Stronger Europe thru union

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    By SHAWN DICKERSON

    The European Union is very optimistic about its ability to create a stronger Europe through greater national cooperation, but a great deal of skepticism still surrounds the organization.

    A report posted on the World Wide Web, entitled Eu Basics, describes the European Union as “the organization for member countries that have decided to cooperate on a great number of areas, ranging from a single market to foreign policy, and from mutual recognition of school diplomas to exchange of criminal records.”

    The idea of the European Union (EU) essentially began in the late 1950’s with the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC), said John Griffin, BYU assistant professor of political science.

    Although the EU was designed to improve economic relations between its member countries it also provided for a great deal of national sovereignty, he said.

    The EU, as it stands today, was established by the Maarstricht Treaty, which came into force Nov. 1993, and is aimed at creating an even greater amount of cooperation between its nations than the EEC created.

    The current member nations of the EU are Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Finland and Sweden, according to Eu Basics.

    The name of the cooperative organization was changed from the EEC to the EU because the word “union” implies the greater degree of integration the group now seeks, said Earl Fry, BYU professor of political science.

    One of the most recent developments in the evolution of the EU deals with the organization’s goal to create a unified currency among its member nations.

    The EU recently predicted all 15 of its member nations, with the exception of Italy and Greece, will be able to keep their budget deficits low enough to introduce a common currency by 1999, according to the Associated Press.

    The EU has set a standard saying a unified currency can only be introduced if member nations keep their government deficits below three percent of their gross domestic product.

    By the spring of 1998, according to A.P., EU government leaders will select countries that will drop their national currencies and adopt the unified currency.

    Even Italy may manage to get its budget gap below three percent “if measures already taken have full effectiveness and, if necessary, additional measures are introduced,” according to the EU executive commission.

    Though the EU is very optimistic about a unified currency and further unification, some do not share this sentiment.

    Griffin said he was surprised that the EU would make such a statement about a unified currency.

    “A single currency is still a pretty controversial issue in Europe,” he said.

    For years, even under the Treaty of Rome, European nations have still been able to impose trade barriers on each other through currency fluctuations, Griffin said. A single currency would essentially take away not only this power but a great deal of each nation’s sovereignty. This loss has kept many nations hesitant.

    Griffin also said if member nations were to merge currencies while there are still wide financial differences between nations the disparities would be great.

    “(The EU) seems to be spreading a lot of optimism to make a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said.

    In addition to questions surrounding a unified currency, the EU raises other issues that could present difficulties.

    “They have a long way to go,” Fry said.

    What the EU is trying to do is essentially the same thing the U.S. did back in the 1770’s, which was not without its own problems, he said.

    Fry said the U.S. wasn’t trying to unite a group of states with as diverse and rich a history as the nations of Europe, and there were still many struggles, including the Civil War.

    Fry also said opinion is very divided among EU members about how much unification is good.

    “Some of them want to move toward a united states of Europe,” he said.

    Many nations, however, are more skeptical. Britain and Denmark, in particular, are jealous of giving too much decision-making power to Brussels, Belgium, the headquarters of the EU, Fry said.

    There are also a lot of questions surrounding many nations, such as Turkey and several Russian republics that still seek entrance to the EU.

    Fry said to admit a lot of nations, the EU would become an organization governed by the lowest common denominator, in which larger nations would be required to provide a great deal of aid to smaller, developing nations.

    “You’re watering down what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said.

    Not admitting small developing nations, however, could also create problems. Fry said some nations could possibly return to systems like communism if they cannot gain entrance.

    The creation of a strong EU also raises questions for the U.S.

    Already the EU’s combine GDP is greater than that of the U.S., Fry said.

    He said an economic entity larger than the U.S. could be good for the nation if the EU buys American products, but it could also be a disadvantage if the EU chooses to create trading blocks, allowing free trade among members but restricting it with other nations.

    The EU might also be less willing to cooperate with the U.S. because they would no longer need so much American military protection, he said.

    A strong EU and euro currency would “probably devaluate our currency in the long run,” Griffin said. A euro currency could possibly become the world’s reserve currency, taking the place the dollar has held since the end of World War II.

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