The EU has the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union as legislative institutions, the European Commission and the European Council as executive institutions, and the Court of Justice of the European Union as a judicial institution. It also controls the European Central Bank issuing its common currency, the euro, and the European Court of Auditors. The current President of the European Council is Charles Michel, while the current President of the Commission is Ursula von der Leyen.
It was formed via the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993, which merged numerous regional organizations created since World War II together. It maintains a single market guaranteeing tariff-free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital, and is the third-largest economy in the world behind the United States and China. It also maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, foreign and security policy, and regional development. Ten other countries are considering entry into the EU, while one country, the United Kingdom, exited it.
- Alphabetized by author or source
- Did it have to come to this? The paradox is that when Europe was less united, it was in many ways more independent. The leaders who ruled in the early stages of integration had all been formed in a world before the global hegemony of the United States, when the major European states were themselves imperial powers, whose foreign policies were self-determined. These were people who had lived through the disasters of the Second World War, but were not crushed by them. This was true not just of a figure like De Gaulle, but of Adenauer and Mollet, of Eden and Heath, all of whom were quite prepared to ignore or defy America if their ambitions demanded it. Monnet, who did not accept their national assumptions, and never clashed with the US, still shared their sense of a future in which Europeans could settle their own affairs, in another fashion. Down into the 1970s, something of this spirit lived on even in Giscard and Schmidt, as Carter discovered. But with the neo-liberal turn of the 1980s, and the arrival in power in the 1990s of a postwar generation, it faded. The new economic doctrines cast doubt on the state as a political agent, and the new leaders had never known anything except the Pax Americana. The traditional springs of autonomy were gone.
- Perry Anderson, "Depicting Europe", London Review of Books (20 September 2007)
- We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind … Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire .. What we have is the first non-imperial empire .. We have 27 countries that fully decided to work together and to pool their sovereignty. I believe it is a great construction and we should be proud of it.
- José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, 2007 statements at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
- “Peace is not mere absence of war, it is a virtue”, wrote Spinoza:“Pax enim non belli privatio, sed virtus est”. And he added it is “a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”. Indeed, there can only be true peace if people are confident. At peace with their political system. Reassured that their basic rights are respected. The European Union is not only about peace among nations. It incarnates, as a political project, that particular state of mind that Spinoza was referring to. It embodies, as a community of values, this vision of freedom and justice. I remember vividly in 1974 being in the mass of people, descending the streets in my native Lisbon, in Portugal, celebrating the democratic revolution and freedom. This same feeling of joy was experienced by the same generation in Spain and Greece. It was felt later in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Baltic States when they regained their independence. Several generations of Europeans have shown again and again that their choice for Europe was also a choice for freedom.
- I will never forget Rostropovich playing Bach at the fallen Wall in Berlin. This image reminds the world that it was the quest for freedom and democracy that tore down the old divisions and made possible the reunification of the continent. Joining the European Union was essential for the consolidation of democracy in our countries. Because it places the person and respect of human dignity at its heart. Because it gives a voice to differences while creating unity. And so, after reunification, Europe was able to breathe with both its lungs, as said by Karol Wojtiła. The European Union has become our common house. The “homeland of our homelands” as described by Vaclav Havel.
- Our Union is more than an association of states. It is a new legal order, which is not based on the balance of power between nations but on the free consent of states to share sovereignty. From pooling coal and steel, to abolishing internal borders, from six countries to soon twenty-eight with Croatia joining the family this has been a remarkable European journey which is leading us to an “ever closer Union”. And today one of the most visible symbols of our unity is in everyone’s hands. It is the Euro, the currency of our European Union. We will stand by it.
- The big question today is 'Will globalisation allow democracy to survive?' On one side we have the multinationals, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. I want to help to redress the balance on the other side.
- Tony Benn, Interview with Andrew Walker (10 March 2001), quoted in BBC News, 'Tony Benn: End of an era' (10 March 2001)
- Any attempts to alter the status of parts of Ukrainian territory are a clear violation of international law, the UN Charter and Ukraine’s Constitution, they further undermine sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and will not be recognised by the European Union. Russia, its political leadership, and all those involved in violations of international law and international humanitarian law will be held accountable for these illegal actions.
The European Union remains unwavering in its support for Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and urges the Russian Federation to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all of its troops and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.
- The future treaty which you are discussing has no chance of being agreed; if it was agreed, it would have no chance of being ratified; and if it were ratified, it would have no chance of being applied. And if it was applied, it would be totally unacceptable to Britain.
- The best thing out of Maastricht is Andre Rieu.
