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Goals and Purpose of the European Union

Grades 7-8 | Argumentative | Source-Based

Source Lexile®: 1010L-1170L

Learning Standards




Prompt: Today you will read three articles outlining the goals and purpose of the European Union and the benefits and challenges faced by the European Union.


Write an argumentative essay in which you make a claim about whether the European Union has effectively accomplished the goals and purposes established in its constitution. Support your claim with evidence from all three sources. Be sure to include all aspects of an argument in your essay: state your claim, support your claim with logical reasoning, address opposing arguments (counterclaim), and include a concluding statement.




Source 1

"The EU in Brief": Excerpt from the European Union's website (Primary Source)


The EU in brief


The European Union is a unique economic and political union between 28 European countries that together cover much of the continent.


The EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries that trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.


The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential.


From economic to political union


What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organization spanning policy areas, from climate, environment, and health to external relations and security, justice, and migration. A name change from the European Economic Community (EEC) to the European Union (EU) in 1993 reflected this.

The EU is based on the rule of law: everything it does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by its member countries.

The EU is also governed by the principle of representative democracy, with citizens directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament and Member States represented in the European Council and the Council of the EU.


Stability, a single currency, mobility and growth


The EU has delivered more than half a century of peace, stability, and prosperity, helped raise living standards, and launched a single European currency: the euro. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe.


Thanks to the abolition of border controls between EU countries, people can travel freely throughout most of the continent. And it has become much easier to live, work, and travel abroad in Europe.


The single or 'internal' market is the EU's main economic engine, enabling most goods, services, money, and people to move freely. Another key objective is to develop this huge resource also in other areas like energy, knowledge, and capital markets to ensure that Europeans can draw the maximum benefit from it.


Human rights and equality


One of the EU's main goals is to promote human rights both internally and around the world. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights: these are the core values of the EU. Since the Lisbon Treaty's entry in force in 2009, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights brings all these rights together in a single document. The EU's institutions are legally bound to uphold them, as are EU governments whenever they apply EU law.


Transparent and democratic institutions


The enlarged EU remains focused on making its governing institutions more transparent and democratic. More powers have been given to the directly elected European Parliament, while national parliaments play a greater role, working alongside the European institutions. In turn, European citizens have an ever-increasing number of channels for taking part in the political process.


"The EU in Brief." European Union - European Commission. N.p., 05 Apr. 2017. Web. 16 June 2017.




Source 2

"The Positive Side of the European Union" (Secondary Source)


When World War II ended in 1945, Europe was devastated. Millions of people had been killed. Many major cities and most industrial areas were destroyed. Europe needed to start building again. It started the process of rebuilding with help from the United States.


Within Europe itself, leaders met to discuss how precious resources, especially coal and steel, would be used in the nations. Gradually, European countries started working on big projects together, like developing rules for using different natural resources. By 1970, these European countries had abolished tariffs, which are taxes on imports between nations. That way, countries could import and export one another's goods without additional charges. They also developed new techniques in food production that resulted in more crops and fewer crop failures. This increased exports and helped end food shortages.


In the 1970s, the nations collaborated to create jobs and develop policies to improve the environments of member nations. They also created a governing body for the organization that they called the European Parliament. The group met to discuss the economy as well as foreign policy issues, like how to respond to wars in other regions of the world. With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, countries like Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary were eager to join with other nations of the European community.


With the number of members growing, the nations worked on a new treaty for the organization, called the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which was signed in 1992. It outlined the future of the organization, spelling out its political and economic goals. It also detailed environmental guidelines for members and for countries who wanted to join the EU. In 1993, the EU achieved its goal of creating a single market, making it easier and tax-free to trade goods and services between countries in the EU. The TEU promised four economic freedoms to EU members. They included the free movement of goods, services, people, and money.


Another goal of the EU, which took longer to achieve, was to create a common currency. Before the EU, each European nation had its own form of currency. England used the pound; Italy used the lira. With a common currency, all member nations would use the same form of money, called the euro. It took the EU longer to achieve the goal of a common currency, but that was finally accomplished in 2002. Using the euro allows EU member nations to easily trade with each other, and helps create a single market. In other words, all of the member nations have a similar economy, instead of each having different economies. Overall, the creation of the EU has improved the standard of living of its members through increased trade and shared resources. There has also been integration of peace and democracy throughout Europe.


"The Positive Side of the European Union" The European Union. Reading Passage. Discovery Education. Web. 19 June 2017. <>.




Source 3

"The Problems of the European Union" (Secondary Source)


Although the EU has had great success in improving the lives for many of its members, there have been serious problems, too. Some people fear that if these problems aren't resolved, they may bring an end to the EU. Among the problems facing the EU, the most serious involves the economies of member nations. The worldwide economic crisis that began in 2008 led to fear that banks would fail and many people would lose their jobs in Europe and around the world. The EU responded in December 2008 by lending money to banks in its member countries. The banks then could lend money to people and make sure that customers' deposits were secure. The crisis was also linked to the amount of money each country owed to others—their national debts. The EU has very strict rules for its member nations regarding debts and budgets. When all the member nations are thriving, there are no problems. But if the economy in one country suffers, it can negatively impact the entire EU. By early 2009, it was clear that several countries were in severe financial trouble.


The problems in Greece were especially critical. Greece had borrowed large amounts of money from other nations to operate its government. In fact, Greece owed more than its gross national product (GNP), which is the total value of all the goods and services Greece produces in a year. The government tried austerity, a method of reducing the government's debt by cutting government spending, but it wasn't enough. The Greek people were angry. They were not willing to go along with the deep cuts in services and pensions for retired citizens. Some demonstrations against the government turned into riots. The Greek government turned to the EU for help. But there was disagreement within the EU about how to handle the crisis. Some EU nations like Germany are in better economic health than Greece, Spain, and other troubled member nations. Many German citizens resent having to pay to help stabilize other countries that have been less careful in managing economic programs.


The EU did eventually loan money to Greece, but that didn't solve all the problems. Instead, the debt problems spread. Many other European countries are also dealing with large national debts and unemployment. The solutions are not easy, nor are they guaranteed. What will happen now? Some leaders think that the EU is no longer working and should be abolished. The stability and success of the EU, more than 50 years in the making, is now threatened. Whether it can survive this major crisis and continue to lead the way in Europe is uncertain.


Citation: The European Union. Reading Passage. Discovery Education. Web. 19 June 2017. <>.








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