by some combination of:
     
      European Commission[13] (makes proposals and oversees the process)
      
      European Parliament[14] and
      
      Council of Ministers[15] (ie the representatives of the Member States and
      by far the most important)
      
  MAIN TYPES OF LEGISLATION
  
  Regulations            These are effectively equivalent to statutes in the UK
                         [or +Arrjti Ministeriel/Royal; that most member states
                         have an equivalent of, RS] - ie they are effective as
                         law without any further intervention/action on the
                         part of the Member States.
                         
  Directives
                         
  These are +binding as to the result to be achieved; - ie they should state
                         the goal/end-state that is aimed at, but leave the
                         Member States with some discretion as to how to
                         achieve it.  The amount of discretion varies greatly.
                         One of the reasons for the use of directives is that
                         it is believed that the different Member States would
                         need to approach the same problems in different ways
                         because of the differences in their legal systems.
                         
  Because directives need to be +transposed; into national law (ie national
                         legislation must be passed to implement the goals of
                         the directive) a time limit is provided in the
                         directive by which time the directive must have been
                         implemented.  Some cynical people who look closely at
                         directives believe that increasingly directives have
                         been used in circumstances where the Member States
                         simply want to avoid a particular piece of legislation
                         coming into force - ie there is no real question of
                         needing to implement it in a particular way, but the
                         Member States want to take advantage of the time for
                         transposition.  Because the Member States must
                         transpose the directives, they obviously have a
                         certain measure of discretion as to how this is
                         done.&187;
                         
  +Decisions             Decisions do not have general application but are
                         binding on those to whom they are addressed (e.g.
                         companies).;
                         
The Intergovernmental Conference of 1996

   The EU being an association of member states, changes to the Treaties are
   negotiatied by representatives of the member state governments, and approved
   (and ratified) by all national parliaments, in some countries with the
   active involvement of the people at large through a referendum. The
   negotiation part of this process is conducted in what is called an
   Intergovernmental Conference or IGC.
   
   This year (1996), a new Intergovernmental Conference will start negotiating
   about changes to the treaties, as this is a legal requirement of the
   Maastricht Treaty (laid down at the insistence of the German and some other
   member states' governments that were unsatisfied with the +meagre; results
   of Maastricht.
   
   Although the Maastricht Treaty does not stipulate which parts of the
   Treaties should be open to revision, there has seemed to be agreement on the
   main topics of discussion for the 1996 IGC for some time now, if not at
   their outcome.
   
   The European Council[16] has clearly added to this by having a +Reflection
   Group; list an inventory of Member States' concerns for the Conference well
   in advance of its actual start (29 March 1996 in Torino, IT).
   
  CONCLUSIONS OF THE REFLECTION GROUP
  
   The Reflection Group preparing the agenda for the IGC under the chairmanship
   of Mr Carlos Westendorp (Minister of European Affairs, ES) delivered its
   report to the European Council of December 1995 in Madrid. It identified the
   following areas of concern among some or all Member State governments:
   
      Making Europe more relevant to its citizens
      
      Promoting European Values (democracy, human rights, equality)
      
      Freedom and internal security (terrorism, drugs, external border
      controls)
      
      Employment
      
      Environment
      
      A more transparent Union
      
      Subsidiarity
      
      Enabling the Union to work better and preparing it for enlargements
      
      The rules originally designed for a Community of 6 are not flexible
      enough for a Union of 15-25
      
      Increased role for the European Council
      
      Improving representation and accountability to both European and national
      parliaments
      
      Simplifying over-complex procedures
      
      Looking at the roles of the Commission, the Court of Justice and the
      Committee of Regions
      
      Giving the Union greater capacity for external action
      
      Common Foreign Policy
      
      European Security and Defence Policy
      
  THE MAIN ISSUES ON THE AGENDA
  
   In its issue of 21-27 March 1996, the deputy editor of the weekly newspaper
   European Voice, Rory Watson, put forward a list of the main issues on the
   agenda for the Intergovernmental Conference starting at the end of that
   week:
   
    Flexibility
    
       Should member states with the will to do so be specifically allowed
      to integrate their policies further and faster than their more reluc
     tant EU partners? The European Commission, European Parliament, Franc
     e, Germany and the Benelux firmly believe the answer must be yes, arg
     uing the Union should not be forever bound to advance at the speed of
      its slowest members.
     
       To some extent, flexibility already exists. Social policy, a single
      currency and the Schengen border-free arrangement all involve fewer
     than all 15 member states. But critics fear it could create a permane
     nt two-tier Union, with a small cohesive inner core and a looser oute
     r group of countries. The practical implications, especially for the
     uniform application of EU law, are an even greater obstacle.
     
       Flexibility could apply mainly to defence/security and justice/home
      affairs areas, but not to the single market, or to the Union's insti
     tutions and basic objectives.
     
    Citizenship
    
       Almost every contribution to the IGC debate has placed citizenship
     in pole position. The gesture is more symbolic than substantive, brin
     ging under one heading principles already in the treaty such as free
     movement and non-discrimination. Of greater interest to non-governmen
     tal organisations is closer involvement in the EU's decision-making p
     rocess.
     
       Instead of +citizenship;, talk is now moving towards bringing the U
     nion closer to its citizens. Achieving that involves simplifying the
     treaties, increasing the transparency of Council of Ministers' meetin
     gs when legislation is debated, and strengthening democratic control
     by the European and national parliaments.
     
       That, cobmined with guaranteed access to documentation would, says
     supporters, enable people to know and influence what is going on, and
      rekindle public confidence in the EU.
     
    Common Foreign and Security Policy
    
       By common agreement, this is one of the major disappointments of th
     e Maastricht Treaty. But recipes for achieving a respectable CFSP dif
     fer.
     
