The European Union: The United States of Europe
Aisha Mahmood is a student attending Mallard Creek High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. In her freshman and sophomore years of high school, she competed in the Euro Challenge Competition; it was during her years partaking in this competition that she discovered her interest in the European Union and the field of international relations.
In the year of 1776, following years of struggle and strife of American colonials against the British Empire, the United States of America was born. The birth of this new nation led to the evolution of a dynamic entity governed by the ideals of democracy. The common history and socio-political evolution of the European continent and these former colonies of European countries have prompted the creation of the notion that the United States of America and the European Union are inherently identical. Contrary to popular American belief, the European Union is not a European version of the United States and the EU and the US differ substantially in terms of economic policy, political and governmental systems, and sociocultural practices.
The European Union is a unique political entity, comprised of a multitude of distinct member countries who delegate sovereignty in order to make decisions on matters of common-interest. The division of governmental authority within the European Union is separated into three main groups; a legislative branch, executive branch, and independent judiciary. The legislative branch of the EU is constituted of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. These two institutions are directly-elected bodies which represent the EU citizens and the national governments of member countries. They are comparable to the Congress of the United States, whose members are directly-elected by the American people to legislate on a federal level (“European Parliament”). The US Congress, however, is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, which differ from the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in that the US Congress is representative of individual states within one, sovereign nation, while the legislative branch of the EU represents the voices of multiple sovereign nations under one political entity.
The European Commission is the executive powerhead of the EU, and is responsible for managing policies of the EU, ensuring the enforcement of its laws, and allocating EU funds properly and efficiently (“The EU Institutions”). The Commission is comprised of a group of Commissioners who represent each EU country, as well as the President of the Commission, who is largely responsible for controlling the direction of policies of the Commission members (“European Commission”). While this role can be compared to the role of the President of the United States, the Commission President (unlike the US president) cannot command an army, create foreign policy, or higher taxes within the EU. The judicial branch of the European Union is comprised of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The CJEU, which is comparable to the US Supreme Court, is the highest court in the European Union. Its role has been vital in interpreting EU law, enforcing the laws, and ensuring compliance with treaties and EU legislation (“Court of Justice of the European Union”). Unlike the US Supreme Court, the CJEU consists of a judge from each individual EU member state and is characterized by a civil law system rather than a common law system.
The economy of the European Union generates a GDP of roughly 17 billion US dollars; comparably, the United States economy generates a GDP of about 19 and a half billion US dollars (Jance). The economic policy in the European Union is concentrated on augmenting economic growth and creating new jobs for incoming workers. The euro, which is used by 19 of the 28 EU member countries, serves as one of the largest reserve currencies in the world. In both the EU and the US, the services sector is by far the most important sector of the economy, making up roughly 74.7% of the economy of the EU and about 67.8% of the United States economy (“The Economy”). However, unlike the US, the EU promotes what is best for Europe without interfering in the economic stability and wellbeing of other world nations. The economic prosperity in the European Union is not based on European globalism; rather, it is manifested in the European disengagement from world policies and affairs. The United States spends roughly 4% of its GDP on defense spending, which is significantly higher than the average GDP expenditure on defense of the EU countries (“Military Expenditures”).
The European Union, like the United States of America, is a beacon of diversity — diversity in culture, traditions, and history. A key distinction to be made, however, is that although the United States mimics the EU’s cultural vibrancy, the US is a closer representation of a “melting pot”. Despite the array of diverse individuals in American society, cultural practices in the United States are largely homogenous. The notion that the EU is also characterized by cultural homogeneity is quite skewed; not only are member nations of the EU culturally diverse, but they are also linguistically diverse as well. For example, the EU identifies 24 official languages spoken among its member states and more than 60 languages are recognized as regional languages (Linthe). Additionally, the EU is made up of 28 nation-states, and these nations each have rich historical backgrounds that have helped to mold them into unique, distinctive groups of people. Unlike Americans, individuals in the European Union were not united through a shared struggle for independence, a civil war, a national constitution, and a sense of cultural homogeneity and nationalism across states. Evidently, the belief that the European Union is simply the America of Europe is fallacious, especially on the basis of cultural homogeneity.
“Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).” European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 13 Feb. 2019, europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/court-justice_en. “European Commission.” European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 30 Jan. 2019, europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/european-commission_en.
“European Parliament.” European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 13 Feb. 2019, europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/european-parliament_en.
Janse, Kalin Anev. “Is Europe Outperforming the US?” World Economic Forum, 30 Oct. 2015, www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/10/is-europe outperforming-the-us/.
Linthe, Maja. “The Many, Many Languages Of the European Union.” ULG, 25 Jan. 2019, unitedlanguagegroup.com/blog/translation/the-many-many-languages-of-the-european-un ion/.
“Military Expenditure (% of GDP).” Literacy Rate, Adult Female (% of Females Ages 15 and above) | Data, 2017, data.worldbank.org/indicator/ms.mil.xpnd.gd.zs.
“The Economy.” European Union, Publications Office of the European Union, 13 Feb. 2019, europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/figures/economy_en.
“The EU Institutions.” EU-US Relations, European Parliament Liaison Office in Washington , www.europarl.europa.eu/unitedstates/en/eu-us-relations/the-eu-institutions.
This essay is one of three winners of the 2019 EU Today Essay Contest, supported by a Getting to Know Europe grant from the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.