Stock Market Guide to the European Community Trade Agreement

EC stands for European Community. Though formally established in late 1992 and early 1993 as a result of the Maastricht treaty, the EC in its previous incarnation as the European Economic Community (EEC) or Common Market can trace its roots back to the 1957 signing of the Treaty of Rome. Most people, when asked to associate a particular image with the EC, state either the relatively new Euro currency or the distinctive European Union (EU) flag depicting 12 gold stars representing the 12 founding nations, forming a circle against a deep blue background. However, the EU and the EC are not one and the same. Although in common usage both EU and EC refer to Europe as a whole, the EU is a political entity while the EC has a looser connotation as an economic union of participating European states.

Strictly speaking, the EC as an abbreviation for “European Communities” is one of the Three Pillars of the European Union. The other two pillars are the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) pillar that deals with EU foreign and defense policy, and the Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC) pillar that oversees law enforcement matters. These three pillars were to have been merged under the terms of the proposed European Constitution, but although all EU member states signed the constitution in 2004, both France and The Netherlands refused to ratify it after conducting referendums that failed to achieve a majority vote in favor.

Among the most vexing of the current debates concerning the future of the EC is the status of Turkey. Although conditionally approved for membership in 2005, many EC members are repelled by Turkey’s human rights record, fragile democratic institutions and reluctance to compromise on the status of Cyprus. The issue is very emotional and the position of Turkey as being a part of the Western or Eastern worlds is thought to hang in the balance. In the meantime, the European Community continues to unify and add more members, both in size and in depth. With the admission of Bulgaria and Romania on January 1, 2007, the European Community now has 27 full members.

The “Eurozone”, or the group of nations who have suspended their national currencies in favor of the Euro, only has 13 members with the newest being Slovenia. Since the Euro was only approved in principle in 1999 and actually introduced into circulation in 2002, it is thought that this “last bastion” of visible sovereignty will also continue to crumble as Europe becomes a more cohesive nation-state.

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