       Some argue that the basic structure is sound and is only prevented
     from operating by the almost insurmountable hurdle presented by the r
     equirement for unanimity. But the dominant view that more majority vo
     ting is required is opposed by the UK in particular. It argues that i
     ssues so close to the heart of national sovereignty demand unanimity.
      Talk will focus on diplomatic techniques such as +constructive abste
     ntion; or +unanimity minus one; to skirt round the problem.
     
       There is general agreement on the need to create an analysis unit t
     o prepare CFSP strategy. However, there is no consensus on whether a
     Mr or Mrs CFSP should be appointed to give the policy an internationa
     l personality, on the financing of initiatives taken by some, but not
      all, member states, and on the roles of the Commission and Parliamen
     t.
     
    Defence
    
       At stake is the relationship between the Union and the defence alli
     ance, the Western European Union, whose founding treaty expires in 19
     98. The UK wishes to keep the WEU as an autonomous organisation repre
     senting the European defence arm of the Atlantic alliance. It is conf
     ronted by Franco-German calls for eventual full WEU integration in th
     e Union.
     
       The defence debate will also cover the status of neutral members an
     d the ability of some Union states to take military action.
     
       It will focus not just on the collective defence of territorial int
     egrity, but also on ways of managing regional crises and the Petersbe
     rg tasks of humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. There is growing suppo
     rt for the Union to develop a European armaments policy. It would ens
     ure more effective integration of the industry, establish a consisten
     t approach to arms exports and create an armaments agency.
     
    Decision-making
    
       Streamlining is the order of the day for EU decision-making. Over 2
     0 separate complex systems are now used to adopt legislation and pres
     sure is growing to reduce these to three.
     
       The main battlegrounds will be extending majority voting in the Cou
     ncil and equal co-decision powers to the Parliament. Both ideas have
     wide-spread support, but are firmly opposed by the UK.
     
       Supporters of change believe maintaining the unanimity requirement
     could paralyse a larger Union and prevent future treaty reform. They
     also suggest more majority voting would not prevent a country from us
     ing the Luxembourg Compromise to veto a proposal if a vital national
     interest really was at stake.
     
       Within the Council, attempts will be made to re-weight voting right
     s to reflect the size and populations of larger EU countries more acc
     urately. In exchange, there may be moves to strengthen the role of th
     e Commission and the Parliament to reassure smaller member states.
     
    Employment
    
       Fighting unemployment is near the top of the Union agenda, but only
      in the past few months has a head of steam built up to table the iss
     ue at the IGC. The initiative to inject a specific employment chapter
      to the treaty was launched by Sweden, but now has majority backing i
     n the Union.
     
       Swedes believe its presence would give the policy more weight, esta
     blishing common objectives and procedures and a joint commitment to o
     bserve certain principles in employment policies.
     
       Cynics suggest mechanisms for getting more of the EU's 18 million u
     nemployed back to work already exist in the White Paper on Growth, Co
     mpetitiveness and Employment. But political reality dictates that EU
     governments cannot consider the future without discussing an issue of
      the greatest importance to their electorates.
     
    Justice and Home Affairs
    
       Progress in this area has been minimal, yet some of the issues invo
     lved--organised crime, terrorism, illegal immigration and drug traffi
     cking--have a direct impact on the quality of the daily lives of EU c
     itizens. Like the CFSP, progress on improving the overall climate of
     security in the face of pan-European threats has been thwarted by the
      need for unanimity.
     
       Widespread agreement exists on the need for clear objectives, speci
     fic timetables and less complex working methods. Support is growing f
     or all the elements involved in crossing external frontiers--arrangem
     ents for aliens, immigration policy, asylum and external border contr
     ols--to be moved from the intergovernmental to the Community framewor
     k.
     
       But given the national sensitivity of these issues, the UK for one
     insists that they must remain matters for intergovernmental cooperati
     on to be agreed by unanimity.
     
   Source: WATSON (R.) The main issues on the agenda, in: European Voice, 21-27
   March 1996, pp16-17.
   
  HOW MUCH TIME WILL IT TAKE?
  
   The Report does not explicitly state which Member States have expressed
   which opinions, but speaks in unexplicit terms such as +Many of us;, +Some
   of us; and +One of us;. It can only be derived from the current home and
   European politics of the different Member State governments who share the
   minority and majority opinions in the different issues.
   
   Still many commentators have hinted that +One of us; is more often than not
   the British Government of John Major, that is widely believed to be held
   hostage by radical Eurosceptics in the Westminster parliament. If only for
   that political reality (and thus ignoring the fact that so far all IGC's
   have always taken more than a year) the 1996 IGC is believed to continue
   into 1997, at least until the British Government has been re-elected or
   replaced--with both outcomes likely to vastly increase the manouvering space
   for the British negotiators.
   
   Even if the IGC is finished in 1997, all proposed Treaty changes must still
   be approved by all Member States in accordance with their respective
   constitutional procedures (always involving the assent of the national
   parliament(s), sometimes with the addition of a national referendum among
   the people at large).
   ___________________________________
   
   
                               Edited by Roland Siebelink & Bart Schelfhout[17]
                                           corrections and suggestions welcome.
                                                                               
   [Go to Table of Contents][18]

*** References from this document ***
[1] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/related.html#singlemarket
[2] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/commission.html#qualifmaj
[3] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/general.html#igc
[4] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/general.html#igc
[5] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/councils.html#eu-council
[6] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[7] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[8] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[9] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[10] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/related.html#coe
[11] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[12] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/about.html#contr
[13] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/commission.html
[14] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/parliament.html
[15] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/councils.html
[16] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/councils.html#eu-council
[17] mailto:eubasics@allmansland.com
[18] http://eubasics.allmansland.com/index.html


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