Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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3 Part B The European Union

3.1 Background

Like the Council of Europe, the European Union (EU) also arose as the result of the desire to heal political and social scars left by the Second World War. The complete collapse of Europe had led to the creation of ideas, not just for the prevention of such horrors occurring again but also for a new European order. The initial focus for the evolution of what we now call the EU was economic growth.

There are many European organisations and it is important to be able to identify correctly which organisation is actually being discussed. Confusion as to the organisation under discussion can lead to a misrepresentation of its role and powers. Ensure you don't make those mistakes in your studies. Examples of European organisations include:

  • Euro-Atlantic alliances, for example, the organisation for European Economic Cooperation whose main aim was to liberalise trade between countries, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a military alliance.

  • The Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These tend to be inclusive intergovernmental alliances, aimed at the participation of as many countries as possible. You have already been introduced to the Council of Europe through our discussions on the European Convention on Human Rights. The OSCE is a recent creation, founded in 1994, and aims to enable disputes to be settled by peaceful means.

  • The EU. Whereas the idea of a united Europe has developed over the last 60 years, the EU in its current form came into existence in November 1993. It differs from the previous two groupings because of its aims and ambitions. The EU is able to act independently and create legal rules that have an effect in member states. We will now consider its evolution and powers in more detail.

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