The European Union (EU) has also attempted to bring different European states closer together through social means. It replaced the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1993 because European integration had become more comprehensive and no longer limited itself to the economic sphere alone. Have a look at the positions available at the current term of the European Commission (2010-2014) and you will know what it means by “comprehensive”:
- High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
- Commissioner for Competition
- Commissioner for Transport
- Commissioner for Digital Agenda
- Commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration
- Commissioner for Internal Market and Services
- Commissioner for Energy
- Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
- Commissioner for Environment
- Commissioner for Development
- Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
- Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Statistics, Audit and Anti-Fraud
- Commissioner for Trade
- Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science
- Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
- Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
- Commissioner for Regional Policy
- Commissioner for Climate Action
- Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
- Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
- Commissioner for Home Affairs
- Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development
- Commissioner for Health
- Commissioner for Consumer policy
- Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship
- Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
- Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget
Example 1: Schengen area – freedom of movement
In 1985, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands took a decisive step towards a Europe without internal borders (relevant to globalization characteristic (2): encourage free movement of people and goods) by signing the Schengen Agreement. In 1990, these countries put forward a common visa policy and the abolition of their internal borders, which were to be implemented by 1995. In 1997, the Schengen Agreement became part of the European Union Law, thus a concern for all EU member states. So far, out of the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, 22 are members of the EU. Not only can EU citizens benefit from this policy which guarantees freedom of movement within the whole Schengen Area (no visa, no border controls, crossing the border between France and Germany is as easy as travelling from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon!), but non-EU citizens as well. The only border controls they have to go through are the ones during their arrival and departure at the Schengen Area. In short, a single entry visa for a total of 26 European countries.
Example 2: Farewell to roaming charges in Europe
Not long ago roaming charges in the EU* were often accused of being unreasonably high, making many mobile phone users hesitant to make or receive a phone call or surf the Internet when they are in other EU countries. To protect consumers’ rights, the EU introduced a price cap on roaming in 2007 and 2009. According to the new regulations, the maximum roaming charges allowable were also set to decrease every year, and mobile phone should be better informed of different service charges by receiving a SMS when they cross the border. The results are remarkable: roaming charges in 2013 have dropped by 80% when compared with those in 2007.
The EU is now pushing the agenda to abolish roaming in the EU altogether. The proposal has already passed through the European Parliament vote but still needs the approval of the Council of the European Union. It is expected to be valid by late 2015.
Without a supranational organization like the EU, it would have been much more difficult to regulate roaming on such a large regional scale. This matches globalization characteristic (3): more and more issues are of regional or even global scale; close cooperation among states are therefore essential.
*precisely, not only EU member states but also Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway
Example 3: European Standardization
European standardization matches globalization characteristic (4). But after all, what is standardization? Many European countries have their own institutes of standardization, which determine the national standards of similar products , e.g. paper and screw sizes. The objective of having common standards is to make sure that products are fit for use as widely as possible.
The Dutch institute of standardization—NEN
The German institute of standardization—DIN
The next logical step after having formulated national standards is to establish common standards on a regional scale. In Europe, postwar economic integration led to the foundation of European Committee for Standardization/CEN in 1961, European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization/CENELEC in 1973 and European Telecommunications Standards Institute/ETSI in 1988. European standards are commonly known as “EN”.
Products sold in the European Economic Area (EEA)* often carry a CE label. It is an indication that they meet certain European standards and are therefore fit for use in the EEA. As a number of European countries are pioneers of technology and innovation, many ENs has also become international standards, to which other regions have to adhere as well.
*European Economic Area include EU-28 states, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein.
Cover photo source: Wikicommons