The Birth of European Government

The Birth of European Government

The Birth of European Government

Today we’re going to talk about the decades leading up to the founding of the EU.

So far there were 3 institutions: the EEC, the Coal and Steel Community, and the European Atomic Community.

They were 3 different organization with basically the same goal: to unite Europe.

But all 3 acted independently from one another.

It was time to merge them into one.

So in 1967, the ‘merger treaty’ was signed, which, as you might have guessed, merged the three institutions into one.

This treaty had 3 goals for the next 25 years:

  • expand to other countries;
  • create a fund that would help develop poorer regions;
  • and make it easy for people, products, services, and money to travel between the countries.

And so, the European Communities was founded to achieve these goals.

Seeing the economic benefits, more countries WANTED to join.

They were Spain, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, and the UK.

The last four had actually tried joining a couple of years ago but De Gaulle, ever afraid that the UK and USA would try to dominate the European Communities, vetoed their ascension.

The Birth of European Government

Well, the French had elected a new president so they tried applying for membership a second time.

Spain was refused on the basis that it was a dictatorship.

The other four countries held a referendum where the citizens could vote on whether to join the European communities or not.

The Norwegian voted against it, the other 3 countries voted in favour.

And so 6 countries became 9.

Greece joined later in 1981.

Greenland became independent in 1985, held a referendum, and left the European Community as it doesn’t agree with its fishing regulations.

Spain and Portugal overthrew their dictatorships and were now allowed to join the European Communities as DEMOCRACIES in 1986.

Bringing the number to a total of 12 members.

In 1975 the European Regional Development Fund was created.

Its purpose is to transfer money from rich REGIONS, not countries, to poor regions to improve infrastructure, attract investment, and create jobs.

This type of activity currently accounts for over 1/3 of EU spending.

I’ll leave this map here if you want to pause the video and take a closer look.

Funny thing.

One of the reasons the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 was because they did not want to spend their money on poorer eastern European countries.

Well, do you know who the biggest supporter was of this fun?

The UK.

They went so far as to make this a major issue when they joined the EU, pressuring the rest to create this fund.

Why?

Because at the time, the UK had many of the poorest regions in Western Europe and they received large sums of money to build up their economy.

There is some irony for you.

And in case you’re thinking that this takes away prosperity from the rich countries, it doesn’t: when the poor become richer they have more money to spend if they have more money to spend they will buy more stuff, which means that rich people become richer because they have more customers.

It also means that these previously poor people are now able to produce new goods and services.

It is thanks to this fund that Estonia can develop Skype, it’s why Poland has become rich enough to create the Witcher series, It’s why the UK was able to produce the Harry Potter series.

It’s thank to this fund that a stagnant economy like Spain grew to become the 5th largest economy in Europe, behind Germany, the UK, France, and Italy.

Or to put it in another way.

Spain’s economy is as large as that of giant Russia because of such funds.

Then came the last goal of the European Communities: free movement.

The Birth of European Government

Over the years, European countries had already made some progress towards this; European citizens didn’t need visas any more cross borders.

You just showed your passport, got a stamp, and moved on.

So, if for example, you as a Portuguese citizen, woke up in the morning deciding you wanted to visit Paris, you could just hop on a plane and be in Paris that evening without first going through the lengthy and expensive process of getting a visa.

And in 1985 this idea was expanded with the Schengen agreement, one of the most iconic agreements of Europe: with this treaty, anyone can travel between the member states without being checked at the border, with this treaty you can walk from Portugal all the way to

Denmark without once being stopped to show your passport.

With this treaty, countries save large sums of money as they no longer had to pay for expensive border checkpoints.

Think about how radically different this is from the USA and its wall with Mexico, Israel and its wall with Palestine, the Soviet Union, and its wall with western Europe.

This: the idea, that people can just live, work, and study anywhere they want within Europe.

that you, as a tourist, can at this very moment backpack to 26 countries with different cultures, languages, and peoples.

That any of these countries can benefit from the knowledge, know-how, and experience of any of the other countries without unnecessary bureaucracy.

This is at the core of what is European Union: an open continent united in diversity.

And now that people could move freely it was time that goods could as well.

This had been an economic boost in the BeNeLux.

While, yes, you no longer had to pay import taxes on your goods for decades.

Every country still had different legislation concerning these goods.

A product sold to Denmark would need to adhere to different standards than in let’s say, Ireland.

This means that if you sold to several countries in Europe, you would need to look into each country’s laws concerning your product and then make a different version of that product.

This drove up the costs of products and made it less appealing for companies to do business in Europe.

This wasn’t a big problem with large economies such as West Germany and France, but companies might not be so eager to sell to small countries like Luxembourg or the poorer countries at such as Portugal.

This could no longer be!

The Birth of European Government

In 1986 the Single European Act was launched.

This was a vast 6-year program to sort out the differences in each member states’ national regulations by harmonizing these laws.

It gave the European institutions the power to combine the economic laws of European countries so it’s easy for companies to do business in Europe, meaning more jobs and more stuff for its citizens.

At the end of this program, the European Communities had achieved its goals: a larger European Communities, development funds, and free movement.

The European Communities lived up to its purpose and with this new Europe came to a new name: the European Union.

The Birth of European Government

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