It seems everybody these days are separated into camps on the EU. You’re either eurosceptic or a europhile, but how much do we really know about what the EU actually does? Self-confessed europhile Azza Ghaidouni provides a guide for those wanting to be in the know.
Ask a eurosceptic and they will tell you that a whole host of weird and wonderful countries take part in some kind of Euro-Megastructure. In reality there are several layers to the European Union. There are currently 29 member states with Switzerland and Norway serving as non-participant members. The eurozone functioning as such:
It started with the Treaty of Rome in 1957; Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany signed to create the “European Economic Community”. But the EU in its current form was agreed upon in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty. This is the point that Eurosceptics think we should have had another referendum, they have a point, but then again a referendum on foreign policy is almost completely unheard of, unless you are Swiss of course (and please remind me when my vote on the Iran deal gets counted or my vote on an unelected upper house for that matter). Since then different institutions of the European Union have been established to deal with issues from international relations to law enforcement. This constitution is best explained below:
Another cry of eurosceptics is that the European Union is an undemocratic system; this assertion is mostly ungrounded. They point to officials such as president of the Commission, currently Jean Claude Junker, and declare them strong arm dictators, yet the truth is quite the opposite. The European Council is selected by respective national governments and the European Parliament, which is voted for by the European electorate, votes upon who should preside over the commission, a fundamental component of a parliamentary democracy.
Many eurosceptics also find issue with the systems in many of the European states, particularly former eastern bloc countries. However, there are many conditions to both joining the EU and the eurozone. To join the EU a state must have a democratic government, a free market and must adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights, hence the blocking of Serbia and Turkey.
Furthermore, to join the eurozone a state’s rate of inflation “must not exceed the unweighted arithmetic average of the similar HICP inflation rates in the 3 EU member states with the lowest HICP inflation plus 1.5%,” a state’s deficit to GDP ratio “must not exceed 3% at the end of the preceding fiscal year” and “National debt must not exceed 60% of GDP”, the last two of which can prove particularly tricky conditions hence Greece’s account fraud to join the eurozone in 2001.
The purest of europhiles wouldn’t claim the EU to be perfect but questions that need to be asked to eurosceptics include:
- Just how good is our own national parliamentary democracy?
- And do we really trust Justice Secretary Michael Gove to decide what our human rights are, when Nicky Morgan MP said at the Conservative conference “people get very frustrated with human rights”?
Well Mrs Morgan, which right most affronts you? Is it the right to freedom of thought or the prohibition of torture?
The mainstream media has populised the idea that we give far too much to the EU and get far too little – another fallacy given that UK contributes the least as a percentage of gross national income (see graph below). Through the EU the United Kingdom can gain access to international commerce and trade as a powerful bloc rather than as a small island nation. A very anti-business stance it is to be a eurosceptic, particularly surprising for a Conservative backbench which castigates any sort of social policy as anti-business.
Furthermore, the EU can administer public finances and fund development through their regional development fund more effectively than individual states can, the regional development fund aims to modernise and diversify economic structures, creating sustainable jobs, stimulating economic growth and providing attention to urban and remote regions. Another imperative function of the EU is to create communal law and mandates. For example, the Human Rights Act was created in 1999 to force British law to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights. Through laws that all states have to follow we can more effectively deal with the problems that many eurosceptics still claim not to exist or refuse to tackle, such as global warming and the refugee crisis.
At the end of the day participation in the EU isn’t about surrendering all national sovereignty; it’s about the democratisation of an inevitable globalisation – as the world naturally becomes smaller we must do all we can to put political power in the hands of individuals. It seems many eurosceptics still have a nationalist superiority complex in an age where Britain alone is closer to an irrelevance than a superpower. Indeed as a nation we have a rich history, but as a union, Europe has a bright future.