The European Union was officially founded on November 1, 1993. European treaties and alliances, however, have been in place since 1949 when NATO was formed. The European Economic Community was formed in 1957. Since the 1950s, various industries, including coal and steel, have worked to create one entity serving all Europeans instead of bordered nations serving small sectors of the population.
With the initiation of Brexit and an increase in terrorism, the goals of the EU stand in the balance. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of the European Union to consider.
What Are the Advantages of the EU?
1. It creates a more influential economic block.
Individual nations within Europe struggle to hold influence on the global stage because of their size. By having several small nations join for one economic purpose, more influence can be exerted on local and global economics. Larger economic blocks create better import and export opportunities, better pricing on needs goods, and free trade opportunities all help to benefit the greater good of Europe.
2. Travel becomes easier.
With the nations of Europe working together, it has created a society that is somewhat borderless for travel purposes. There are fewer checkpoints, customs entry points, and other identification verification stops required when traveling from nation to nation. This allows for free travel within the continent for those who have applied for the appropriate identification.
3. It creates harmony on the continent.
In the past, European nations were often combative with one another. Many divisions have come out of Europe over the generations, including wars that are far too numerous to list. Civil wars were also common on the continent, leading up to the 20th century. The joining of the 28 member states of the European Union has helped to lessen the number of conflicts that have occurred, which has created better safety for Europeans from an overall standpoint.
4. It has helped to modernize countries.
Members like Turkey have become modern nations thanks to the benefits of being part of the European Union. Specific criteria for membership include making commitments to human rights, have a specific rule of law, and following a market economy. This prevents discrimination and provides due process across the continent while encouraging socioeconomic growth at the same time.
5. The European Union has helped to improve local environments.
Since the formation of the EU, the quality of the seas and beaches that are found throughout the continent have improved dramatically. This is because of regulations that were implemented at a Union level. More than 90% of European tourist locations meet minimum water quality standards today, which is a vast increase from the 1950s.
6. Job creation occurs because of the existence of the European Union.
In the United Kingdom, up to 10% of all employment opportunities are directly linked to the EU. The United States has employment ties to the European Union as well. Without that structure, those jobs and the economics they provide would disappear. Millions of people would be displaced and billions would disappear from the global economy.
7. It creates another level of international security.
European nations have a form of mutual protection through NATO. Belonging to the United Nations provides another level of security. The European Union provides a third level of security that allows for local intelligence services to have access to improved data sharing and military resources that can keep the population safer than if the Union did not exist.
What Are the Disadvantages of the EU?
1. Fewer borders and restrictions means more opportunities for nefarious deeds.
History has shown us that one person, with the right tools and motivation, can cause a lot of havoc for a society. Since 2010, there has been an increase in vehicular attacks and other terror-like events that have occurred on European soil. The highly-coordinated Paris attacks in November 2015 killed 130 people and several have occurred since then. With open borders comes more opportunity to cause trouble.
2. Creating an overseeing government doesn’t heal division.
The recent Brexit vote is evidence that Europe can seem united in a Union, but the old divisions still exist. The European Union has proven that it can provide helpful benefits from an economic standpoint, but there is still a sense of nationalism that provides the foundation of what has been built since 1993. When push comes to shove, Brexit proves that the harmony present is more for outward appearances only.
3. It ties the hands of local governments on certain issues.
There is one primary issue which the European Union faces right now: refugee migration. More than 1 million refugees have settled in Germany. Despite the many needs that these people have, just €6 billion has been dedicated to build facilities for these refugees outside of the humanitarian aid that is already being offered. This means local governments must provide support to the EU without much in return for the crises they face at home.
4. Currency support is required for stable politics.
The banking crisis in Greece was just the first step of many toward a currency that is insolvent for Europe with its current structure. Italy is facing a banking crisis in 2017, with billions in doubtful loans on the books. Austerity forced upon Greece may be forced upon Italy as well, which would create instability for the politics in the region. Add this to decline exports in Germany and the security questions that are being faced and makes for hard choices that may need to be made in the future.
5. It lacks transparency.
Elections in member nations are public and transparent. The election of the European Commission is not transparent. The Commission has the authority to wield plenty of influence and power, but the average person has no say in who represents them in this way or what the quality of the representation will be. This makes it difficult for member nations to have individual control as each nation is required to follow EU laws to remain with the Union.
6. It costs money.
Member states are providing billions in support to the European Union every year. This is in addition to other commitments, such as the 2% GDP contribution that is being asked of NATO nations. The argument could be made that these investments could be made within borders
The advantages and disadvantages of the European Union show us that a greater good can come from such a structure. The disadvantages must be recognized, however, and then proactively removed from the equation to prevent loss of life, reduced economic influence, and other unforeseen issues that may arise. By being competitive globally, each member state can grow locally, and that is really what the European Union is all about.