The European Union (EU) is a very large economic area, and contains over 500 million people. Its income comprises 23% of the world’s gross national product, which makes it the largest economic entity in the world. It is China’s second most important customer, and is responsible for 16% of China’s exports. So what exactly is the EC? When did it come into existence, and why?
It is probably easier to describe what is not. Firstly, it is not a country. It comprises 28 different countries, and each of these countries has its own Government and legislature. It does not have its own armed forces, military issues remaining the responsibility of individual countries.
The EU has its beginnings after the end of the Second World War. This war was the third major war in less than a century involving Germany and France as opponents. Many politicians thought that an organisation should be developed that could find negotiated solutions to issues, rather than resorting to armed conflict to settle problems. The first step was the creation in 1951 of the European Coal and Steel Community. Arising partly from experience with this body, in 1957 six European countries, including Germany and France, signed the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Commission, which later became the EU.
The EU has its own President, its own Parliament, and a Council of Ministers. It is essentially a free market in goods, with trade between the 28 countries being carried on on a tariff free basis. Goods entering the EC from external countries bear import duties. In addition, 19 of the countries in the EU have entered the euro zone, thus adopting the euro as their common currency.
In the years since its formation, as explained above, the EU has never taken the final step of becoming a country in its own right. However, it is has progressively taken responsibility for the direction and management of many areas of policy that were formerly the responsibility of its member states. It has done this by passing legislation, and issuing directives, covering specific policy areas. These areas include social policy, the environment, health and safety, competition policy, travel, employment and energy. Very large numbers of directives have been issued, as a consequence of which detailed aspects of daily life, business and legal matters are now covered by EU legislative and regulatory direction.
The EU has a successful history covering nearly six decades of protecting the peace of Europe. However, its economic record is generally regarded as less successful, and has been affected by the retention by its member countries of economic independence, as well as by the competing interests of the 28 different countries. EU financial policy has been heavily influenced by German economic policy, as the largest and richest state. The German tradition has been to focus on reducing inflation, whereas many other EU countries would prefer to see economic policies that encourage growth.
After the financial crisis in 2008, many of the banking systems of the EU countries were threatened with collapse, particularly Spain, Greece, Italy and Ireland. In 2012, the European Central Bank (ECB) promised, if necessary to protect the financial stability of the EU, to buy bonds issued by member countries. This was a clever proposal because it achieved the objective of stabilising the financial position of EU member states, but no bonds were ever in fact purchased.
2008年的金融货币危机以后，很多EU国家银行的系统瓦解威胁了，特别是西班牙，义大利，希腊和爱尔兰。2012年，欧洲中央银行（ECB) 承担了买成员国家发行的债券，如果为保护EU的金融稳定必需了。这是一个很聪明的意见因为它达到稳定EU国家的金融情况的目的, 但是不用发行什么债券。
Notwithstanding this improvement, economic growth in the EU has been poor. Since 2008, China’s annual economic growth has not been below 7%, and growth in the USA and UK has been around 2%. EU annual growth by comparison has typically been less than 1% pa. Unemployment in the EU remains above 11%, compared with far lower figures in the three countries mentioned. The ECB has recently announced that it will inject new funding into the EU economy in order to stimulate economic growth, reflecting measures taken by China, USA and the UK several years ago, shortly after the 2008 crisis.
虽然这个进步不错，EU发展过很慢。2008年后， 中国每年的经济增长率百分之七多了。美国和英国增长率百分之二左右。但是EU的增长率平时百分之一以下. EU的失业率还是百分之十一以上，比别三国家的更小多了。ECB最近公布了，为了刺激经济，打算近金融系统里注资。2008危机后，中国，美国，英国 直接近金融系统里注资，ECB的耽误很长。