- Louise Burfitt-Dons, January 2013 in a speech promoting her candidacy to represent London in the EU as an MEP for the British Conservative Party
- The European Union implies the notion of the ‘Minimal State’, the abandonment of mixed economy and of economic planning, the redefinition of the ways the expenses are arranged, a redistribution of responsibilities that reduces the power of parliamentary assemblies and increases that of governments, fiscal autonomy for local authorities, the rejection of the principle of widespread gratuitousness of services (and the ensuing reform of healthcare and of social security), the abolition of the wage indexation scale, the dramatic reduction of pockets of privilege, the mobility of the factors of production, the reduction of the State’s presence in the credit system and in industry, the abandonment of inflationary behaviour not only by workers, but also by the producers of services, the abolition of the norms that fixed administered prices and tariffs. In a word: a new pact between States and citizens, to the latter’s advantage.
- The European Union is very popular with politicians, because it's very good to politicians. It was created for their benefit. It's not so good to voters, because it denies them a voice - another reason it's popular with politicians. These days, we in Europe no longer make most of our own laws. We have them handed down to us by people we haven't elected and can't remove. The people we do elect are powerless to change anything, even if they wanted to, and most of them don't want to, because they've got their snouts in the trough of a corrupt organisation whose accounts haven't been signed off for the last sixteen years.
- Indeed, if there's one thing a euro politician despises and fears more than anything it's the democratic will of the people. And this is because many of those who run Europe today were politicised by sixties pseudo-Marxist utopianism, which they're still determined to impose on the people - for their own good - regardless of what the people might want. They believe in centralised state control: society as a project - their project. It's the mentality that ran the old Soviet Union, and it's the mentality that has driven the European Union forward against the wishes of the European people, imposing a constitution on the whole of Europe that hardly anyone was allowed to vote for, and imposing a single currency on the whole of Europe that's now falling apart at the seams. But they won't abandon it because they consider it a vital step on the road to full political union, and the abolition of all European nation-states under a central socialist dictatorship.
- Europe began as an elitist project in which it was believed that all was required was to convince the decision-makers. That phase of benign despotism is over.
- If you cannot join them, beat them!"
- Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, in a short statement to television before the European Championship 1992 Final, won by Denmark, shortly after the Danes voted against the Maastricht Treaty
- In order for European citizens properly to exercise their democratic right to participate in the EU’s decision-making process, and hold those involved to account, legislative deliberations must be sufficiently transparent. In order also for citizens to be able to hold their governments to account for the decisions they make on EU laws, they need to know how their governments positioned themselves during the legislative process. Making such information public would also oblige Member State governments to assume greater responsibility for this legislation and discourage them from ‘blaming Brussels’ for EU laws they themselves helped to shape and adopt.
- European Ombudsman, "Special Report of the European Ombudsman in strategic inquiry OI/2/2017/TE on the transparency of the Council legislative process", 15 May 2018.
- Although 50 years of European peace since the end of World War II may augur well for the future, it must be remembered that there were also more than 50 year of peace between the Congress of Vienna and the Franco-Prussian War. Moreover, contrary to the hopes and assumptions of Jean Monnet and other advocates of European integration, the devastating American Civil War shows that a formal political union is no guarantee against an intra-European war.
- Increasingly, I believe that the issue of migration will be seen by future historians as the fatal solvent of the EU. In their accounts Brexit will appear as merely an early symptom of the crisis. Their argument will be that a massive Völkerwanderung overwhelmed the project for European integration, exposing the weakness of the EU as an institution and driving voters back to national politics for solutions.
- Niall Ferguson, "The EU melting pot is melting down", The Boston Globe (18 June 2018).
- I am afraid that I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union. In these three long months, I have indeed met many excellent and committed individuals, at different levels of the organization of the ERC and the EC. However, I have lost faith in the system itself.
- Mauro Ferrari, announcing his resignation as the head of the European Research Council. As quoted in Top EU science adviser resigns: 'I have lost faith in the system itself' by Rebecca Klar, 8 April 2020, The Hill
- No continent is as small and fragmented as Europe. Only Australia is smaller, yet Europe consists of fifty independent nations (including Turkey and the Caucasus, for reasons explained later). Crowded with nations, it is also crowded with people. Europe's population density is 72.5 people per square kilometer. The European Union's density is 112 people per square kilometer. Asia has 86 people per square kilometer. Europe is crowded and fragmented.
- In the 19th and early 20th century the issue had shifted from religion to nation. You had mixed ethnic populations throughout Europe, and as Europe began to reorganize itself on a national, or a cultural, or an ethnic basis, you had two bloody... World Wars that... undermined the magnificent European civilization of the 19th century... Liberalism was called upon in the aftermath... to enable Europeans to live together in ethnically diverse societies. That was the origin of the European Union... an effort to move beyond Nationalism, to a new form of coexistence.
