9th January 2017

The European Union: A Guide for Americans

The European Union is often compared to the United States, and some similarities in function and organization do exist. The Member States of the EU have agreed to pool some of their sovereign powers for the sake of unity and promotion of shared values, just as American states did to create a federal republic. In the fields where national sovereignty has been pooled, such as trade, the EU negotiates directly with the United States and other countries on behalf of all the Member States. So far, 19 Member States have also joined together their monetary policy and adopted the euro as their currency. All Member States are expected to join the euro area once they meet the economic criteria, with the exception of Denmark and the United Kingdom, which have officially opted out.

However, there are also many differences. Unlike the American states, EU Member States retain their individual authority in areas such as security and defense, although they now can take joint action in certain foreign and security policy areas. Additionally, the EU operates according to the principles of “subsidiarity”— meaning that responsibility for issues for which the EU and Member States have oversight devolves to the lowest level at which it can be effectively addressed— and “proportionality”, which seeks to keep the content and form of EU action in proportion to the desired objective.The practical outcome is that the Union is granted jurisdiction only over those policies that can be handled more effectively at the EU level. Europe is constructing its own unique model for integration, ensuring respect for the historical, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the European nations. 

The European Union: A Guide for Americans is available here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic