In this essay, I will present 3 or more reasons, citing textual evidence that answers the essential question, “What forces work for and against supranational cooperation among nations?”, and close with how it relates to today.
First, the common market of the European Union has helped bring people together, helped people prosper, and created a huge economic power. As stated on page 216 of the WGeo book, “The creation of a common market was an important economic force in uniting the EU. This single market benefits EU consumers in several ways. With goods moving freely across borders, people have more choices about what to buy.” The European Union as we know it today all started with an economic organization. As such, it comes as no surprise that economics is a major factor in the EU. The seeds of the European Union would be planted all the way back in 1950, when Robert Schuman, a French leader, made a speech that put forward ideas that would become the foundation of the EU. He also suggested that some European countries work together to manage steel and coal so that the possibility of another war might become less likely. By 1952, a treaty that formed the European Coal and Steel Community would be ratified. This was a common market, where trade obstacles such as tariffs were reduced or removed altogether. This Community would eventually grow into the European Economic Community which expanded its earlier iteration and removed trade obstacles for other types of goods as well. This would come to be known as the Common Market, which would only continue to expand and grow to encompass more countries. The Common Market continued to prosper, and would later be renamed the European Community. Later, it became one of the central founding pillars of the European Union. Although the EU also has other aspects, the economy is one of the most prominent and helps bring these countries together, thus acting as a centripetal force. Most of the Common Market’s policies still remain today. The removal of tariffs is one of these policies. This act helps make goods more available and cheaper across the EU. Another major feature is the common currency of the EU, the Euro. Prior to its formation, the countries of the EU had their own currencies. By introducing a common currency, not only did it bring nations together or a larger level, but it was made easier for people to travel between countries as changing currencies was no longer a problem. This, along with other changes to travel, has made it easy for people to move between countries to find work and uplift themselves financially. On an international level, EU countries have made a powerful trade bloc. This trade bloc makes other countries more likely to deal with the EU and has increased its overall influence over the global economy. If the many nations of the EU were not part of this trade bloc, each individual country would have much less power and would suffer for it. In these ways, the economy of the EU is one of the most important parts of it.
Second, the various cultures and languages of the people part of the European Union can sometimes divide them and create obstacles. As stated on page 221 of the WGeo book, “Sometimes cultural diversity can become a centrifugal force that the EU must work to overcome. The EU celebrates the diversity of languages in Europe, yet those many languages can sometimes make communication difficult.” The incredibly unique and diverse cultures in the European Union are certainly a good thing and should be celebrated, but it would be ignorant not to acknowledge that these many cultures can divide people, acting as a centrifugal force. For a country to join the EU, it must inherently give up some of its cultural identity to join the common European cultural identity. However, many of these traits are extremely difficult or even impossible to give up. One example of this has to do with languages. Europe is host to a wide variety of languages, with almost every single country having its own. However, to accommodate this, the EU has to translate all its documents, agreements, and speeches into many languages. In 2016, this meant that over 2.2 million pages had to be translated. This uses up an enormous amount of resources, though necessary. Even then, however, there remain major language barriers between the people. Languages are still only part of it, though. Countries and their people also have to give up some of their national pride. This means that they have to put the interests of all of Europe above their own. Obviously, this is challenging for many people to do. Rivalries and competition can also interfere with national cooperation. But perhaps one of the biggest challenges to overcome is cultural and traditional differences. Many cultures have practices and traditions that have gone on for many years. Some of these practices, however, might not be agreeable with others’ viewpoints. An example of this is bullfighting, a common tradition in Spain. Whereas in Spain, this is seen as a positive thing, people from other EU countries think that the practice is cruel. This type of cultural mismatch is also seen in traditional Czech food. These dishes are cooked slowly and are often better the next day. However, some EU food rules state that food more than two hours old cannot be served. Many traditional Czech dishes would become illegal under this rule. Cultural differences such as these must be overcome in order to work together, however, there is often no easy way to do so.
Third, national interests and diversity can get in the way of supranational cooperation and globalism, whereas common problems can help bring countries and people together. As stated on page 222 of the WGeo book, “For such diverse countries to cooperate, they must agree to put the world’s interests above their own, but this is often difficult or impossible for UN members to do.” While it is relatively simple for one to consider the supranational cooperation found in the EU, it is also possible to consider supranational cooperation as a whole using the EU as an example. Though the EU is one of the best examples of supranational cooperation, it is not the only one. The United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, are both examples of other such organizations. However, they each have their own focus. NATO, for example, is focused primarily on defense and does not require member states to give up as much agency. That being said, even though there are many different such organizations, the EU remains a stronger candidate as it is easier to see the pros and cons of globalism and supranational cooperation because it is more extensive. One major problem with globalism is that it would require people to give up some part of their culture in order to be able to work with others or cultural conflicts might arise. This can be seen in the differences between traditions in the EU. Another con is that it would be difficult for people to put global interest above national interest. This can not only be seen in the EU but also within the UN, where it is made more difficult to cooperate partly because the interests of countries do not always align. Every country would also have to give up some power and agency which could mean that the people have less of a say. On the other hand, however, trade between countries would most likely become easier and so the economy would benefit. There might also not be as much large-scale conflict since the countries would be united. Though the biggest pro might actually be that it’s easier for people to work together on common problems. Taking these factors into account, it becomes evident that supranational cooperation has many up and downs.
In conclusion, the European Union serves as an example of supranational cooperation and helps us understand what forces can bring people together and what things can divide them. The economy has been central to the EU, ever since its formation and is one major thing that holds it together. The common market improves the quality of life by making products more accessible and cheaper. The trade bloc of the EU also makes it a stronger overall world power. However, cultural and national differences between countries can divide them. The many languages of the EU cause a major communication barrier that is difficult to overcome. Traditional differences may also arise among people regarding certain practices. There are also other supranational cooperations, but the EU is the best example because it’s more extensive than other organizations. By studying it, one can apply that knowledge to supranational cooperation as a whole. This relates to today as the European Union is still a prominent force. It is a major economic and political power and continues to influence the world. By understanding the EU better, we can better understand why things are as they are. By making these connections, we can become better members of our communities on every level. The European Union is also changing, such as what happened with Brexit. If we can better understand the EU, we can understand why these actions were taken and understand what else might happen in the future. Changes in the EU will also greatly affect the rest of the world due to its great influence. Discussing the pros and cons of globalism and supranational cooperation also helps put it into context and helps us understand what brings people together and what divides them. Ultimately, by furthering our understanding of these connections, we can better interpret the world around us, and our place in it.