- Francis Fukuyama, A YouTube Creative Commons video, Dr Francis Fukuyama on liberalism and the 2020 US presidential election (Nov 18, 2020), 9:13
- The reality is that, since the fall of Rome, no power has come near to ruling this continent. Charlemagne did not do so, nor did the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperors, nor France's Napoleon, nor Germany's Hitler, nor yet the commissioners of the European Union. If history teaches anything, it is that all attempts to straighten Kant's 'crooked timber of humanity' will fail. Europe's peoples will not be put in bondage to a superior state, however liberal its intentions.
- Simon Jenkins, A Short History of Europe: From Pericles to Putin (2018)
- Much of the left campaigned against entering the European Economic Community when Margaret Thatcher and the like campaigned for membership. It would threaten the ability of leftwing governments to implement policies, people like my parents thought, and would forbid the sort of industrial activism needed to protect domestic industries. But then Thatcherism happened, and an increasingly battered and demoralised left began to believe that the only hope of progressive legislation was via Brussels. The misery of the left was, in the 1980s, matched by the triumphalism of the free marketeers, who had transformed Britain beyond many of their wildest ambitions, and began to balk at the restraints put on their dreams by the European project.
- The left's pessimism about the possibility of implementing social reform at home without the help of the EU fused with a progressive vision of internationalism and unity, one that had emerged from the rubble of fascism and genocidal war. It is perhaps this feelgood halo that has been extinguished by a country the EU has driven into an economic collapse unseen since America’s great depression. It was German and French banks who recklessly lent to Greece that have benefited from bailouts, not the Greek economy. The destruction of Greece’s national sovereignty was achieved by economic strangulation, [...] this was all about crushing a rebellion.
- Let’s just be honest about our fears. We fear that we will inadvertently line up with the xenophobes and the immigrant-bashing nationalists, and a "no" result will be seen as their vindication, unleashing a carnival of Ukippery. Hostility to the EU is seen as the preserve of the hard right, and not the sort of thing progressives should entertain. And that is why – if indeed much of the left decides on Lexit – it must run its own separate campaign and try and win ownership of the issue.
- In Europe, there exist no borders. The people I spoke to all agreed that their quality of life was enhanced in many ways after unification of the continent. We saw the amazing synergy effects of European union.
- Europe’s political stability, social cohesion, economic prosperity and security are more threatened today than at any point since the Cold War, Russia is destabilizing the Continent on every front. Indigenous factors – whether long-extant nationalism, design flaws in the Eurozone lack of a common foreign policy, or incapability at assimilating immigrants – certainly lie at the root of these crises.
- Europe was built in a St. Simonian [i.e., technocratic] way from the beginning, this was Monnet’s approach: The people weren’t ready to agree to integration, so you had to get on without telling them too much about what was happening. Now St. Simonianism is finished. It can’t work when you have to face democratic opinion.
- The very construction of the EU, from the beginning, was based on the implementation of the principle of state sovereignty.
- Christian Laval and Pierre Dardot, The pandemic as political trial: the case for a global commons (March 28, 2020), ROAR Magazine
- The European Union and many of its countries, which used to take initiatives in the United Nations for peaceful settlements of conflict, are now one of the most important war assets of the U.S./NATO front. Many countries have also been drawn into complicity in breaking international law through U.S./U.K./NATO wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on.
- We do not fear that the operations of time may never bring a united Europe, with a reunited Germany at its centre. We do not know how it will happen, how this unnaturally divided Germany is to become once again. It is obscure to us, and we must take refuge in the belief that history will find ways and means of overcoming the unnatural and restoring the natural: a Germany as a consciously serving member of a Europe united in self-awareness – not as its lord and master...
Let us not delude ourselves over the fact that among the difficulties delaying the unification of Europe is a mistrust of the purity of German intentions, a fear by other peoples of Germany and of hegemonic plans that its vital energy may install into it, which in their view it does not conceal very well….It is for the rising German generation, for German youth, to dispel the mistrust, this fear, by rejecting what has long been rejected and clearly and unanimously announcing their desire: not for a German Europe, but for a European Germany."
- Thomas Mann, in a lecture at the University of Hamburg, 1953
- The European Union as a whole, but also Germany, needs to recognize that this is our alliance, our common alliance, our transatlantic alliance, that we have to step up our engagement. Because, in the long run, we will not be allowed to accept this imbalance as regards the contributions we give to this alliance. And we have understood this message, and we have started to react.
- When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.
- … the European Union functions as a 27-member caucus (plus several associated members) and they have to agree on a statement before they can even say “good morning”.
- A referendum on this matter consists of consulting people who don’t know the problems instead of consulting people who know them. I would deplore a situation in which the policy of this great country [the UK] should be left to housewives. It should be decided instead by trained and informed people.
