Sunday, June 10, 2007

Confusion in Europe.

Whether or not Angela Merkel is successful in gaining support for a revised EU treaty (see here and here), most Europeans probably won't understand or even care what the new treaty will contain. The general confusion over the EU is sometimes at 'babylonian' levels, and is evidenced by numerous news reports mixing up the institutions and misunderstanding the powers of the EU.

The question of the Charter of Fundamental Rights is an interesting example of the confusion. To include the charter in a treaty would be unpopular in Britain. The charter's unpopularity in the UK derives largely from the unpopularity of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is kind of ironic as the convention's unpopularity derives partially from the mistaken belief that it is an EU creation. Of course it is not, but that just adds to the confusion.

The politicians who created the European institutions are to large extent to blame for the confusion as I hope to illustrate with this short overview of the European institutions:

The European Convention of Human Rights is a pan European convention established in 1952 with its own court: the European Court of Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights should not be confused with the European Court of Justice, which is the court for the European Community (known previously as the European Economic Community), which in turn is the largest constituent part of the European Union.

The European Community was created together with the European Atomic Energy Community by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 as a parallel community to the European Coal and Steel Community (created by the Treaty of Paris 1951). Since 1965 the three communities have been served by the same institutions, i.e. Council, Commission, Parliament and Court. In 2002 the European Coal and Steel Community ceased to exist and its funds transfered to the European Community, which then had become part of the European Union (created by the Treaty of the European Union (also known as the Maastricht Treaty) in 1993).

The European Community and European Union are governed by the same institutions. The most important is the Council of the European Union (previously known as the Council of Ministers), which should not be confused with the other EU institution the European Council, which in turn should not be confused with the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe is an international body completely separate from the European Union (although the two do share the same flag). The Council of Europe's main function is to protect human rights as the guardians of the European Convention of Human Rights...


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