More on Europe and Europeans (#3)
  • An economic power or a confederation ? The case of Turkey.
  • More to come
The European institutions    The building of Europe.....
  •  There are many European institutions : some of them are part of the European Union, others are not and belong to another entity. here is a (partial) list.
  • Read about the European budget
  • See the European institutions on the chart below.
  • See French institutions at a glance
  • More to come.

USEFUL TIPS .. Do you speak European ? Some European concepts are familiar to most people in Europe. Here are some examples :

  • CEE or EEC (European Economic Union) = the relation between countries before the Treaty of Maastricht 1992, now forming the UE or EU (European Union)
  • " Espace Schengen " : this is the name for the countries which have decided to adopt the same procedures and police controls regarding the access to their territory for non-European foreigners : therefore there is absolutely no police control between them (France, Germany, Italy etc.. are in, U.K. was out even before Brexit).
  • " Eurocrate " : a member of the bureaucracy in Brussels
  • the "principe de subsidiarité" means that can be taken at the supra-national level only actions that cannot be taken more efficiently at the national levels
  • PAC ("Politique Agricole Commune") : a financial system of compensation to protect European farmers from the competition of lower prices on the world market and maintain an active agricultural sector
  • " Directive " is an European law ; to be enforced, it must be transposed (" transposée ") into each national legal system, which can take time
  • A "traité" is a agreement between all European countries and carrying out a major step in the building of Europe. For instance : Treaty of Maastricht (1992, leading to the monetary union), Nice (2001, entry of Eastern countries), Roma (1957, the common market), Lisbonne (2007, new governance), etc...
  • More to come

A word about President Trump and Europe

  • Everything Donald Trump did, said or tweeted since 2016 was deliberately and openly hostile to Europe, America's new "foes" (his words). By publicly supporting the Brexit, encouraging any European country which disagrees with any European policy (for example Hungary and Poland, against immigrants), the US government is weakening Europe.
  • In addition to that, his attitude is constantly rude and very shocking by all European standards (when he met Merkel, May, Macron and even Queen Elizabeth!). An example of lack of deference : it took a year or more to appoint the US embassadors to major countries (including France) and most of them (more than usual) are business people with no apparent interest for diplomacy.
  • Europe is begining to understand that Donald Trump is only the sign of a new American policy toward Europe, seen solely as a group of commercial partners you can treat as such on a deal basis. There is no longer a political alliance (like in the Cold War) and it was already the US policy under President Obama.
  • The two positive consequences of this shock are 1/ Europe must pay the cost of its security (that's mostly for Germany) and will accept the fact that the US will not always remain its ally and protector and 2/ this geopolitical radical change requires a stronger political Europe i.e. an effort for each member.
  • For the French, Donald TRump looks very much like the character of Ubu Roi, a play by Alfred Jarry (1973-1907) : Ubu is a mean tyrant, greedy and dangerous...
  • More to come ...



 Why it is so difficult....

  • Of course, the difficulties of the building of Europe are deeply grounded in history :
    • the traditional rivalry between France and England
    • the two World Wars caused by Germany
    • Eastern countries feeling that the West abandonned them to Russia
    • UK's policy too closely linked to US policy
    • Spaniards still resent the French for the Napoleonic wars !
    • each country has its specific problems (separatism, its own foreign policy, etc..)
    • and many more
  • The building of Europe is NOT the building of a federation (like the USA) : there is no common decision to fight against an external power, no common language, etc... The image of future Europe is not clear for everybody and is certainly not the same for the different countries. Typically (but national policies change too...), some countries expect only a large homegeneous free trade zone (U.K., Denmark, ...), others expect a political power which could challenge the USA or China (France, ...), Eastern countries want an economic booster and a protection against Russia (with a little help from the USA), etc...

  • Europe and the US policy. The building of the European Union was supported by the USA as a way to ensure peace and more prosperity in Europe after two devastating world wars and also to resist soviet imperialism. But the Americans were worried about the potential threat of a more prosperous continent for American business if it became politically united and economically protectionist. This is why the USA persistently supported the admission of the UK, market-oriented and opposed to any form of federalism, in the European Union. When De Gaulle closed the door to Britain in 1963, the British were furious and the Americans as well. Today the US support of the admission of Turkey is not for the good of Europe and/or of Turkey but for the US global strategy.

  • On most matters, resulting from existing treaties, any decision requires unanimity between the 28 countries : any of them can block anything.

  • Nowadays, most of national legislation (more than 2/3) comes, in fact, from European legislation. All European countries must transpose European legislation into their own national legislation and France does not deserve more than a C- with a 12%+ backlog on European "directives" (Italy : 10%, other countries < 6%). France is particularly late on environmental and agriculture-related issues.

  • The number of official languages (23 today) makes eveything more complicated !

  • Still under construction...

Europe : an economical power or a future confederation?

Europe is the largest economic power in the world! (even if Europe has progessed less than the BRIC countries) : see figures.

Europe and Turkey : For most Americans, what is the problem? Turkey should be part the European Union, that's all. For Europeans, it is not that simple.

