Europe is conventionally associated with the practice of altering national borders to form new countries and colonies, which in turn results in dynamic political and government systems (Perry, Berg, & Krukones, 2009). This is typical of both the times of feudal kingdoms and serfdom and the modern day parliamentary system of government. Irrespective of changing political systems, Europe has been characterized by sovereignty for a long time. During the 20th century, the constant alteration of borders and political systems resulted in three wars, which led to the establishment of a new political merger in the continent, the European Union (Ewing, 2011). The EU is a political partnership comprising 27 member states. The EU is not the first instance of political partnership in Europe. During the era of absolutism and divine rights in Europe, most political partnerships were mainly formed based on marriages, religious relations to Rome and wars. A distinctive characteristic of the EU from the early political partnership is that the EU was established when there was democracy, a system of governance that advocated for liberalism and bureaucratic reforms (Benjamin, 2010). Democracy has been the backbone of the EU for the previous six decades, and has managed to prevail during political and legal reforms and socio-economic trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. The main purpose of this paper is to describe the historical context of whether the European Union is a peril or a panacea. The paper traces the significance of the issue over time and predicts how the question may be solved in the future. This paper argues that the EU is a panacea, because its inception has been a solution to the problems facing Europe during the 20th century.
The first significant strength of the EU is that it embraces democratic ideals, which are based on European enlightenment values and beliefs that are evident in works by John Locke, Charles de Secondant and Montesquieu (Ritterberger, 2012). The democratic form of governance and political systems has notable global influence on the balance power in Europe. The formation of the EU in 1993 served to increase the embracement of democracy in many European countries. The parliamentary system of government, the European Parliamentary (EP), is the most dominant form of democracy within the European Union. Citizens of the EU elect the European Parliament that has the responsibility of representing the interests of EU citizens. The parliamentary government system can be traced back to the 1950s and the EU founding treaties. Since 1979, members of the EP have been elected by their respective citizens in order to represent the interests of the people they represent (Perry, Berg, & Krukones, 2009). The EP has three principal roles associated with legislation: the passage of European laws, budget approval and democratic administration of other EU institutions. According to Ritterberger (2012), this political and government systems impose significant benefits to member states since its establishment, especially in relation to the role that the EU plays in eliminating fascism and communism, and emphasizing democratic ideals. Furthermore, taking into consideration mechanisms that surround economies, global trade and the move towards globalization, the European Union has surfaced to be a significant influencer of the global economy and politics; making it one of the most powerful global organizations in the world. The EU can be argued to have numerous political achievements during the 20th century in Europe through embracing the democratic system of government (Ewing, 2011). This is because the EU integrates various European governments for the common good. The EU was established for the primary purpose of harnessing good inter-governmental relationships in Europe through the formation of a representative parliament of member countries. In the light of this view, the EU resulted in the increased inter-governmental cooperation among member nations ensuring that state sovereignty is not overlooked. Member states relinquish management of some internal and foreign affairs to the EU, which results in the greater good for citizens of EU member states (Perry, Berg, & Krukones, 2009).
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand by Garvilo Princip in the summer of 1974 resulted in a war that changed the trend of the western civilization, the World War I (Ewing, 2011). The First World War was not perceived as different until the intervention of such outside nations as the USA. After the American Civil War, it became apparent that wars had significant global impacts on the economy, global political configurations and cultural exchanges. The First World War did not only shape Europe, but also the entire globe in relation to social and political reforms, legal equality and cultural and political patriotism (Perry, Berg, & Krukones, 2009). Europe faced significant hardships during the First World War, the Second World War and the Cold War. These hardships compelled Europe to be transformed from a continent comprising divided nations that focused on their own ideals of nationalism, into a continent that comprised a coalition of nations that acknowledged the pan-European culture and patriotism (Perry, Berg, & Krukones, 2009).
