More serious answers would be appreciated. I keep on hearing about this Lisbon Treaty?
Rychlik - I live in the States so take my words with a grain of salt but the Lisbon Treaty as Tymoteusz pointed out brought the U.S.E. - United States of Europe one step closer to reality. Not there yet but getting closer.
In a nutshell, several years ago there was an attempt to create an EU constitution which would apply to all member states (sort like the US constitution). Currently there are 27 EU nations
That attempt failed when several countries held referendums and some of them failed to win the majority of the votes. Since this is such an immense reform affecting all EU member states, ALL member states had to agree. That didn't happen.
After the initial setback the politicians came up with a new version and basically the Lisbon Treaty (which finally passed and became a law) is a watered-down version of the initial reforms.
Small countries complained because the "large" member states (Germany, France, UK, etc.) got more power now as more emphasis is placed on a member state's population. However, there are safeguards for the smaller member states.
EU is like any other large institution, gets big and bureaucratic but it has many advantages too...
It's probably too early to tell if the EU will be a success story however if you consider the original beginnings and the overall purpose of the European integration - then it's been a great success.
EU started out in 1952 as the European Coal and Steel Community
(ECSC). This Coal and Steel Union was founded by six countries - France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy . It involved cooperation on the coal and steel production of these countries, which was important to the arms industry and was a major commodity in trade between them. However, another purpose of the cooperation was to pave the way for greater European cohesion by making the countries mutually dependent on each other's coal and steel production, thereby preventing hostilities between them and ensuring durable peace in Europe.
In other words the idea was to make European countries so dependant on each other that they'd never be able to go to war with each other. So in that sense it's been a great success."I also hear EU skeptics predicting the collapse of the EU in the future because countries lose sovereignty."
Personally I doubt it but who knows? Maybe what you heard was a prediction of the €uro collapse due to recent turmoil with Greek finances? If so, I doubt this too.The Euro-zone
consists of 16 out of the 27 EU nations, in other words only 16 of them use the Euro. All but 2 (possibly 3) will eventually have to adopt the Euro. UK and Denmark negotiated an opt-out clause meaning the don't have to join it - ever (many economists think one day they will but who knows?).
Sweden does not have the opt-out clause but in 2003 there was a referendum where the majority of the Swedish population voted against adopting the Euro. (Full disclosure, I voted NEJ in that referendum myself ;)
Today, by keeping the Swedish Crown "floating" or not fixed against the Euro (like Denmark for example) Sweden "artificially" does not meet one of the specific Euro adoption rules and therefore does not have to (or rather may not) adopt it. In other words the Swedish politicians are circumventing the EU obligations (to join Euro) in order to follow the will of the people of Sweden who at the moment do not want the Euro.
Either way, some economists claim that it's a dangerous situation to have a "super currency" such as Euro without an actual "super state". In plain English, although the EU more and more acts like one large nation each country still follows it's own path. Since the adoption of the Euro no member state can devalue its own currency since it no longer exists - a tactic often deployed in the past by the Greek, Italian, Spanish, and many other governments. They cannot revalue or devalue their currencies since as I mentioned they do not exist (Drachma, Lira, Peseta, etc).
However, those countries keep spending money as if the ability to devalue still exist. Yet all that's left now is to cut spending and/or raise taxes - which are already high. Therefore, many economists believe that unless there's some kind of harmonization of the European economical laws one day some of those countries will face huge unemployment levels; I read in the Economist once that Greece might face a 20%+ unemployment rate unless they fix their finances.
So maybe that's the "collapse" you've heard about? Either way, in my view the stakes are too high and the EU governments will come up with a solution.
Here's one website you can check out. It has a pro-EU bias but explains some of the new rules.
Also, Wikipedia has a good summary of the treaty: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Lisbon
...But isn't there huge criticism and EU skepticism right now because countries like Poland do not want countries like Germany and France calling the shots and indirectly having influence over their futures? Are these not legitimate concerns of a country like Poland which has only been free for 20 years.
are people really that naive to think that Germany and France have Poland's interests in mind?
Yes and no. People are rightfully concerned and often I agree with them. However, at this point it's probably better to improve what's already there. Poland IS an EU member state and thus is able to reform it from inside. Not by itself of course but strong coalitions of small states have brought changes in the past and will so again.
Polish farmers are upset because now they have to compete with other European farmers and some countries subsidize farming more than others. Overall most reports I've read seem to indicate that the farming subsidies will keep decreasing and I venture to predict that many smaller farms will end up shutting down or will merge with larger, stronger farms. One core value of EU is free competition which of course will never happen as long as member states subsidize their "favorite" industry - farming.
In mid 80s when Spain and Portugal joined the EU they were considered dirt-poor yet only 10 years later their combined GDP more than tripped. It might seem strange to "invest" in another country but remember that those investments usually create jobs in the donor countries too. EU is NOT perfect and never will be but I think they seem to be doing all right...