Time to Turn the Atom Green? – Nuclear energy’s role in climate action.

2021 was a difficult year for many as pandemic lock downs caused an almost global economic slowdown, as people were confined to their homes European citizens faced striking energy price surges that created a dangerous shortage of power for many homes across the continent. With economies already straining under the weight of COVID-19 rising energy prices can only add fuel to the fire. In the past there was a clear solution, an increase in the burning of fossil fuels. Yet, as climate change is beginning to have a damaging effect on global society and many citizens calling for a stronger plan to mitigate these disastrous changes to our climate, the further exploitation of coal, gas and oil is no longer a feasible option. As fully renewable energy sources such as solar and wind currently lack the infrastructure needed to reliably supply power to the masses, the solution may lie in a dark horse within the Energy Sector.  

Nuclear power has been in use since the 1960s and European Countries such as France has implemented it strongly into their energy infrastructure. Other states such as the United Kingdom and Belgium also benefit from the use of nuclear energy plants but in recent years the percentage of power supplied by nuclear energy has decreased. There is a clear and understandable stigma that surrounds the power source due to catastrophe events such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, nuclear disasters that have created large zones of uninhabitable land and has affected hundreds of lives. Despite these massively destructive events there is data to support the fact that nuclear energy may be far safer than its fossil fuel counterparts. In a comprehensive study Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser analysed extensive data sets for all forms of mainstream energy sources these included renewables, nuclear, and fossil fuels. This research also took into account several different aspects of safety including Air pollution, Accidents including loss of life from the mining and processing of the fuels, and greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 etc.). Their analysis provided a very interesting conclusion. Basing how many deaths occur for every terawatt- hour (TWh) of energy produced (roughly the consumption of 27,000 Europeans per year), it showed that nuclear energy accounted for 98% fewer deaths than coal, and 97% fewer deaths than natural gas. It is also clear that nuclear energy is a far greener alternative to fossil fuels as well. Using a smaller measure of 1 gigawatt hour (GWh), around the consumption of 160 Europeans per year, nuclear energy produced 3 tonnes of greenhouse gases, compared to a staggering 820 tonnes produced by coal and 720 tonnes emitted by the burning of oil.

Image Credits: https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-energy

While renewable energy sources are far and away the best solution to the world’s energy needs in the future, much of the renewable energy infrastructure is still in its infancy and doesn’t offer a feasible solution to the current energy challenges facing many European homes. Nuclear energy stands to become the bridge between fossil fuel dependence and the widespread use of renewable energy sources. The infrastructure and technology are already well established and the science behind the creation of the energy is well researched. The European Union has also created the perfect environment for Member States to pool knowledge, experience in nuclear energy, and resources to develop a strong infrastructure of greener energy while renewable sources such as solar and wind continue to develop and grow, to eventually provide a sustainable energy solution for European States 

Alongside the environmental and health benefits from the use of nuclear energy European States can also tap into alternative markets for power resources. In Europe there is a tense relationship with oil and gas rich countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s poor record for Human Rights protections does not mesh well with the European Union’s mandate for social equality and free markets. Russia has used their access to natural gas in strong arm tactics against Eastern Europe States, going as far as diverting essential natural gas away from neighbouring states dependent on Russia for energy. A shift to nuclear energy would lessen Europe’s reliance on Russian gas transported through the Nord Stream pipeline, often a point of contention alongside the Nord Stream II pipeline currently in construction through Turkey. Relieving some of this energy dependence from Russia is a priority for European States especially those countries that lie within the former Soviet Union. In comparison, those states rich in uranium, the essential element in the production of nuclear energy, such as Australia and Canada enjoy a more open relationship with European Markets. Europe and Canada already share a strong relationship and trade regularly and openly, Canada’s open democracy works well with the ethos and methods of the European Single Market and comes with far fewer political consequences if one party is unhappy with the deal. Australia is a very similar market on the other side of the globe. Using nuclear energy provides a way to shift European energy dependency away from states such as Russia and into more friendly negotiation arenas.  

Nuclear energy does not come without its risks, Chernobyl was one of the most catastrophic manmade disasters in history and still effects many people in the surrounding areas. Even the chance of a nuclear meltdown is a very serious prospect and there is the ever-present shadow of radioactive leaks effecting the area surrounding the plant. Additionally, the process used to generate the energy is not 100% “clean” with dangerous nuclear waste by-products that need to be carefully stored. There is also the danger of weaponization unique to the production of the uranium needed to create the supply for these power plants. What can be used to provide green energy to millions can easily be used to destroy and threaten other states through the production of nuclear warhead missiles. Any large-scale production what to be done with extreme oversight and be very heavily regulated but the European Union has such an organisation well established. As old as the first European Community. Euratom has acted as Europe’s main body on nuclear energy and was first founded in the 1950s alongside the European Coal and Steel Community, this organisation stands poised to provide the opportunities needed to mitigate the risks associated with nuclear energy production. More investment in nuclear infrastructure can develop safer housing conditions for nuclear waste and further research may provide a way to dispose of it completely or find a use for the by-products in other processes. Establishing nuclear watchdogs can help police the production of uranium needed for power production and oversee the safety of power plants, minimising the risk radioactive leaks and ensuring that meltdowns become next to impossible. There has already been the development of Thorium reactors, an innovation that limits the amount of processed uranium and mitigates the risk of nuclear warhead production.  

If the near future seems atomic, why has there been a decrease in the production of nuclear power? A mixture of poor media attention and fears of nuclear weaponization has prevented any significant development in the European nuclear power sector. The costs of developing and maintaining these power plants is also high making it difficult for some developing European states to build the infrastructure needed to safely generate nuclear power. There is also political pressure as the development of nuclear power can quickly turn to the development of nuclear weapons, leading many states to become skeptical of any neighbours with nuclear ambitions. But European States have something unique, the European Union is in a key position to assist in further establishing the nuclear energy sector. The EU’s single market is the perfect platform to pool resources, develop infrastructure, and distribute the energy produced across the European States. Institutions such as Euratom already oversee the production and distribution of the resources, and that generation of the power is done within strict regulations. The main challenge lies in convincing European Union Member states that the immediate future for European energy lies in the atom.  This is clear to some European countries as Member states have already called for nuclear energy to gain a more prominent place in Europe’s energy sector. France, alongside several other member states have urged the EU to label nuclear energy as a green energy, this would give nuclear energy access to funds and the Europe Union’s various development projects aiming to promote the sustainable development of its Member States. At the same time, other states have started to reduce their use of nuclear energy, closing down their power plants. Outside of the European Union, the United Kingdom has stated they are making nuclear energy the heart of their plans for a green energy UK. Convincing member states about the benefits from nuclear energy will not be easy and the cogs of decision making have always run slow. Despite its large host of benefits the European Union only works fast in the midst of a crisis. If energy prices continue to rise and if Russia continues to increase its pressure alongside the eastern European states a new crisis could quickly present itself. 

Is it time to turn the Atom green? If Europe hopes to reach it’s Paris agreement targets, mitigate some of its dependence on Russian gas, and provide reliable energy infrastructure to European Citizens, the answer is looking like yes and the Europe Union is in a unique position to quickly develop its nuclear power capacity. The Single Market provides the perfect platform to share the benefits of increasing nuclear infrastructure and it already has well established nuclear watchdogs through Euratom ready to minimize the risks associated with nuclear power plants. The inclusion of nuclear energy among those greener sources also brings into question what is meant by “Green Energy” as it can’t be argued that nuclear energy doesn’t have dangerous by-products. It is true that there are few greenhouse emissions but it is not a “clean” energy source. It may be time to broaden the scope of the term “Green Energy” while also making a distinction between “Green” and “Clean” energy sources. As the reduction of CO2 emissions and the mitigation of climate change becomes increasingly important, European states will need to compromise and settle for “green” energy sources while the “clean” solar and wind find their feet. The most important question is if the EU is ready to make this compromise, while debates and negotiations drag, energy prices are continuing to surge and the effects of climate change are becoming stronger, leading to violent weather effects and the disruption of society across Europe. As time goes on the chances of doing too little to late are mounting, if the European Union and Europe as a whole hope to start making a strong positive impact on climate change and ensure a strong energy infrastructure for the near future, a concrete decision must be made. When choosing between the potential danger nuclear energy poses and the almost certain calamity brought on by the continued used of fossil fuels it may be the right time to choose the lesser evil.

Future Collisions – Breakthroughs in Fusion Energy

At the turn of the new year Chinese scientists have made recent breakthroughs at the Experimental
Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). Using coils to superheat plasma the reactor maintained a temperature of 70 million degrees Celsius for 1,056 seconds. A time that has gone above and beyond the previous record held of 360 second held by the French Tokamak rector.

Why are these superheated plasma coils important? It provides an essential foundation for Nuclear Fusion, a process that takes place at the centre of all stars in the universe, and one that scientists have been striving to recreate for 70 years. Often hailed as the “Holy Grail” of energy production. Unlike fission, fusion’s nuclear cousin, that tears apart large unstable atoms such as uranium to generate massive amounts of energy. Nuclear Fusion produces massive amounts of light and heat by smashing together smaller hydrogen atoms to create helium, this process generates a staggering amount of energy while producing very little to no greenhouse gases or dangerous by-products. A mouth-watering prospect as the demand for energy rises and the effects of climate change increase.
With such a host of benefits it is clear to see why it has been the goal of scientists since the potential
of the atom was realized at the end of World War II. The first Tokamak rector was designed in the former USSR in 1958, using coils to heat hydrogen atoms to the temperature needed to fuse them into helium, but engineers and researchers have not been able to surmount key challenges in their quest for this holy grail. Firstly, to recreate the process on earth temperatures far higher than the those present in the core of the sun are needed due to the lower earth pressures than the core of stars, a feat that leads to these reactors often requiring more energy than they output as this superheated plasma is very difficult to house without melting conventual materials for reactors,
Tokamak reactors use lasers or strong magnetic forces to keep this plasma in check while maintaining a careful balance to ensure the fusion process is successful. These constricting forces often mean that these reactors require more energy than they produce, rendering them useless for the production of energy for the wider masses. Tokamak reactors are also prohibitively expensive to build. The EAST has cost the Chinese government 1 trillion dollars by the time it will finish its experiments in June.

But it stands as the beginning of collaborative projects around the world, a solution to these astronomical costs. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is currently under development in France, this project has brought together 35 separate countries funding the development of this new reactor in Europe. Planned to open in 2025 ITER will house a magnet capable of generating magnetic fields far strong then the earths own fields. Other Tokamak reactors are also in development as the United Kingdom hopes to be producing fusion energy commercially by 2030 and China has even further plans to develop their fusion programme with the construction of additional Tokamak reactors by 2030. The United States have also put a stake in the Fusion game with hopes to have their own reactor by 2025 alongside the ITER.


Although the world is a while away from having the power of the sun in palm of its hand, the records
recently set at EAST have pushed ajar a door into a new world of energy production. With Climate
Change already negatively affecting societies around the world new energy sources are desperately needed. Fusion energy answers all of the world’s energy needs and the world is getting ever closer to its ultimate goal.

A Weekend in Eindhoven and the quiet importance of the European Union

Last week I traveled abroad to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. While I was enjoying the city I soon saw the small, quiet ways the European Union was present in almost every aspect of my stay in the city. When an emergency struck the EU’s benefits came more starkly into view and turned what could have been a genuine crisis into a problem that could be solved through a short phone call and a trip to Den Haag.

The trip began in the usual way, a early morning taxi to the airport. Myself and my friends were in high spirits, we were excited to travel aboard after so long under a Covid lockdown. This breath of fresh air was possible, in large part, due to the EU. The production and distribution of vaccinations was greatly supported by EU organizations and our European vaccination certificates ensured that we could safely travel to any other EU member state. So, after a short wait in the airport we set off for the Netherlands.

We arrived in Eindhoven on a sunny morning, a little tired but still ready to see the city. We were met by a friend who works and lives in the city. He, his partner, nor us as tourists had any worries about needing visas, another benefit granted by our EU citizenship. This is a privilege often overlooked, the ability to up stakes and move anywhere in the European Union without the need of a visa or reason allows for knowledge, cultures and experiences to moved freely around the EU. This increases cultural tolerance and helps spread important ideas to aid in research and to help develop societies around the continent. You only have to hear about some of my English colleagues and friends who lived in Maastricht during my studies. With Brexit, these privileges were suddenly revoked, abruptly making it much harder for them to live in the city they called home for several years.

So our weekend passed, we saw Eindhoven, during both day and night. As I woke up on our last day, crisis struck, as I was packing I soon found that I had lost my passport. With very little time before our flight, and not a single clue where I had last had my passport, my first call was to my embassy. During that phone call I was able to gather my passport details and book an appointment to collect a emergency travel visa. With my appointment booked and new flight organized it was time to set off on my long journey to Den Haag, where the embassy was located. After filing a police report and getting some new passport photos I was on board a train to the Dutch capital. Here is another place where the EU has helped, I was able to purchase travel tickets without fear of steep exchange rates thanks to our shared currency. I could easily transfer money and could quickly gauge the price for items without needing very quick math. After a train and a tram I finally arrived to the embassy and was able to collect my emergency travel visa. Due to my EU citizenship I didn’t need to worry about losing my tourist visa or trouble at the passport control. Finally after a second train to Schipol, I was on the way home. What could have been a true crisis as I was stranded in a foreign country with no visa, passport, or place to stay was, instead, a problem solved with a phone call, embassy visit and some new passport photos. A large part of this is thanks to the European Union and to the hard working officers at Embassies across the globe.

It’s tales such as this that remind me how the European Union is beneficial to all of its citizens. Often news on the EU is dire, you only here when a scandal breaks or crisis looms. But the EU assists its citizens in very subtle ways every day. Unlike countries, the EU flag is not often flown and there are no monuments or statues for EU history (expect in Brussels of course). Yet, through the ease of travel, the ability to live and work around the continent,and the removal of monetary barriers the EU is present in all our lives and this only a very small sample of the services and benefits that institutions in Brussels provide for its citizens.

It can be easy to see the EU as a restrictive force, it applies boundaries and quality standards, establishes regulations, and scolds member states that act against the overall vision for the European Union. The truth is that Europeans live in the most mobile period in human history and this is largely thanks to the European Union. Thanks to our EU passports we can travel freely among dozens of different states, and once on the continent proper you don’t even need your passport. If you fancy, get a train in De Haag, or Budapest and travel to Paris without a single border stop thanks to the EU’s Schengen area. You can purchase something from Germany or France or Italy with the same currency, and be confident the quality is good thanks to the EU standards. You can live in Belgian Léige and commute to work in Dutch Maastricht with no problem. So while not always obvious, the EU is working for you, the citizen. So make sure to be confident and enjoy the freedom! Get some miles under your feet, see cities and countries you’ve never thought you would. If you are lucky enough to still be young research the EU funded options for travel, either to study with Erasmus + or for tourism with heavily discounted inter-rail tickets. Finally, learn from my mistake when you do travel. Keep a good hand on your passport and always know the location of your embassy!

EU’s Week – August 23rd – 29th

23/08 Further Funding for COVID Vaccines:

The European Commission has approved a further 108 million euro has been funded to Danish company Bavarian Nordic for the development and Manufacture of COVID vaccines. These substantial aid was given as a repayable advance and the funding will go towards the development of a novel coronavirus vaccine. This announcement arrived as COVID restrictions around Europe have begun to ease, the percentage of adults vaccinated against the new virus is on a steady rise across the continent and European states are preparing to return to normalcy after 2 years of restrictions and lock-downs. Bavarian Nordic’s vaccine has finished its phase II trials and hope to use this new funding to effectively complete the vaccines phase III trails which confirm the safety and demonstrate the efficacy of the injection. The executive vice- president of the Commission Margrethe Vestager said that this funding will “…contribute to much needed research and development activities to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.” She also reinforced the EU Commission’s support for Member states, stating “We continue working in close cooperation with Member States to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules.”

24/08 EU’s Remarks after G7 summit:

The European Union met with the G7 to discuss a co-operative approach to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The President of the European Council Charles Michel spoke to reporters after the summit, held over online video conference, was concluded. The statement focused on two key issues, the evacuation of people in Afghanistan, both European citizens and staff, and Afghani citizens fleeing the state, and the communication and relations with the new Afghan state moving forward.

Regarding this first issues, President Michel made it clear that the European Union does not want the sudden arrival of refugees at European borders, concerning the influx of refugees President Michel stated that the EU will “…work with the countries in the region, especially Iran, Pakistan, and central Asia, to address the different needs. International protection will be needed for those facing persecution and for other vulnerable Afghans. And EU member states will contribute to this international effort.” The President also expressed the worry for personal and their exit from the country. Regarding these worries, the president called on the new Afghan authorities to allow “free passage to all foreign, and Afghan citizens, who wish to get to the airport.”. He also reinforced the EU’s dedication to prevent the illegal arrival of refugees, stating “let’s be clear, let’s not allow the creation of a new market for smugglers and human traffickers. We are determined to keep the migratory flows under control and the EU’s borders protected.” a dedication that has been repeated by several European Commissioners over the past few weeks. The President also explained the need for co-operation between the European Union and the United States in the evacuation of personal. He expressed that the need to maintain a secure hold on Kabul airport and to maintain fair and equatable access to the area for “…for all nationals entitled to evacuation.”

