The European Union (EU) is today a consortium of 27 states with a population of nearly 500 million people. Through its existence, the EU has had a long series of changes, including introduction of a new currency, the euro, in 2002, creation of a single economic market in 1992, and addition of new member states across many years. In this course we will analyse both the widening (number of member states) and the deepening (extent of integration) that have taken place in Europe over the past 50 years. The 6 member states originally involved in the project in the 1950s became 9 in 1973, 10 in 1982, 12 in 1986, 15 in 1995 and 25 in 2004 and 27 as of 2012. Similarly, the initial European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) created in 1952 became the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958, the European Community (EC) in the 1970s and finally the European Union (EU) in 1993. All of these changes make the project of European integration a unique experiment in international governance. The innovation made – in economics, politics, the law, corporate affairs, and society more generally – are among the most important witnessed anywhere in the world since 1950.
The course will allow students to discover both the European Union itself, and the wider context in which it has developed. Although much of the course focuses on political matters, many broader issues will also be covered. Throughout, we will attempt to get to grips with European culture, and to understand the major nations and states found in contemporary Europe. Wherever possible, videos will be used to bring the major course themes to life. By the end of the course, students will be able to provide a critical assessment of key aspects of the contemporary European Union. They will also have some knowledge of the most important countries that belong to it.