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The European Union is the political entity which was born as the European Economic Community (or Common Market) through the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and subsequently evolved first into the European Community and finally to the European Union through the Maastricht Treaty of 1991, or the ‘Treaty on European Union’ as it is formally known.
The EU means many things to many people. For some it has been at the core of efforts to help maintain peace over the past 50 years in a continent which in the past has been riven by rivalry and suspicion. Others talk of its political impotency. Why, they wonder, as a supposed political union, has it not been able to intervene effectively in the former Yugoslavia?
For many the EU is primarily about the single market and the opportunities and benefits this presents to businesses, students, pensioners and holidaymakers.
Nowadays the EU plays a wide-ranging and significant role on the world stage, particularly in terms of economic relations where it has the power to conduct a common commercial policy and to conclude different kinds of agreements with individual countries, with groups of countries or at a multilateral level. The EU also has special responsibility for economic assistance, development cooperation and humanitarian aid, where it conducts a coherent single policy towards the outside world.
However, in traditional areas of foreign policy-making such as defense and security, the EU itself has these areas remaining either national or intergovernmental activities. Yet, it is clear that the EU has a potentially more complex and significant political role to play on the world scene since the end of the cold war. This has been apparent in a number of recent challenges, including the activities in relation to the former Yugoslavia and the Gulf War.
Over the years, the common commercial policy has become one of the keystones of the EU’s policies. Trade has always played a major role in Europe’s history, and commerce with the rest of the world is still the source of our wealth today. In fact, the European Union is the largest trading entity in the world. Most of its economic success is due to foreign trade and investment. The EU plays a leading role in negotiations within the World Trade Organization.
The Treaty on European Union, which came into force in November 1993, fixed as a Union objective “the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defense policy”. The Treaty says that the objectives of a CFSP are:
- to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests and independence of the Union;
- to strengthen the security of the Union and its Member States in all ways;
- to preserve peace and strengthen international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter as well as the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and the objectives of the Paris Charter;
- to promote international cooperation;
- to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Everyone agrees that the speed of development of a common foreign and security policy cannot be forced. Member States must see it as a natural means of furthering their national interests as well as those of the Union.
How does the CFSP work?
Decision-making: procedures are intergovernmental and, therefore, different from those which apply to external economic relations. It is the European Council of Heads of State and Government and the Council of Ministers which has overall control: the European Council defines the principles and general guidelines for CFSP, and all decisions in the Council are taken unanimously, except some about implementing joint actions. However, the European Commission participates in all discussions, can make proposals, and has a right of initiative. The European Parliament is regularly consulted but has no direct powers.
The strengthening of the EU’s defense identity, chiefly through the WEU (West European Union) will also strengthen NATO, which will remain fundamental to Europe’s territorial defense for the foreseeable future.
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) started in 1948 as a result of negotiations between Western Europe, Canada and the USA. Among the objectives of this organization is the collective defense of its members and promoting their common values. Article 1of the North Atlantic Treaty (by the way, it consists of a preamble and 14 articles) calls for peaceful resolution of disputes and Article 2 pledges the countries to economic and political cooperation.
The highest authority within NATO is the North Atlantic Council, composed of permanent delegates from all members, headed by a secretary general.
Undoubtedly, the most powerful of all the international organizations that have a great impact on the development of the modern world is the United Nations. The UN officially came into existence on
October, 24, 1945 as a result of a long history of efforts to promote international cooperation. The UN primary purpose is to maintain world peace, that in turn, helps encourage business and international trade. Besides, the UN provides a forum for countries to promote their views and settle conflicts without violence, to solve world problems, such as poverty, disease and environmental degradation.
The UN membership is open to any country willing to further the UN mission and abide by its rules.
In 1946 there was founded UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This UN agency was established to encourage collaboration among nations in the areas of education, science, culture and communication. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include international science programs, literacy, technical, teacher-training programs; regional and cultural history projects aimed at securing the world’s cultural and natural heritage and preserving human rights.
More than 180 nations belong to UNESCO.
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