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European Integration: A Historical Analysis

The European Union as we now know it today came about through several treaties or agreements between European countries. After the horror of World War 2, people wanted to find ways to ensure future peace and cooperation between different countries in Europe. In the late 1940s, the idea of the European community was discussed. In 1951 the first union was formed between six countries which were Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Italy, France, and West Germany. They agreed to work together on the production of coal and steel materials that were essential for rebuilding military forces. They felt that working together would be helpful to avoid more wars between the countries.

In 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC) was created through the treaty of Rome. This aimed to make it easier to buy and sell a wide range of goods, not just coal and steel. Throughout the six countries that were members, it also tried to make it easier for people to travel, live and work within these countries. Soon other countries wanted to join the EEC and the membership started to grow. Some people in Europe were against their own countries which were joining, and they protested to keep their independence. The 1960s was considered a good period because in the context of the economy, the EU countries which were trading stopped charging customs duties and they worked on the production of food.

In 1993 the Maastricht treaty officially renamed the EEC as the European Union and introduced more cooperation between the government areas like defense and justice. They also set out plans to bring the economies of the member countries close together. In 2002, the Euro was born. Currencies like the French franc, Dutch guilders, and Italian lira all became history, and the Euro became the currency of 12 EU countries. UK, Denmark, and Sweden have decided to keep their currency. Countries continued to join the European Union and in 2004, we saw the biggest-ever single enlargement of the EU when 10 countries joined.

Enlargement process

Gradually the process of enlargement started, and many other countries integrated themselves into this union. This process occurred in five phases and gradually other countries joined this union. In 1973 Ireland, Denmark, United Kingdom; in 1981 Greece; in 1986 Spain and Portugal Joined. The enlargement process continued by considering the capacity of absorption of new members. The idea of liberal democracy and the market economy expanded throughout Europe. 2004-2007 was considered the fifth enlargement and it was more complex than the previous because more countries were incorporated into this union with their small economic developments.

Rationalist and Constructivist Perspectives

Two perspectives explain the European Union Integration which is the Rationalists and the Constructivists.  The rationalists perceived things in a materialistic way in which they wanted to put those rules under consideration which increase their negotiation position and articulate the rule. The constructivists considered the norms and values as a key factor in the policy-making of the European Union and also to spread European identification and values.

The membership applications are approved by the EU institutions through the process of intergovernmental decision-making. The accession of Countries to the EU is done through the negotiation process in which they determine the willingness of the state who are applying and the capacity of the EU to incorporate new member states. So, if a state wanted to be part of the EU, it must fulfill the conditionality of the European Union. It is important because it keeps the confidence of existing members of the European Union. The outcome of enlargement makes the EU more diverse and impacted its running. 


Europeanization is an essential term in studying the European Union. In this process, we study the interaction of the European Union with its member states and third-world countries and how the member states form the policies and politics of the European Union. Europeanization becomes an important concept in European Integration because firstly, the European Union gained the capability of policymaking in more than 50 years of integration and it affects the lives of citizens of the EU in several aspects, secondly, the third world countries are pushing for democracy, market liberalization, good governance and human rights and thirdly, due to Economic Integration it has had an unexpected effect on the states which are part of the EU and also outside states of the EU.

Public Opinion and European Integration

Public opinion on the European Union is an important part of European integration. Firstly, what was the public opinion and their perception towards the European Union, and secondly why do they have perception and public opinion towards the EU, and how these perceptions developed? There are many reasons for these perceptions. The process of European Integration was run by the elite classes and the ordinary citizens had no say in the policy-making of the EU. They do not know about how the process is running and what is the structure of the EU. These things were going based on permissive consensus. When the citizens allow the elite to shape and run this process is known as permissive consensus.

Public Opinion and Euroskeptics

Public opinion got consideration when the Euroskeptic members joined the EU in 1973, particularly the UK and Denmark. The Euroskeptics are those who oppose European integration. They started to focus on public opinion and referendums even though they were limited in number. In 1992 when the Single European Act came, you have to make a single market within the European community and there was a great role of Public Opinion in the increasing integration of the European Union. In Public opinion, the question arises whether membership in the EU is a good thing or a bad thing. And the second question is whether your country being a member benefitted or not. According to Eurobarometer poll reports, until 1991 70% of people voted that membership in the EU is a good thing but in 1997 the enthusiasm for membership came to 50%.

Different theories explain public opinion. Egocentric utilitarianism explains that if European Integration is benefiting the individuals, then it is good otherwise it is not a good thing. Sociotropic utilitarianism explains in support of increased trade and budgetary outlays of the country. Membership continues to grow there but still debates are going on in many countries about the advantages and disadvantages of working together in this way. 

Picture Credit: Hochschule Fulda

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