  • The facts :
    • Turkey is a large country, with a population of more than 60 million (comparable to the largest European countries : Germany, France, UK and Italy) ; it is a promising and fast-growing country
    • economically, it is doing well and it is very close to Europe.
  • However :
    • it is a 100%-Muslim country, with a (sill strong but decreasing) secular tradition created by Atatürk (in the 1920s) and supported by the army ; as a member, it would carry a lot of weight in Europe : culturally, is it in Europe ?
    • geographically, Turkey, with borders with Syria, Iraq, Iran and Armenia, is NOT in Europe but in the Middle-East
    • historically, Turkey has been for centuries a major threat to Europe, with the conquest and occupation of the Balkans (until the 19th century), the last attack being the siege of Vienna in 1683
    • Europeans are deeply divided about the admission of Turkey , both between them (the most favorable being the closest to US foreign policy) and inside each country. In France and in many other other countries, there is no doubt that, if submitted to a referendum, the admission of Turkey would be refused.
  • My personal opinion : by persistently pushing for the admission of Turkey, successive US governments have acted in an extremely irresponsible way, making Turkey frustrated and Europeans upset (including by Obama in Cairo in May 2009). Turkey is a solid ally and a good economic partner, but culturally and politically it is not a European country. What if the European Union was pushing for Mexico to become a US state ? 

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? For decades, France has been, by far, the most irritating country in the life of the European Union (un-cooperative, always alone against all the others, often threatening to step out, ...), but now her position is seriously challenged by a more recent member country, Poland (with Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Rep. as gifted rivals...).


 Reasons for hope...

  • What European peoples want to build is still unclear but what the Thirteen American Colonies wanted to build in 1776 was unclear too !

  • The days of wars are over : as a symbol of it, a first textbook of History common for French and German junior and senior year High School students was published in 2006

  • The Erasmus program is very succesful and for millions of young people, Europe does mean something.

  • The whole Europe is now a free trade region and a region without borders

  • The common currency, the Euro, is a success : more budgetary discipline (even for France...), easier for foreign investors, ...

  • More to come..

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? The French European deputies (78 out of 732 members of the European parliament) are not as active and influential as they should (14th out of 15 for assiduity, 1,36 report per deputy compared to 3,45 for German deputies) ; they are active in the less powerful committees (Human Rights or Foreign Policy, instead of Economic Committee). Unlike other countries whose deputies join one of the two main European parliamentary groups (PPE : Right of PSE : Left), they are divided into 8 different minority groups. In a nutshell : they are very French....

  • The nightmare of languages in Europe :

    • 23 official languages

    • 2,500 translators for the Commission (only) : total cost 302 million Euros (1,1 billion Euros for all European Institutions)

    • the most spoken language within the European Union is English 51% (13% as native speakers, 38% as foreign langage), French comes third with 26% (12% n.s., 14% f.l.) ; see detailed figures and read about Brexit

    • only 51% of the French speak a foreign language : an average position between the best (Finland, Germany : almost 70%) and the worst European countries (Ireland, UK : 35%) : see detailed figures.

 Institutions of the European Union (as of 2007)
 Name  composed of  mission  functioning  chair  sits in  Comment

European Council (Conseil Européen)
 heads of state and government    meets four times a year  chaired by a member state for 6 months    a purely political level
 European Commission (Commission Européenne)  27 members  proposes European policies ("directives")    Jose Manuel Barroso (from Portugal)  Brussels  the management of Europe
 Council of the European Union (Conseil de l'Union Europeenne)  the ministers of the 27 governments  the ministers of the same fields (finance, education, agriculture, transport, ) meet on a regular basis to propose and coordinate European policies  most decisions require a unanimous vote  its General Secretary (Javier Solana, from Spain) is in charge of the coordination of the European foreign policy  Brussels and Luxembourg  the tool to facilitate the implementation of European policies into each country
 European Parliament (Parlement Européen)  785 delegates elected in member countries  the legislative power of the European Union  the deputies join one the transnational political groups (the most important are PPE : center right christian democrats, PES : center left social democrats)  Josep Borell, (from Spain)  Brussels and Strasbourg  the legislative power
 The European Court of Justice (Cour Européenne de Justice)    controls the implementation of European laws    Vassillios Skouris (from Greece)  Luxembourg  the European supreme court
 The European Central Bank (Banque Centrale Européenne)    the regulator of the European currency Euro    Jean-Claude Trichet (from France)  Frankfurt  the European central bank
 Other entities, distinct from the European Union
 Council of Europe (Conseil de l'Europe) -  42 countries including Russia    established 1949    Strasbourg  strongly focused on the Rights of Man in former Eastern countries
 Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme      established 1959    Strasbourg  
 OECD  18 members (the richest countries of the world)    established 1948      initially the organization in charge of manging the funds of the Marschall Plan
 Europol    coordination of European police forces  established 1995      
 European Investment Bank (Banque Européenne d'Investissement)  shareholders : the member states of the E.U.  finance infrastructure    Philippe Maestadt (from Belgium)  Luxembourg  
 NATO (OTAN)  includes non European countries : USA, Canada, Turkey    established 1949      
 European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (BERD)  shareholders : the member states of the E.U.  finance economic development and infranstructure in former communist countries  established 1992  Jean Lemierre (from France)  London  
To related pages : building of Europe (#2), more facts on Europe(#4), facts & figures, Europe after the Brexit(#5), issues and achievements (#6), etc...

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Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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