3.2 The expansion – changing perspectives and goals
A feature of the move to European cooperation in the 1950s was that, although the rhetoric of the founding fathers stressed the imperative for trust and commitment, some of the member states involved lacked it. France remained cautious of Germany and was not enthusiastic about extending cooperation too far. The UK was reluctant to participate primarily because it remained distrustful of political cooperation with France. This stance would see the UK remain outside the EU until it joined in 1973. Over the intervening years, the union has expanded with successive accessions, each bringing a cluster of new member states.
Watch the following video clips.
- We must look to the future
- Vladimir Drobnjak on Croatia entering the EU
- A history of Britain's love-hate relationship with Europe
- Session on the rationale for the European Union (Note: this link takes you to the full lecture - if you are short on time listen from 10:12 to 41:36 minutes).
Transcript: We must look to the future
Transcript: Vladimir Drobnjak on Croatia entering the EU
Transcript: A history of Britain's love-hate relationship with Europe
To watch the last of these video clips please follow this link:This 90 minute discussion is additional to the material in this OpenLearn course. Do not feel you need to watch it in one sitting at a particular time when studying this course.
This selection of video extracts contains themes which indicate changing reasons for joining, which differ between acceding member states. Clearly, the driving force for the UK and Ireland was the prospect of access to a large market for exports. For the Eastern European member states, in addition to access to the market, they gained the comfort of a strong alliance against the ambitions of Russia. For the Balkan states, other nuanced reasons emerge. Accordingly, you may conclude that each new member state does not necessarily share the same vision of the EU or reasons for joining the EU as its founding member states. Equally, each member state does not hold the same vision for the future of the EU. Current tensions on sovereignty are evidenced by the failure of the Treaty of Nice amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts (Treaty of Nice), which was rejected by referenda in some member states at the time.
This leads us to a series of questions, we are continuously engaging with whenever we aim to fully grasp and reflect on the European Union as a whole:
- Is the EU a failed project? Has it stopped European wars? Is wealth being shared and distributed fairly or is it polarising between north and south, and rich and poor?
- How have the founding ideals developed and why have we ended up with something quite different?
- Why is it still important to have those ideals especially as some may argue that Europe as a project failed in some of its ideals in that:
- it did not stop wars – see what happened in Bosnia or what is continuing to happen in the Crimea and South Georgia
- there is an increasing polarisation of wealth, but there is also a commensurate improvement in the economic well-being and improved living conditions for all EU citizens.