The world wars were analogous to wars between ancient Greeks and Spartans that occurred during the Peloponnesian war characterized by racial nationalism. Zielonka (2004) argues that the European Union played an integral role in bringing together a war-torn continent and established a sense of nationalism acknowledged by all Europeans. The EU is easily comparable with Ancient Greece, which comprised self-governing city-states and countries that cooperated after the war in order to rejuvenate their political relationships (Ritterberger, 2012). It is apparent that viewing the EU in the light of the Pan-European magnificence is analogous to viewing Ancient Greece after the Peloponnesian war. The EU played a significant role in identifying damages imposed by totalitarian and imperialistic governmental systems to nations (Zielonka, 2004).
The establishment of the EU was not overnight or rather hasty in the course of one year. The historical origin of the EU can be traced back to the Second World War, whereby the Europeans held their determination in preventing the occurrence of killings and destructions associated with the war (Zielonka, 2004). Immediately after the Second World War, Europe was divided into the West and the East during the commencement of the four-decade long Cold War. In 1949 Western European countries established the Council of Europe, which was perceived as a fundamental step towards the achievement of cooperation among Western European nations. Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg wanted to go further (Ritterberger, 2012). In 1993, Europe witnessed an immense economic growth, transcontinental migration and the downfall of the Berlin Wall. The Treaty of the EU was signed in 1992. It was one of the most significant EU milestones, establishing precise rules for the future integrated currency, foreign relations policy, security policy and close supervision of some internal affairs, such as human rights and justice systems. It was under the Treaty that the EU replaced the European Community (Ritterberger, 2012).
The protection and enforcement of human rights found democracy the aftermath of the Second World War. The EU ensures that human rights are enforced within its member states. This is another key role of the EU. The European Union role beyond trade is evident in policies that concern security and justice within the EU territory. The European Union is an official consultant on issues that relate to the lack of a proper justice system in member-states’ justice systems and courts by ensuring that justice is maintained (Ritterberger, 2012). The EU also advises on issues relating to the security of a country, when there is a territorial threat towards an EU member country. The EU is an integral part in the process of decision-making in regard with security and justice of EU member countries. EU controls policies on territorial safety, crime, immigration, police and classified information of member states. The EU treaty helped to establish a secure economic market for European nations, which are currently a part of the EU (Zielonka, 2004).
The three wars resulted in the lack of jobs in Europe, which in turn resulted in the increased transmigration across Europe by nations that were not negatively affected economically searching for employment. This was an instance of industrial migration and imposed numerous problems in destination countries that had refugees (Benjamin, 2010). War refugees had positive impacts and negative shortfalls. The advantages were increased European collaboration in the post war period. As a result, European collaboration has expanded from six countries during the 1950s towards its present political and economic partnership with 27 countries (Ritterberger, 2012). The cooperation among European countries has extended beyond political and economic platforms and includes socio-cultural, monetary, security and foreign policies. Negative shortfalls associated with European transcontinental migration were cultural diversities among refugees and citizens of destination countries. This resulted in larger socio-economic transformation in the continent in the wake of the established European coalition. It was apparent that uncertainties attributed to the post-war globalization, which indicated the increased awareness of interconnections that existed between previously unlike entities and questioning the established ideologies of center and periphery (Ewing, 2011).
Furthermore, uncertainties pointed out the escalation in labor and cross-border movements that affected the conventional sense of national belongings and served to complicate the predisposition associated with a correspondence between national territory and population, and nationality and ethnicity. It is evident that 3% of European workers are from third world countries: the percentage is relatively higher with the inclusion of non-white citizens. The establishment of the EU brought a positive outcome of transcontinental migration and larger demographic transitions were witnessed in Europe by opening new opportunities for numerous economic growths within Europe (Ewing, 2011).