- Jean Rey, ex-President of the EEC Commission, London, July 17, 1974 on the 1975 United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum
- Robert Schuman, who was in a hurry to catch his train for London, so skilfully evaded the newspapermen’s detailed questions about the future of the plan that one of them exclaimed:
‘In other words, it’s a leap in the dark?’
‘That’s right,’ said Schuman soberly: ‘a leap in the dark.’
- There are only two kinds of states in Europe: small states, and small states that have not yet realised they are small.
- The odd thing about modern Europe is that, if you look at the borders, you might think that Germany had won the First World War... The European Union and the old Soviet states are associated with a Europe that feels as if it is run from Berlin. From Scandinavia to Turkey, lorries trundle back and forth with German industrial goods; the euro is mainly German, the Deutsche Bank dominates the eurozone.
- Norman Stone, "Germany today is what we fought the Great War to create" (1 August, 2014), Evening Standard
- The President of the Commission, M. Delors, said at a press conference the other day that he wanted the European Parliament to be the democratic body of the Community, he wanted the Commission to be the Executive and he wanted the Council of Ministers to be the Senate. No. No. No.
- What we should grasp, however, from the lessons of European history is that, first, there is nothing necessarily benevolent about programmes of European integration; second, the desire to achieve grand utopian plans often poses a grave threat to freedom; and third, European unity has been tried before, and the outcome was far from happy.
- Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World (2002).
- Of course, peace might have come to Europe without the Union. Maybe. We will never know. But it would never have been of the same quality. A lasting peace, not a frosty cease-fire. To me, what makes it so special, is reconciliation. In politics as in life, reconciliation is the most difficult thing. It goes beyond forgiving and forgetting, or simply turning the page. To think of what France and Germany had gone through …, and then take this step … Signing a Treaty of Friendship … Each time I hear these words – Freundschaft, Amitié –, I am moved. They are private words, not for treaties between nations. But the will to not let history repeat itself, to do something radically new, was so strong that new words had to be found. For people Europe was a promise, Europe equalled hope. When Konrad Adenauer came to Paris to conclude the Coal and Steel Treaty, in 1951, one evening he found a gift waiting at his hotel. It was a war medal, une Croix de Guerre, that had belonged to a French soldier. His daughter, a young student, had left it with a little note for the Chancellor, as a gesture of reconciliation and hope. I can see many other stirring images before me. Leaders of six States assembled to open a new future, in Rome, città eterna … Willy Brandt kneeling down in Warsaw. The dockers of Gdansk, at the gates of their shipyard. Mitterrand and Kohl hand in hand. Two million people linking Tallinn to Riga to Vilnius in a human chain, in 1989. These moments healed Europe.
- But symbolic gestures alone cannot cement peace. This is where the European Union’s “secret weapon” comes into play: an unrivalled way of binding our interests so tightly that war becomes materially impossible. Through constant negotiations, on ever more topics, between ever more countries. It’s the golden rule of Jean Monnet: “Mieux vaut se disputer autour d’une table que sur un champ de bataille.” (“Better fight around a table than on a battle-field.”) If I had to explain it to Alfred Nobel, I would say: not just a peace congress, a perpetual peace congress! Admittedly, some aspects can be puzzling, and not only to outsiders. Ministers from landlocked countries passionately discussing fish-quota. Europarlementarians from Scandinavia debating the price of olive oil. The Union has perfected the art of compromise. No drama of victory or defeat, but ensuring all countries emerge victorious from talks. For this, boring politics is only a small price to pay. Ladies and Gentlemen, It worked. Peace is now self-evident. War has become inconceivable. Yet ‘inconceivable’ does not mean ‘impossible’. And that is why we are gathered here today. Europe must keep its promise of peace.
- Eley, Geoff; Paggi Leonardo; Streeck, Wolfgang: Spagnolo, Carlo (9 November 2017). ROUNDTABLE-DEBATE “THE EU CRISIS AND EUROPE’S DIVIDED MEMORIES”. Ricerche Storiche.
- CSCE Testimonies: Causes and Consequences of Helsinki Final Act 1972–1989 ISBN 978-92-9235-018-5, page 246
- Jay, Douglas (28 Sept, 1974). Voting against Europe. The Spectator.
- Ischinger, Wolfgang (September 14, 2015). Germany’s Hegemony Trap | by Wolfgang Ischinger. Project Syndicate., Transcript, Amt, Auswärtiges. Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas : „Courage to Stand Up for Europe – #EuropeUnited. bruessel-eu.diplo.de., ‘Strategic autonomy for Europe - the aim of our generation’ - speech by President Charles Michel to the Bruegel think tank. www.consilium.europa.eu.