The European Union and the Ambivalence towards the Process of European Integration
Rostam J. Neuwirth
Volume 1 Issue 1 (2008)
The European Union (EU) was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 but its origins date back, in an unbroken line of institutional continuity, first to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952 and second to the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) as well as the European Economic Community (EEC), both established in 1958. There is no doubt that in the overall process of European integration, understood as referring to the organisation of the common life of all citizens and all peoples inhabiting the European continent, the European Union, in both method and purpose, sharply distinguishes itself from all the previous, imperialist, belligerent, bloody, and, most of all, failed attempts of uniting Europe. Notwithstanding the European Union’s overall success in a vast area of fields, support for its existence and work is still met with a strong sense of ambivalence. Such ambivalence is characterised by a great uncertainty over its finalité, i.e. both its purpose and end, which is expressed in a strong indecisiveness as to which path to follow. In this regard, it is suggested here, that this ambivalence is caused by the dynamic dialectic underlying its creation and functioning which – when coupled with a growing complexity of the legislative and administrative procedures that characterise our present epoch – is still causing serious troubles to the minds of people. Such troubles find their expression in an often disharmonious, divided, and even polarised discussion of EU affairs which is most of the times dominated by polemics based on misconceptions and a lack of reliable information rather than a constructive common public debate. This article intends to provide a concise overview of selected stages of the process of European integration beginning with the second half of the 20 century and extending to the development of the main legal foundations as well as institutions of what today forms the “European Union”. By focusing on some of the most imminent challenges that presently threaten the prosperous future of the European Union, this article marks also an attempt to dig deeper into the underlying considerations and perhaps bring some of its original spirit to the fore. It tries to ponder on the cause of the problems and reflects on the question whether this ambivalence is the source of a slow down of the smooth development of European integration or instead forms the basis for its sustainable and democratic development?