European Problems - Challenges of the European Union

Term Paper, 2008

9 Pages, Grade: 1,6


Table of Content

1 Approach to the issue
1.1 Europe – historical continent of change
1.2 Current problems of the European Union

2. Enlargement of the European Union
2.1 The new East-European members
2.2 Current applicants for membership
2.3 Future applicants

3. European Integration - an ever closer union?

4 How to solve the Union’s lack of efficiency
4.1 The Treaty of Lisbon
4.2 The democratic deficit
4.3 Possible solutions to a rejection of the “Lisbon Treaty”

5. Conclusion

6. Resources

1 Approach to the issue

“I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.”

Arco Eddie Izzard (British stand-up Comedian and Actor. b.1962)

1.1 Europe – historical continent of change

Europe has always been a region of immense historical importance and uproar. Comprising numerous different, sometimes even competing and fighting nations, Europe forms an ethnically, culturally and socially diversified continent. For centuries, it has therefore been a place of wars, revolutions and migration, as well as a well-spring of cultural imprint, Christianity and philosophy. The last century, shaped by two world wars and the Cold War, entailed a devastated and separated Europe. However, with Germany and France – two traditional arch-enemies – realizing that cooperation is better than warfare, the first milestone towards what was to become the European Union was laid. Today the Union consists of 27 member states, implying almost 500 million inhabitants. As a matter of fact, the creation of the EU itself has been a revolutionary act never encountered before in history, as several sovereign countries agreed on the long-term target of the generation of a common region of unitary legislation.

Enumerating the advantages and opportunities resulting for economy, societies and individuals in the EU, one always has to take into consideration the serious challenges the formation of the Union poses to the particular member states and to their inhabitants.

1.2 Current problems of the European Union

In our days, after the two enlargements in 2004 and 2007 adding some 12 Easter-European countries to the Union, more problems and difficulties seem to occur. How to integrate the new member states? Will the economic situation in these countries improve? How much money should the Union invest in each country and how should improvement be monitored and measured? To what extent is the enlargement profitable for the old member states? All these are current issues discussed in the European Parliament which will have to be solved in the near future. And, as new countries are applying for membership, these questions enter a new dimension.

However, enlargement, integration and fiscal policy of the European Union are not its only current challenges. There is also the problem of the so called “democratic deficit”, whose elimination requires a restructuring of European Institutions. How will political structures change and what will be the steps towards the envisaged final status of unitary legislation?

This dissertation provides an overview of the current challenges of the EU and the possibility of their accomplishment in future. It will concentrate on the Union’s development in near future and the tasks having to be coped with in order to guarantee a smooth progression in European politics, economy, integration and people’s satisfaction.

2. Enlargement of the European Union

2.1 The new East-European members

The current situation of the Union is characterized by the two latest Eastern-European enlargements adding 10 new member states in 2004 and 2 more in 2007. All states joining the European Union have to accept a body of laws and obligations, the so called “acquis communautaire”. However, its implantation is a long process, posing challenges to both the new members and the EU institutions. These two last enlargements automatically generate an “increase in structural diversity in terms of wealth, law, administration, local habits and culture”[1]. Apparently, not all members will implement EU policies and postulations in an uniform way. One currently highly discussed question occurs: Will the Union’s institutions be able to cope with the increasing administrative, cultural and economic diversity of its members? With each country having different problems and being unequally economically developed, there is no “one-size-fits-all solution”. As a consequence, each wave of enlargements entails a significant internal restructuring and ratification of institutions.

Furthermore, the Union’s fiscal policy and spending are always an issue of discussion. How much money should be provided to each particular country in each particular year and, what is more important, is this money allocated to the right institutions? A big problem – especially for the two latest members Romania and Bulgaria – is misemployment and abuse of European funds. Adding new countries to the Union always means adapting their problems and making them European problems. The two gravest problems of those two countries represent at the same time two of the EU’s problems: Corruption and Organised crime. Coping with these problems remains one of the most difficult to control problems of contemporary Europe.

In general, other particular challenges for the East-European countries have a historical background. Being given that most of these countries have been part of a Socialist and Communist bloc before 1989, their accession to the Union meant a further milestone in their way “Westward”. Their strategy of modernisation and democratisation contains the general post-communist long-term aim of economic growth, stability and prosperity.

