, Research Paper
The integration of Europe has created a new government that could be labeled as intergovernmental, or supranational. Most would agree, that in reality, it is a delicate balance of the two. However, you can identify specific policies within the EU as more intergovernmental or supranational. EU social policy leans more towards the intergovernmental, and EU monetary policy would be largely considered supernatural.
European Union social policy would be considered more intergovernmental mostly by lack of concrete policy. In fact, most legislation passed in the EU is to promote social issues, while leaving out specific policies to do so. As far back as The Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, there was a stipulation for equal pay for equal work, however this policy was largely ignored, and the only reason it was even mentioned was for economic reasons, France was worried about unfair competition. The 1970 s were a time of revolution in the United States, and quality of life issues were suddenly in the spotlight. The EU was affected by this, and was forced to react by promoting both the improvement of life for workers in all of the EU, and the equality of benefits for all members of the EU. The individual countries biggest concern, however, was the latter, since industry was likely to move to countries with looser standards of benefits to its workers. The European Regional Development Fund was agreed upon in 1973, and launched in 1975. The idea was to fund the development of poorer regions, in addition to the funds from the national level. These funds could only be used to improve infrastructure, and promote new jobs and industries. However, in keeping with the intergovernmental social policy of the EU, it was left up to the specific nations what regions would be selected for these funds. In 1989 the Social Charter was introduced, and, although the ideas were large, in reality it did very little. The idea of the Social Charter to promote fee movement of workers, improved working and living conditions for workers, programs for equality of gender and age, protection of children, and many other social issues. Unfortunately, it was very short on specifics on reaching these goals, and very little was actually done. Britain actually opted out of the Social Charter completely; arguing it was not interested in being involved in what they felt was a socialist charter. The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1991, included social goals, however since Britain did not want to go along with these, it opted out, and allowed the remaining 11 members to form a social community without Britain. The opting out of Britain led to the division of the EU, and it is questionable if any of these social goals can be met. In reality, decisions on equality are not made based on the desire for equality, but rather are made for economic issues, more specifically, free trade. As a result of this lack of interest, most of the policies on social issues remain at the nation level. While most in the EU can agree the importance of establishing a coherent social policy to further the integration of Europe, it is doubtful supranational policies will ever pass as a result of the differences of culture and ideology of the member nations.
In contrast, monetary policy in the EU leans more towards supranational. This is mostly because of the amount of sovereignty nations are giving up to have a single currency. One of the biggest things nations are giving up is control of their own monetary policy, an important tool for a nations economic outlook. Monetary policy is the ability of the government to lower or raise interest rates to help the economy. This can be a very important tool in helping a country climb out of a recession. Now that this control has been taken over by EU, it must set the policy for the good of the whole EU, not just an individual country. As a result, any changes in interest rates in the EU are for the good of the entire EU, not any individual countries. Another important tool EU nations are giving up is the ability to set their own exchange rate, which is also now in the hands of the EU. Previously, to help a failing economy, the government could devalue its currency, which would help the economy rise by increasing exports, or conversely, if the currency was appreciated it would increase imports, slowing the economy down when needed. Now, only the EU can raise or devalue the new EU currency, and only when it is to the benefit of the entire EU. To join the EU, nations also must have very specific national debt levels. This could also have a very strong effect on member nations since one of the other ways governments can help bring a nation out of recession is government spending. By limiting the debt level of a nation, the government can only go so far to control the decline of its economy in times of recession. With all of these policies in the hands of the EU, countries are going to have to look at the EU for help in stabilizing their economies, and at the present time, there is no concrete policy to do so.
The integration of Europe remains a work in progress. The future of the European Union rests in the ability to balance supranational and intergovernmental. Specific policies of the EU can still be labeled as one or the other, such as social issues, which remain intergovernmental, and monetary policy, which is largely supranational. If the EU is to hold together, all policies must also maintain that same balance. If this is true, much work still needs to be done, so that the clear lines between supranational and intergovernmental no longer exist. With the amount of diversity of the members of the European Union, it is questionable if concrete policies can be passed to accomplish this.