The advantages and challenges of European integration for business in the 21st century

2. Opportunities for Smaller Members:

In its early days, the European Union comprised of only six nations, all of which had well-developed economies.  The subsequent stages of enlargement have made the Union more diverse in terms of the social and economic status of its member states.  This has conferred unprecedented opportunities for the smaller nations of the EU.  Nations from the Eastern European bloc, especially, have benefitted from this integration.  At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, these nations were in economic turmoil.  With the adoption of democracy and free market capitalism, these nations have managed to come back from the brink, although some challenges still confront them. Furthermore, the European Court of Justice has gained a reputation for fairness and has not favoured one nation over the other in its short history.  This must come as a big boost for the smaller members.  For example,

“The European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, for its part, has displayed remarkable activism. EU law generally has direct effect: it becomes part of the acquis communautaire that domestic courts must enforce. The Court reviews the legal status of acts undertaken by    Union institutions, supervises member-state compliance with the founding treaties and secondary Union legislation, and interprets EU law for domestic courts.The Court has strived to rise above and mitigate the inter-institutional squabbling that has so often paralyzed the EU”. (Favell, 2001)

3. Attainment of Greater Social Solidarity:

In the last two decades, the European Union underwent a rapid expansion.  The confluence between the Western and Eastern blocs had seemed impossible at a time.  But most of the former Communist countries have now been included in the broader EU, which has helped people across the continent progress toward peace and prosperity.  It is a testament to this renewed European solidarity that the EU was able to “launch or complete daring projects such as Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of the euro, an EU Defence and Security Policy, and the European Immigration and Asylum Policy”. (Schmidtke, 2007)

Challenges facing European Integration:

1. The Immigration Problem

The most talked about issue regarding European Integration is the issue of immigration.  When the EU was initially conceived it was meant to provide a level playing field for labourers from all across the Union.  But based on recent statistics and opinion polls the movement of labour across national boundaries has not been hassle-free.  The problem is compounded by factors of race, origins and nativity, for “even more than indigenous Europeans, foreign-origin populations have run into barriers when trying to gain a say in the EU policy-making process” (Verdun, 2005). Furthermore,

“The distance separating immigrants from the Union and its policies, the Union’s    institutional structure and the trend toward intergovernmental bargaining, the diversity of national immigration policies, and the specific actions of EU authorities have all hampered immigrant participation. A legal wedge has been driven between EU and third-country nationals, and between second-generation immigrants and their parents.”  (Schmidtke, 2007)

The particular case of Britain is of importance to the discussion, given its past experience with colonialism and post-colonial immigration.  The nature and complexion of immigration to the UK has undergone a radical change since the economic integration of European nations and the enacting of common European Union laws.  Ever since the New Labour ascended to power under the leadership of Tony Blair, the British government has been confronted with the challenging task of pleasing its indigenous people while not affronting immigrants. If we accept the precept that public opinion is a driving force for policy changes, then the outlook for immigrants does not look promising.  A survey conducted by Channel4’s Dispatches, in collaboration with YouGov titled ‘The survey for Immigration: The Inconvenient Truth’ has thrown light on some surprising facts.  A majority of participants are of the view that immigrants contribute to “diluting our culture and leading to the breakdown of society” (Gillingham, 2003). 

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