2.2 Current applicants for membership

Joining countries do not only have to accept the “acquis communautaire”, they also must satisfy certain economic, democratic and social conditions. Indeed, three countries are holding accession negotiations at present: Turkey, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Generally, it can be stated that a big percentage of Europeans fear that a further enlargement could threaten the Union’s progress, intensified by uncertainty about cost of the procedure.

At this point, it seems adequate to differentiate between Turkey on the one, and the two Balkan states on the other hand. The main reason to do so is the countries’ population. Since Turkey has about 70 Million inhabitants, an accession of this country would have heavier consequences for the Union than an accession of Macedonia or Croatia having a population of 2 Million and 4,5 Million respectively.

Proponents of Turkey’s accession argue that the country has big regional power, a large economy and a large military force. Moreover, they await a significant economic growth of the country allowing EU states to benefit from. The country’s big area and population would be a good delivery market for existing EU member states. Also, the facts that Turkey has improved in human rights issues and has been applying for membership for 40 years by now militate in favour of a accession.

However, there are severe arguments against a membership. Firstly, with the country neglecting key principles like “freedom of expression”, with women frequently having a lower status than men and with military having a too heavy influence on government, key features of a liberal democracy are not matched. Secondly, after joining, the 70 Million Turks would represent the second populous country of the Union, thus becoming a grave counterbalance of Germany, France and the UK. This argument is enforced by expectations that Turkey’s population will significantly grow in the next decades, whereas most European countries face a demographic decline, which will lead to Turkey surpassing Germany in number of seats in European institutions. Thirdly, an admission would involve costs up to 10 billion € a year for the EU[2]. At last, it is the country’s location itself which creates questions: Does Turkey as a whole geographically belong to Europe? If Turkey joins, what would happen to other possible applicants like Russia and Morocco, whose application has already been rejected on geographic basis?

Another problem always occurring when a state promulgates its candidacy is the reaction of European Union citizens. “Turkey’s membership is supported by 28% of the public among EU member states”[3] and one of the major reasons for Dutch and French people to reject the Constitutional Treaty in 2005 was reluctance concerning Eastern-European enlargement policy and the extension of membership to Turkey.

2.3 Future applicants

In the long term, other countries belonging geographically to Europe are likely to apply for membership, including the Balkan states as well as Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine, whose policy is already pro-European at this moment. Basically, as far as those countries match the criteria needed to join the Union and the current treaties are replaced by a new one (like the Treaty of Lisbon, see chapter 4.1) allowing the number of Member States to be more than the current maximal amount of 27, the European institutions have no reason for rejecting their membership. However, with more and more countries joining, cultural, linguistic and economic differences within the Union increase, thus not only engraving problems of EU institutions, bureaucracy and fiscal policy, but also challenging the process of European Integration and people’s satisfaction.

3. European Integration - an ever closer union?

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a part of a continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.”

John Donne quotes (English poet, 1572-1631)

European Integration describes the process of cultural as well as economic, political and legal fusion of all European States. When talking about integration within the EU, bodies encompassing also non-EU States, like the Council of Europe, do not play a crucial role.

Perhaps the most important question in an ever closer Union is, how far the coalescence of its countries should go. This involves a debate about the final goal of the EU: creating a federation or a confederation? One vision of an extremely integrated Union is the model an European federation, “the United States of Europe”. In this case the member states would form a new sovereign state.

However, this model is far from reality not only due to linguistic, cultural and economic differences but also for reasons of national and political interests. The EU will rather remain an alliance of sovereign states following the principles of multilateralism and become a confederacy, involving complex structures and patterns.

One formally recognised principle is subsidiarity, enshrined in the treaty of European Union[4]. It stages that decisions should be made by the smallest authorities possible. The EU can thereby only interact if objectives cannot be sufficiently achieved by member states.

Moreover, as there is no “one-size-fits-all-solution”, there must be found a second principle regulating how much a state can deviate from acquis communautaire.


[1] Hay, Colin and Menon, Anand (2007) European Politics, p368, Oxford University Press

[2] Goldstein, Joshua International Relations, 2008

[3] Standard Eurobarometer 65/ Spring 2006 – TNS Opinion and Social

[4] Sakwa, Richard and Stevens, Anne (2006) Contemporary Europe, p 187, Second Edition Palgrave foundations

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European Problems - Challenges of the European Union
Berlin School of Economics
Studiengang International Management, Kurs Regional Studies
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European, Problems, Challenges, European, Union, Studiengang, International, Management, Kurs, Regional, Studies
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Alexander Nikolov (Author), 2008, European Problems - Challenges of the European Union, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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