A friendly guide through Europe

The Penguin Companion to European Union
July 5, 1996

Attitudes towards the European Union continue to play an important role on the British political scene with often bitter disagreement between Europhiles and Europhobes.

Timothy Bainbridge and Anthony Teasdale have produced a very useful reference book on the European Union which will help interested readers and students alike to access basic information on most of the institutions, issues, personalities and policies which have influenced the European Community since the end of the war.

The book not only highlights landmarks on the road to European integration, along with the treaties, but also considers and analyses current issues, developments and controversies. There are sections on federalism and federation and a description of subsidiarity, yet surprisingly, nothing on supranationalism or a European superstate.

All the landmarks are there, such as the European Defence Community, the European Coal and Steel Community, the Western European Union and the conferences at Messina and Stresa. They are supported by entries on, or references to, key personalities in building the Community: Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Charles de Gaulle, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman and Paul-Henri Spaak.

The book essentially concentrates on the situation since the end of the war, so that although there are references to the European idea, between the two world wars, such as the impact of Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and Pan-Europa, or the role of Aristide Briand; the reader would have to look further afield for information on such issues as Elemer Hantos's European Customs Union or the role and writings of individuals such as Edouard Herriot, R. W. G. MacKay, or Hans-Helmut Dietze, whose concept of an anti-Bolshevik crusade posited the expansion of the Third Reich through the auspices of a European mission.

A reference to the interwar period in the section on Minorities, absurdly claims that "The redrawing of political frontiers after the First World War took account as far as possible of ethnic frontiers." Likewise in the introduction: "The threat of armed conflict has receded with the end of the Cold War." Tell that to the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs.

The book also looks further afield to association agreements with states such as Malta, Cyprus and Turkey, and explains the Lome and Yaounde conventions, with a simplified overview of relations between the Community and the African, Caribbean and Pacific states and territories, and development policies through the European Regional and Development Fund , and the European Development Fund. Although the book focuses on the 15-member European Union, it also takes into account the role of the Council of Europe and the European Economic Area, while considering in passing the issues of enlargement and deepening, with reference to the Visegrad states, but sadly there is very little on policy, attitudes and relations between the EU and the Soviet successor-states within Europe or the CEE states.

Occasionally, as in the entry on languages, one discovers interesting details providing food for thought; for example, the reader can learn how EU institutions deal with interpreting what are described as "more obscure language combinations", such as from Danish to Greek, through a "relay" system, whereby a third language is employed. The reader is even informed that "Eleven languages give rise to no fewer than 110 language combinations; the formula n2-n, where n equals the number of languages in use. Each additional language adds a further 2(n - 1) combinations: for example, a 12th language would bring the total of combinations up to 132."

Nevertheless, despite this eye for mathematical detail, it would seem somewhat inaccurate to describe Danish, Greek and Portuguese as "minority languages" !

In using the Companion to the European Union one is reminded of similar publications by Penguin, such as the dictionaries of history, politics and sociology, although one could argue that this book is more focused. It certainly benefits greatly from its thorough and detailed bibliography, though, surprisingly, European Brief is not listed among the periodicals.

Robert C. Hudson is senior lecturer in European studies, University of Derby.

The Penguin Companion to European Union

Author - Timothy Bainbridge with Anthony Teasdale
ISBN - 0 14 016510 X
Publisher - Penguin
Price - £9.99
Pages - 502

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