Member State of the European Union

Member State of the European Union

A Member State of the European Union is any one of the twenty-seven sovereign nation states that have acceded the European Union (EU) since its "de facto" inception in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). From an original membership of six states, there have been six successive enlargements, the largest occurring on 1 May 2004, when ten Member States joined. The EU is currently composed of twenty republics, six kingdoms and one grand duchy. Following the addition of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, the EU's membership now stands at twenty-seven. Negotiations are also under way with a number of other states. The process of enlargement is sometimes referred to as European integration. However, this term is also used to refer to the intensification of cooperation between EU Member States as national governments allow for the gradual centralising of power within European institutions. Before being allowed to join the European Union, a state must fulfil the economic and political conditions generally known as the Copenhagen criteria: these basically require that a candidate Member State must enjoy a secular, democratic system of government, together with the corresponding freedoms and institutions, and respect the rule of law. Under the terms of the Treaty on European Union, enlargement of the Union is conditional upon the agreement of each existing Member State as well as approval by the European Parliament.

Bulgaria and Romania comprise the second part of the EU's fifth enlargement, and joined the EU on 1 January 2007. This date was agreed upon at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003, confirmed at Brussels on 18 June 2004, and affirmed by the country reports of October 2004 and the final report delivered on 26 September 2006. Bulgaria and Romania signed their Treaty of Accession on 25 April 2005 at a ceremony held at Neumünster Abbey in Luxembourg.




Enlargement has been a principal feature of the Union's political landscape. The Union was founded by the "Inner Six", those countries willing to forge ahead with the Community while others remained sceptical. It was but a decade before the first countries changed their policy and attempted to join the Union, which led to the first scepticism of enlargement. French President Charles de Gaulle feared British membership would be an American Trojan horse and vetoed its application. Only after de Gaulle left office did Britian's third application succeed.] while Norway, which had applied once more, had its voters reject membership again. [ cite web | author=European Commission | title=The History of the European Union : 1994 | date=10 November 2005 | url= | accessdate=2006-01-18 ] ) Meanwhile, the members of the former Eastern bloc and Yugoslavia were all starting to move towards EU membership. 10 of these joined in a "big bang" enlargement on 1 May 2004 symbolising the unification of East and Western Europe in the EU. [ cite web | title=History of the European Union | publisher=Europa (web portal) | url= | accessdate=2008-08-25 ]

2007 saw the latest members, Bulgaria and Romania, accede to the Union and the EU has prioritised membership for the Western Balkans. Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey are all formal, acknowledged candidates. [cite web | title=Enlargement- Countries|publisher=Europa (web portal)|url= | accessdate=2008-08-25 ] Turkey, which applied in the 1980s, is a more contentious issue but entered negotiations in 2004 (see Accession of Turkey to the European Union). [cite web | title=Q&A: Turkey's EU entry talks|date=11 December 2006|publisher=BBC News|url= | accessdate=2008-08-25 ] There are at present no plans to cease enlargement; according to the Copenhagen criteria, membership of the European Union is open to any European country that is a stable, free market liberal democracy that respects the rule of law and human rights. Furthermore, it has to be willing to accept all the obligations of membership such as adopting all previously agreed law and joining the euro. [cite web | title=Accession criteria|publisher=Europa (web portal)|url= | accessdate=2008-08-25 ]

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There are a number of countries with strong links with the EU, similar to elements of membership. Following Norway's failure to join the EU, it became one of the members of the European Economic Area which also includes Iceland and Liechtenstein (all former members have joined the EU and Switzerland rejected membership). The EEA links these countries into the EU's market, extending the four freedoms to these states. In return, they pay a membership fee and have to adopt most areas of EU law (which they do not have direct impact in shaping). The democratic repercussions of this have been described as "fax democracy" (waiting for new laws to be faxed in from Brussels rather than being involved). [ cite web | last = Ekman | first = Ivar | date = 27 October 2007 | url = | title = In Norway, EU pros and cons (the cons still win) | publisher = International Herald Tribune | accessdate=2008-08-30 ]

A different example is Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been under international supervision. The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina is an international administrator who has wide ranging powers over Bosnia and Herzegovina to ensure the peace agreement is respected. The High Representative is also the EU's representative, and is in practice appointed by the EU. In this role, and since a major ambition of Bosnia and Herzegovina is to join the EU, the country has become a "de facto" protectorate of the EU. The EU appointed representative has the power to impose legislation and dismiss elected officials and civil servants, meaning the EU has greater direct control over Bosnia and Herzegovina than its own member states. Indeed the state's flag was inspired by the EU's flag. [ cite web | last = Chandler | first = David | date = 20 April 2006 | url = | title = Bosnia: whose state is it anyway? | publisher = Spiked Politics | accessdate=2008-08-30 ]


Each state has representation in the institutions of the European Union. Full membership gives the government of a member state a seat in the Council of the European Union and European Council. When decisions are not being taken by consensus, votes are weighted so that a country with a greater population has more votes within the Council than a smaller country (although not exact, smaller countries have more votes than their population would allow relative to the largest countries).

Similarly, each state is assigned seats in Parliament according to their population. However, members of the European Parliament have been elected by universal suffrage since 1979 (before which they were seconded from national parliaments), rather than being appointed by governments. Governments do however appoint one member each to the European Commission (in accord with its president), the European Court of Justice (in accord with other members) and the Court of Auditors.

Historically, larger member states were granted an extra Commissioner. However, as the body grew, this right has been removed and each state is represented equally. Yet the largest states are granted an Advocates General in the Court of Justice. Finally, the governing of the European Central Bank is made up of the governors of each national central bank (who may or may not be government appointed).

The larger states traditionally carry more weight in negotiations, however smaller states can be effective impartial mediators and citizens of smaller states are often appointed to sensitive top posts to avoid competition between the larger states.


The founding treaties state that all member states are indivisibly sovereign and of equal value. However the EU does follow a supranational system (similar to federalism) in European Community matters, in that combined sovereignty is delegated by each member to the institutions in return for representation within those institutions. Those institutions are then empowered to make laws and execute them at a European level. If a state fails to comply with the law of the European Union, it may be fined or have funds withdrawn. In extreme cases, there are provisions for the voting rights or membership of a state to be suspended. On issues outside the European Community (foreign policy, police and courts) less sovereignty is transferred, with issues being dealt with by consensus and cooperation.

However, as sovereignty still originates from the national level, it may be withdrawn by a member state who wishes to leave. Hence, if a law is agreed that is not to the liking of a state, it may withdraw from the EU to avoid it. This however has not happened as the benefits of membership are often seen to outweigh any negative impact of certain laws. Furthermore, in realpolitik, concessions and political pressure may lead to a state accepting something not in their interests in order to improve relations and hence strengthen their position on other issues.

ee also

* Countries bordering the European Union
* Special Member State territories
* List of Member States of the European Union in the official languages


External links

* [ Member States] – Europa

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