The European Union
Western European countries struggled to rebuild their ruined economies after World War II, beginning the movement for European unity. In 1950, France proposed closer links among Europe’s coal and steel industries, which was seen as the first step towards unity. In 1957, Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and the Netherlands created the European Economic Community to promote integration. In 1992, representatives from various European governments met in Maastriht to sign the Maastricht Treaty, which set up the European Union, which aimed to make Europe’s economies competitive with those of the rest of the world. They strived to get rid of restrictions on the movement of goods, services, and people across its members’ borders, and they created a path towards a single European currency, a central bank, and a common foreign policy. In 2004, members tried to establish a EU constitution in order to be reconstructed to accomodate new members. It came to a standstill when France and the Netherlands rejected it. Germany led the EU member countries to continue working on the treaty. In December 2007, the Lisbon Treaty was signed in Lisbon, Portugal, addressing the establishment of the EU presidency and the consolidation of foreign policy representatinon for the EU, and requiring majority approval of decisions. Irish voters rejected the treaty and first, but approved it in October 2009.
A New Eastern Europe
European countries have been moving towards market economies. To compete in global markets, industries have had to overcome outdated equipment and inefficient production methods. Workers were retrained as industries tried to get new technology and reduce pollution. Eastern European governments are trying to attract foreign investments and financial aid, Through change, workers lost part of their social “safety net”provided by the communist system, including free health care, lifetime jobs, and other social benefits. death rates have risen and life expectancy has declined.
The European Union has strict standards on trade, banking, business law, environmental issues, and human rights. Countries that want membership must adjust their legal and financial systems and ways of doing business. They also must compete with other EU members who might be ahead of them in productivity.
Boehm, Richard G. World Geography and Cultures. Columbus, Ohio: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.