First, six countries (including France and Germany, significantly) signed the Coal and Steel Treaty, which meant that no country could never develop enough military power on their own to mount an invasion of another, this preserving each state and nation in Europe (Europa 2009). The Council of Europe also emerged as an entity in the West (the part of Europe not under Soviet control) that increased political and economic cooperation. Today, all of the major countries in Europe including Great Britain, Italy, France, and Germany (and many others) are members of the European Union, without giving up sovereignty or combining cultures.
Most of the European Union's member states (with the notable exception of Great Britain) now uses a standardized currency, the Euro, and trade and travel between member nations has also been made much easier. In this way, one of the primary functions of the European Union is to create an entity with a single (or at least highly interconnected and coordinated) economy (Europa 2009). The member states have also agreed to a Common Foreign and Security Policy for the European Union. This includes economic and political sanctions against outlying countries that violate human rights laws, and all member states of the European Union are expected to implement these sanctions. The Union also uses its interconnectedness and its international clout to reduce trafficking in small arms and light weapons, which could improve conditions in the developing world (Europa 2009).
Nation-State and Transnational Entity Interaction
Though there are certainly some commonalities in the way that the United States and the European Union operate, there are also some key differences that stem from the very different organizational structures and political foundations of these entities. As a nation-state with complete sovereignty, the United States does not have to engage in any sort of dialogue in the development of its foreign policy. Unilateral decisions are often not very prudent, but they can be made. This is not the case with the European Union, which cannot act without first holding votes among the representatives of the various member states. In this way, there is already at least some degree of international consensus in the European Union's development of its foreign policy objectives and activities.
When it comes to international politics, there are major ramifications from both types and formations of foreign policy. Though unilateral action is generally viewed in a negative light, foreign policy that is derived from the total sovereignty of a state allows for much more adaptable, decisive, and direct action. When long dialogues between multiple partners can be avoided, things can happen faster. Of course, the effects of such decisions and actions might lead to repercussions for the country, and unplanned for detriments in other states. The relative slowness with which foreign policy is developed in a transnational entity such as the European Union creates a far less efficient and decisive foreign policy, as the opinions and desires of all of the constituent member states must be taken into consideration, and a multi-faceted compromise worked out that allows for the greatest amount of satisfaction for the greatest number of member states. This generally means that the impact of such policies will be less radical, so the inefficiencies of transnational entities are somewhat balanced by the degree of stabilization that it creates.
Though the concepts of nations and states are not interchangeable, much of the modern world is composed of entities that are both nations and states. In certain regions, these nation-states are forming even larger transnational entities. The history of civilization has seen a trend of increasing size and complexity of political organizations, and these transnational entities could very well prove to be the next step (Bergman & Renwick 2008).
Bergman, E.F., & Renwick, W.H. (2008). Introduction to geography: people, places and environment (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Europa. (2009). Gateway to the European Union. Accessed 21 October 2009. http://europa.eu/index_en.htm
U.S. Dept. Of State. (2009). Diplomacy in action. Accessed 21 October 2009. http://www.state.gov/
Perry, J.A, & Perry, E.K. (2009). Contemporary society: an introduction to social science (12th…