On the second issue President Michel was clear that it was too early to make a call on relations with the Afghan state moving forward. The President admits that relations with the state will be necessary to maintain the progress made in the country regarding human rights and to maintain “…a positive influence for the Afghan people, especially in supporting their basic needs,…” but he promises that an interaction with the new authorities would be “…subject to strict conditions, regarding the deeds and attitude of the new regime. Both in preserving the political, economic and social achievements for the Afghan citizens, and their human rights, notably of women, girls and minorities. And in terms of the international obligations of Afghanistan – in particular, security, the fight against terrorism, and drug trafficking.”

Concluding his statement, the President highlighted the importance of international co-operation and data sharing in the fight against foreign terrorism. In his final remarks President Michel declares the European Union’s determination to protect its values and its mission to promote rule of law, democracy and human rights across the world. He states that this message is to any “…actors who are trying to take advantage of the current situation. The EU will continue to firmly protect and promote its interests and values.” He further highlights that there are lessons to learn from the situation in Afghanistan remarking that “These events show, that developing our strategic autonomy, while keeping our alliances as strong as ever, is of the utmost importance, for the future of Europe.”

27/08 EU supplies aid to Hati:

An European Union air bridge operation supplied 125 tonnes of life saving materials to victims of an earthquake in Hati. Alongside these supplies the EU also provided 14 million euro in financial aid to the country with a further 3 million euro in urgent humanitarian assistance. Regarding the crisis Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič, said: “At this critical time, the EU continues to support people in Haiti who are suffering the consequences of the terrible disaster that hit the country. Medical assistance, shelter and access to water are urgent needs that cannot be left unheard. Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the EU and its partners, together with the Haitian authorities, vital assistance is being delivered to help the people of Haiti to survive this challenging time.”

27/08 EU provides funding through cohesion policy fund

The EU has provided over 300 million euro in funds to several member states as a part of its regional cohesion fund. These funds have been allocated to small and medium sized businesses for the development of e-commence and cybersecurity, support regional green economies, health services, and social security. These funds are part of the larger NextGenerationEU project, which plans to provide 50.6 billion euro to Cohesion policy programs over 2021 and 2022. These programs will focus on increasing the sustainably and resilience of Member State’s economies moving forward.

EU’s Week – August 16th -22th

The European Union and Afghanistan:

With the swift collapse of the Afghani state earlier this month, the EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson has released a statement outlying the EU’s reaction to the current situation. The evacuation of EU and member states staff and citizens and the preparation for a new wave of migrants from the area are the EU priorities. Comissioner Johansson applauded the Member States’ work in granting visas to staff and families. The Commissioner also warned of increased migratory pressure and calls for member states to work closely with the EU to ensure that a crisis can be mitigated calling for Member States to “… step up their engagement on resettlement, to increase resettlement quotas to help those in need and to offer complementary legal pathways”. The statement expressed the need to plan ahead of this new wave, explaining “We should not wait until people arrive at the external borders of the European Union. This is not a Solution”. The Commissioner also hopes to mitigate the use of illegal and unregulated smuggling routes, further stating “We should prevent people from heading toward the European Union through unsafe,irregular and uncontrolled routes run by smugglers.” She further empathizes the European Unions commitment in assisting Afghans who have been displaced internally and externally remarking on the already significant contribution towards this cause, both financially and through labor on the ground. In her closing remarks Commissioner Johansson reinforces the need for international co-operation “The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan poses a global challenge.”

Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen released a statement on Saturday warning that communication with the Taliban is not the same as recognition of the new Islamic state, stating that the communication with the Taliban in Afghanistan are distinct from political talks. President Von Der Leyen urged caution and emphasized that the EU and its Member States have a “moral duty” to protect those coming from Afghanistan through “legal and safe routes globally, organized by us, the international community”

EU provides further COVID support:

On Friday the EU announced that they were contributing a further 41 million euro to help neighboring countries recover and combat the COVID-19 virus. The Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič outlined the EU’s already significant work in assisting those states in need. The Commissioner explained that this new funding will “…help address the intimidate repercussions of COVID-19, including vulnerable communities,”. Ahead of this explanation Commissioner Janez highlighted that the EU has been “Leading the multilateral response to the coronavirus pandemic.”. Throughout the ongoing pandemic the EU has been a leading force in fighting the novel virus. Having already provided 3 billion euro for the distribution of COVID vaccines to low- and middle – income countries. The EU has also promised 100 million euro for humanitarian assistance during the vaccine roll out in African states with “critical humanitarian needs and fragile health systems.”

From Community to Union: An Overview of EU History

The Idea of European Integration has a complicated history. Much Like the EU itself there are many different perspectives and debates surrounding the theories of European Integration but most agree that these modern ideas of a unified Europe began to take root after World War II when most of Europe was in ruins after years of devastating conflict.

1951

The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is established and represents a commitment to rebuild Europe and to prevent a conflict on the scale of the Second World War from happening again. European States on the continent agree to pool key resources for the reconstruction of state infrastructure together. Key materials such as coal and steel were freely shared among ECSC members. Alongside the Marshal Plan funding from America the ECSC was a key organization for the redevelopment of European countries and it also marks the first time in Modern history that European States opened up their economies to this extent, allowing for each member state to redevelop quickly.

1950s

At the turn of the decade the ECSC becomes the European Economic Community (EEC). This is of course more than a change in name, this new community has a wider stake in its members economics, many of the current institutions such as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe are established. The idea of a unified Europe beyond economics was being debated by key European figures. EURAtom is also established at these treaty meetings, this hallmarks the beginning of co-operation in generating power for European states. These new powers also draw criticism and the European Community’s first major crisis looms on the horizon.

1960s

As the EEC expands other European states look to join and several different countries apply for membership, including the United Kingdom, Greece and Denmark. This expansion also brought suspicion, primarily from French President Charles De Gaulle who was skeptical of the non-European influences the United Kingdom would invite with its membership into the EEC. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is also established, providing key subsidies and regulations for European agriculture. De Gaulle’s opposition continued further when in 1965 he boycotted EEC meetings. Fearing a loss of sovereignty for France and other member states, De Gaulle brings the legislative processes in Europe to a grinding halt. Only after a year of careful negotiation is France brought back to the table. These negotiations enshrined the right for member states to veto legislation and also set limits on the powers for European institutions.

1970s

The EEC welcomes new members with the introduction the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. These new members bring a strong voice into the room in the form of the United Kingdom’s prime minister. There was an expansion into the budgetary influence of the EEC and the European Monetary System is introduced in 1979. One of the foundations for the single currency we see in the majority of the European Union today. Notably the United Kingdom decided to opt out. The EEC looks to expand its influence into other policy areas as its membership grows. A bi-annual meeting in De Hague is organized between the heads of state and government of EEC member states. These meetings go on to establish the European Council in 1974, a organization that holds huge amounts of influence in the formation of the EU legislative agenda.

1980s

Debates and discontent arise in the United Kingdom when Margaret Thatcher is elected prime minster. Unhappy with the benefits the United Kingdom is receiving from the EEC Thatcher argues that the UK is contributing too much to the European budget and begins negotiations for a rebate of funds back to the English state. Thatcher resists further economic integration into the EEC as new memberships is given to Spain after the fall of Franco and the establishment of democracy. 1989 saw the fall of the Berlin wall and shortly after the re-unification of Germany. This symbolizes the final decline of the Soviet Union and fundamentally changes the international landscape.

1990s

With the the iron curtain of the Soviet Union finally drawn back there is a renewed push for European integration and in 1991 the Maastricht Treaty was signed. This treaty established the European Union (EU), its three pillars and, introduced new offices such as the European Ombudsman. Over the next ten years several reforms to the Maastricht treaty further strengthened the EU’s influence on member state economics , it also begins to gain influence in other policy areas such as defense and security policy. 1995 sees the further addition of Austria, Finland and Sweden as members of the EU. The European Central Bank (ECB) is opened and shortly after the Euro is developed as the currency of the European member states in 1999.

