Several political and economic unions have been formed between countries during the past decades.
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European political and economic unions
The world's political and economic unions
G7 (The Group of Seven): A co-operative forum for the governments of the world's 7 most economically developed countries. Their first meeting, known as the first world economic summit, was held in 1975.
G10 (The Group of Ten): The group of countries that agreed to participate in the General Arrangements to Borrow (GAB). The GAB was established in 1962 in order to discuss economic, monetary and financial matters and to cooperate in those areas. The participating countries determine the availability of funds of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
G20 (The Group of Twenty): It is an international forum that consists of the European Union and the 19 leading economies of the world. It was founded in 1999 with the aim to promote discussions between finance ministers, central banks, and heads of government or heads of state about policies related to international financial stability.
G33 (also called Friends of Special Products in agriculture): It is a political coalition of developing countries established in 2003 with the intention to coordinate their commercial and political activities. Its aim is to offer help to participating countries with their common problems, mainly regarding agriculture.
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement): An agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States in 1992 whose main objective is to establish a free trade area for its member states. The agreement also aims to provide a common market for the goods and services of the member states, to create new employment possibilities as well as to strengthen the competitiveness of the region's companies on the world market.
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations): A regional international organisation that promotes political, economic and cultural co-operation between the countries located in South-East Asia. It was established in 1967 with the aim of preserving peace in the region and protecting its member states from the threat posed by the Soviet Bloc. After the mid-1970s its main emphasis was placed on economic co-operation, although this co-operation came to a halt a decade later. Since the 1990s, the region has witnessed rapid economic growth, helped by the implementation of distribution of labour among the countries, as they specialised in the production of electronic goods, mass-produced goods, and high-end products. This resulted in the creation of a regional free-trade zone. The organisation is based in Jakarta.
OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries): A political and economic union whose mission is to coordinate the production of crude oil in the member states. The organisation was established in 1960, when the oil market was dominated by primarily American, British and Dutch global companies, which were trying to get the price of oil down. Its purpose was to help its members better withstand the pressure from such companies. Initially, its function was to sell the oil stocks of the developing countries and to control production volumes. Later it also had a major say in the pricing of crude oil on world markets. The headquarters of the organisation is in Vienna.
Arab League: A regional international organisation of Arab states. Its aim is primarily political, however, cultural and geographical similarity and proximity is a condition of membership. It aims to support co-operation and mutual assistance, as well as to contribute to the economic, social, political, cultural and military development of the member states. The organisation is based in Cairo.
1957 – The European Economic Community, also known as the Common Market, is created in Rome. Members: Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries.
1967 – The name of the organisation changes to European Community.
The change of name indicates that co-operation between the member states was no longer exclusively economic.
1973–1986 – Enlargement of the European Community. Joining states: 1973 - United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark; 1981 - Greece; 1986 - Portugal and Spain.
1985 – Signing of The Schengen Agreement, which provides strict external border controls as well as the free movement of persons between the member states.
1992 – Signing of The Treaty of Maastricht. The member states agree to create a (Western) Europewithout borders by the turn of the millennium.
1994 – The name of the community changes to European Union, indicating that co-operation has been extended to include foreign and defence policy.
1995 – New member states: Sweden, Finland, Austria.
1995 – The Schengen Agrement enters into force. (The UK is not part of the Schengen area. Norway and Iceland, non-EU members, did sign the Agreement.)
1997 – The Eastern European enlargement treaty is signed.
2002 – Introduction of the single EU currency, the Euro. The eurozone is created. Monetary union is established, thus the EU becomes the world's second largest economy. Members (in 2015): Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.
2004 – Eastern enlargement. New member states: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia.
2007 – New member states: Bulgaria and Romania.
2013 – New member state: Croatia
Definitions of terms:
Integration: the merging of independent national economies. The differences between them are increasingly disappearing, while their economic, and later other intrastate relationships become more and more similar to their interstate relationships. The unification takes place on two levels: on the micro level (between companies) and on the macro level (between countries).
Economic union: The penultimate step in the integration process. This stage is characterised by the abolishment of national economies, there is one common economic policy; joint production and selling processes; joint investments and technological chains cross national borders.
Political union: The most advanced form of integration. The member states share not only economic policies but also a joint government, forming one single state.
Regional economic union: A form of integration in which member states within a well-defined geographical region form an economic union.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an alliance of 28 countries from North America and Europe. It was founded in Washington after World War II (4 April 1949). Created during the arms race of the Cold War, the organisation aimed to weaken the Soviet Union, which, at that time, had been expanding in Eastern Europe, and to oppose the Warsaw Pact. At the end of the Cold War, NATO became the defender of Western civilisation.
NATO's fundamental goals are stated in the North Atlantic Treaty, whereby the member states undertake to use all political and military means to protect their freedom and security. The organisation also seeks to prevent the expansion of Russia'spolitical and military influence. Today, peacekeeping operations are also carried out beyond the borders of the member states. The great power leading the organisation is the United States, so NATO's policy strongly represents the foreign, political and economic interests of that country.
In 1999, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland joined the organisation. In 2004, another 5 EU member states joined (Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) as well as Bulgaria and Romania. In 2009, Croatia together with Albania joined the NATO, while in 2017, Montenegro also became a member. In 2018, accession negotiations were started with North Macedonia as well.
The Schengen Agreement is a treaty between EU member states and several European non-EU countries in which they agreed to gradually remove controls at their internal borders and to collectively organise the control of external borders.
The agreement was signed by five European countries (France, West Germany, and the Benelux states) in 1985 aiming to gradually remove controls at their internal borders. Currently, 22 out of 28 EU members and 4 non-EU countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) participate in the Schengen area.