The end of communism associated with the fall of the Soviet Union resulted in opening up Eastern Bloc markets, providing an opportunity to stimulate stagnant economy in Europe. The revival of the market economy within the Eastern Bloc and the West Europe posed a need to have a single currency to be used in the entire region. A search for a single currency gave birth to the resurrection of other problems, such as border disputes and violent ethnic antagonisms (Ritterberger, 2012). The case was witnessed in countries with relative stability because of the lack of precise institutional and regulatory frameworks. Uncertainties associated with the European coalition imposed challenges associated with the type of emergent military alliances and countries that were supposed to take control of the emerging markets. These are some of the factors to be taken into account by the European coalition prior to the establishment of a stable economy (Ritterberger, 2012).
The European Union embarked on its enlargement as a strategy for controlling the turn of events witnessed in ex-communist nations, the promise associated with the EU accession played an integral role in persuading countries in Eastern Europe to embrace EU laws and regulations, open up their markets for EU goods and services, and resolve inside and outside disputes peacefully. An outcome was improved trade between the EU and Eastern Europe, and an increase in tourism and cultural exchanges. The firms in Western Europe have been enjoying the prospect of growth in Eastern Europe consumers. An inference was that the EU helped in the stabilization of the economic situation in Europe, with the Euro being considered as the global currency. This choice challenged the popularity associated with the United States Dollar (Ritterberger, 2012).
A stable economy and government placed the EU in the race towards becoming a global superpower alongside with the Republic of China, India, the Russian Federation and the United States. The creation of a single market and currency serves as one of the most important economic achievements of the EU. The involvement of the EU in European trade and international trade has been tremendous over the years. Actually, the European Union has increased trade between Europe and other regional market economies, especially in Africa, Asia and South America. It is apparent that there are more opportunities for trade, since there is a diversity of goods and services being traded upon. With such models as the European Monetary System, there has been the establishment of a single universal currency, the Euro. Many nations try to get integrated to create a common currency to make sure they are not affected by economic downturns and fluctuations of currency rates associated with the global trade (Ewing, 2011).
Despite the fact that the EU has a capability of becoming a leading global superpower, the EU is lagging in relation to political and legal reforms, foreign and domestic constraints and fraternal cooperation. Presently, the EU comprises economic and administrative frameworks. However, it is apparent that political objectives of the EU are long overdue to be realized. From a global perspective, the political power of the European Union is not felt, mainly because of the division of member countries in terms of political perspectives. Such key factors as controlling foreign and defense policies, which are significant in upholding a political position of the European Union, are in the hands of member countries. It can be said the EU is somewhat federalized; however, the most critical dockets that can be used to maintain its global political power are at the disposal of member countries (Ewing, 2011). To be realistic, political policies are shaped by strong stands on policies and good military co-operation and capabilities, an element that has been still observed in the EU for a long period. The European Union does not have a collective policy related to cooperative military efforts. As a result, each member country is at liberty to join non-European countries in international operations. Since most key political issues are at the prerogative of individual member states, there is a chance that EU politicians can embark on eliminating bureaucratic regulations and respective effects of EU policies (Ritterberger, 2012). This shortcoming has a chance of resulting in a downfall of the EU, especially when it is on its way towards becoming an influential superpower. The EU mainly focuses on expanding its borders, rather than embarking on fraternal cooperation with other global superpowers. In addition, other uncertainties associated with the EU include criteria for decision-making, and characteristics that affect eligibility of the protection and benefits of EU citizenship (Benjamin, 2010). It is evident that there are numerous ramifications leading to the EU becoming a peril if it embarks on the goal of becoming a global superpower. If the EU wants to be a panacea, it should maintain its structure comprising independent nations, rather than embarking on becoming a superpower. The initial objective of the EU to have a significant influence on trade and politics within Europe and beyond Europe is still to be achieved. It will take another few years before the EU successfully integrates the whole Europe and has a clear direction in both continental and international politics (Zielonka, 2004).
In conclusion, it is apparent that the EU has witnessed numerous transformations since its inception in the 1950s. The EU has been pivotal in ensuring peace and economic stability in Europe in the course of the 20th century. It can be argued that the EU is a panacea rather than a peril to its citizens and the whole globe.