2000s

The Euro is adopted by the majority of EU member states, only the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden opt to keep their original currency. There is a further push for European integration in 2004 with the referendum on the constitutional treaty of the European Union. This treaty ultimately fails to be ratified and after several years of negotiation the Lisbon treaty is published and voted on by European citizens in 2007. The Lisbon treaty expands the EU influence into other policy areas and establishes new roles for common security and defense. Key institutions such as the European Central Bank and the European Council are officially recognized EU institutions and the Euro becomes the official currency of the European Union. 2008 brings financial crisis as a global recession destabilizes the world economy. In the aftermath, the EU adopts stricter controls on borrowing and the ECB gains more influence in the economies of member states.

2010s

In 2012 the European External Action Service (EEAS) is established, providing the EU an organization for foreign action and provides a means to develop a EU foreign policy. After years of war and crisis in the middle east, a mass movement of refugees triggers a migrants crisis in Europe. Under the guidance of the EU, member states work together to ensure the safety of these displaced people and co-operate to provide homes and shelters for the refugees. In the midst of this crisis the UK vote in a referendum to leave the European Union. This begins many years of intense negotiation as the UK and the EU debate the optimum way for the United Kingdom to leave the union. This marks the first time an EU member state opts to leave the Union entirely and sparks fears of further disintegration

2020 – 2021:

The beginning of 2020 brings a global pandemic, effectively shutting down the world’s movement and places huge pressure on state economies as industries shut down for prolonged periods. As this pandemic continues through 2021 the effects of climate change bring calamity to European states as floods in Germany ruin towns and forest fires rage across Greece and Turkey. European fire and rescue services from across Europe come together to assist in fighting the infernos. In the middle east, the swift removal of US troops in Afghanistan see the collapse of the Afghani state and the rise of a new government led by the Taliban. These challenges prompt a unified response for the European Union and may see the further integration of EU member states as resources need to be pooled together to mitigate the further effects of our changing climate and provide reactions and responses to a new Islamic state in the Middle East.

Welcome to the EU Primer

The European Union is important. That may seem like an obvious statement, and one in which a lot of people agree. But, if you ask “Why the EU is important?” you may find that people lack an answer. Often, we’re told that the EU is a key organization for it’s member states, it helps smaller countries have a voice in global politics and it allows neighbors to pool resources and share the very best of their home with the rest of Europe. How does the EU do this? Where did the EU start? How do countries become members of the EU? These are very important questions that citizens of Europe may ask, and it is very important that members of the EU can answer and understand these questions. The root of a democracy is its people, this is true at a domestic level and it remains the same at the international stage. If the EU is to function as an international democracy its people and citizens have to be engaged and mindful of the functions, processes and debates happening in Brussels everyday.

Here we come to the ethos and role of this blog, only after many long nights and stressful hours have I developed a strong understanding of the European Union, and as I grew to understand the EU my passion and enthusiasm for the organization grew as well. I know that many member states would be lost without EU guidance, important voices and unique perspectives would drown in the swell of opinions and issues present on the international stage. Many EU member states rely on the economic support gained from their membership status and whole industries rely heavily on the support provided by EU regulations and subsidies. I hope that through this blog, I am able to translate EU jargon into clarity and cut through the dense jungle that is the European legislative process. I want to encourage my readers to learn, debate, and get engaged in Europe. I hope to provide a toolbox filled with everything someone needs to research, understand important Europe topics and form their own educated opinions on how the EU is run and its role in international relations. Use these tools to find you own voice, broadcast you opinions, shout your concerns from atop a soapbox, become involved in European politics.

It is easy to be apathetic about politics, to assume that you won’t heard among the countless others and this is a common misunderstanding. Without people there is no debate, no substance to the discourse. I want to encourage everyone to get out there, and shout aplenty to your local politicians, to your representatives in the European Parliament. There is no issue to small and there is no concern invalid. It’s time to get out there! Allow your opinion to be heard and share you experience and perspectives with your communities. This is how we make the world a better place.

On this blog you will find several different categories below is a short summary of everything you can find here at The EU Primer:

  • Informatics providing explanations for the most important institutions within the European Union, the most commonly used legislative processes, and some of the key roles and positions both inside and outside the European Union.
  • Current European affairs and discussions regarding important events to ensure that any readers are up to date and informed on the EU.
  • Informative pieces on the History of the European Union, the many forms it has taken and events through time that were key in the formation of what we know today as the EU.
  • Important links and information on how you can get involved in European and Domestic projects and how you can communicate with your representatives at the European Union.