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Why the European Union Needs to Change

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    For over two thousand years, kingdoms and empires throughout Europe have been creating alliances with one another for economic, political, and military reasons. On November 1st, 1993, the European Union, or EU, was created to succeed the much smaller and older European Economic Community, or EEC. Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union is the escape route for a country who joined the EU but wants to back out and leave it. The European Union needs to amend Article 50, allowing for an easier and much safer, stable exit from the EU, as right now the consequences are financial suicide, loss of protection from the Russians, and importation of citizens back to the country.

    The Treaty of the European Union, or TEU, is the constitution of the EU. It is a group of international treaties between EU member countries and establishes EU institutions with their actions and objectives. Each Article of the TEU discuss another part of how the EU is allowed to be operated, what their limitations are, how the countries are expected to behave has a member state, and with Article 50, leave the EU. The most recent EU expansion was in 2013, when Croatia’s application was accepted. The EU has twenty-eight member countries that have joined or been a part of it since the beginning, but zero have left. This is due to mainly the financial burden it will put on the countries. When Article 50 was created, it was the first time that either the EEC or the EU had developed a way for a member to leave the group if they chose.

    Simon Usherwood, writer of an article for Political Insight, stated “Originally seen as one of the major sticking points in Article 50, it has actually turned out to be one of the first to be concluded. A key part of that was the decision to avoid any mention of specific amounts of money”. Article 50 does not list any amount of money that the exiting country has to pay, nor does it list any financial agreements for once the country has completed the process of leaving the EU. This shows that the article and its subsections still had many flaws in it, including how it would break all trade negotiations with other member states, and a new trade negotiation would have to be set up between that country and the EU. This would lead to major economic instability for a time being, along with the loss of jobs, sending the country into a depression for a few years. Since no country has fully left the EU, we do not know what problems will fully come from it, but we can assume based on the treaties that are set forth in the TEU

    Since the European Union was formed in late 1993, no country has left using Article 50. The EU was only expanding until June 23, 2016 when Britain held a referendum to see what percentage of their people wanted to stay in the EU versus those that did not. The results of that referendum were approximately fifty-two percent in favor of leaving, forty-eight percent in favor of staying. Although this was a slim margin of victory, all that was needed was a simple majority, and that is what was received. With Brexit still being tossed around the British Parliament and threats of different ways the Prime Minister can pull them out, other countries took to the polls as well, with most other countries showing higher support than ever for the EU, except in a few countries. Those countries would be the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Denmark.

    All four of these countries have showed that they do not want to comply with the standards set out by the EU, such as allowing in a certain number of migrants per year to the country, converting their currency to the Euro, and donating their GDP to other countries who are not making as high of a GDP. The only thing that these countries get in return is some excess money from the EU and protection from Russia. These countries only get a limited number of seats in the EU Parliament and are being forced to join the Eurozone, or the area that the Euro is the currency.

    These countries leaving the EU would not only affect their respective country, but also other countries that economically rely on them. An example of this is seen with Brexit, and how Britain leaving could have a major impact on Poland for the first few years. Karolina Borońska-Hryniewiecka, writer of the article “The Polish Parliament and the Scrutiny of Brexit in Poland”, says “Brexit implies for Poland’s significant economic, social and political consequences”. Since Poland relies on the economic success of Great Britain, a recession after the exiting of the EU would drive Poland into a smaller recession. The influx of Polish citizens who were living in Great Britain would possibly cause higher unemployment, leading to the said recession worsening. If Article 50 was amended, then these countries would not have to fear walking away from the EU and sending fellow allies who rely economically into a recession as well.

    To fix these issues of patriotism towards each individuals country and not the European Union, Article 50 must be amended to allow for an easier exit. Hannes Hofmeister, writer of an article about the right to withdraw from the EU, claims that in Article 50 of the TEU “Unfortunately, they fail to address many key issues that would arise on withdrawal”. These key issues that are not being addressed include but are not limited to the status of the withdrawing member state, the ability for the MEPs of that country to even sit in on the discussions and votes, and the rights of citizens who live outside of the exiting member country.

    With these not being addressed, it leads to many problems not only for the member state, but it also leads to complications within the EU Parliament, determining how much influence the exiting country has in the discussions about their departure. If Article 50 was amended, these issues could be resolved, and the solution could be added into the fine print. Another issue that was mentioned before was the financial problems any country exiting the EU would experience. This is another factor that is not currently addressed in Article 50, and this is one of the largest reasons why countries are afraid of leaving. The EU steals money from every member states GDP and spreads it out to the countries that may be poorer, but still gives some to every country. Many of these countries were financially stable before the creation of the EU, and many only joined to make intercontinental travel much easier. These countries would suffer losses for the first few years, but it is recoverable.

    Some believe that Article 50 should not even exist, and that member states should not have the right to leave once they join but could only be kicked out. Major advocates of this theory are found within the Scottish Parliament, and in other countries where there is a high opposition to the EU. If Article 50 was amended out of the TEU, then any country that has already joined or any future members could not leave the EU, no matter how much they wanted. If they attempted to leave when there is no way out, the EU and its member countries would be able to put the exiting member in a stranglehold, forcing them into a major recession, and destroying the country. It would be an even bigger opportunity for the Russians to regain more ground in Europe, which is something that is feared by every country in the West.

    If Article 50 is amended to allow a smoother, hassle-free exit from the EU, commerce and travel treaties could be set up with the exiting member much faster. It would also be possible to allow for deals to be set up for the Euro to be a secondary, still accepted currency in the countries that exited. In a text message with Czech citizen Tereza Hyblerová about the Czech Republic possibly leaving the EU in the future, she stated that “If we left we would not have to listen to anyone on how to run our country. I think it would hurt our economy, but as long as we do not run into anymore serious problems with the EU, I do not think we will leave yet”. If it was an easier process that did not involve sending the country into a depression, countries would not be as afraid to leave the EU. There would be no way to make Article 50 perfect, promising financial stability for the exiting state. However, with a modified version of Article 50, smoother transitions and higher chances of stability become a reality. The benefits of having an amended Article 50 outweigh the security of an EU without Article 50.

    The solution to this problem is larger than just writing in a sentence or two in Article 50 of the TEU. It requires a process that, to many countries, would seem impossible because of the limited number of representatives they have in the EU Parliament. The first step to having Article 50 amended would be to have a referendum throughout the entire European Union to get a feel for what percentage of people agree that it should be amended. No matter that outcome of the referendum, the EU would need to receive the approval of the member states, allowing it to set up a series of debates and discussions over the impacts of this major amendment.

    This should be met with little resistance from Denmark, Poland, and the Czech Republic, as well as a few other countries that have mixed emotions on the EU. Finally, the countries’ MEPs would have a vote that would determine whether or not the amendments to Article 50 would happen or not. The only issue that may occur in this process is that some of the countries that are heavily supportive of the EU such as Belgium, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany may not be willing to even support the idea of only amending Article 50. These countries hold the majority of the power in the EU and do not want to lose it. But with all that said, it does come down to the individual MEP who is voting. Each country has representatives in the EU Parliament, just some countries more than others. The vote would be the deciding point of the whole process. If the vote passes, Article 50 gets amended. If it does not pass, it is back to the drawing board.

    In conclusion, Article 50 is one of the most controversial amendments in the TEU. But that does not take away from its significance toward the well-being of countries within the EU. If Article 50 does not get amended, then many countries would be facing financial suicide, lack of protection, and restricted travel within the rest of Europe. If Article 50 can get amended properly, a country could leave the EU without the fear of falling into a major recession, killing any chance it has at surviving without the EU.

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