Key Stage 3 Government & Democracy

Year 9 Role of Europe in Helping the Consumer

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Lesson Plan

Teaching ObjectivesPossible Teaching ActivityLearning Outcomes

Pupils should gain a basic understanding of:

  • what is meant by the term European Union

  • the historical development of the European Union

  • the institutions that exist within the EU

  • the role of the EU in protecting consumer rights and responsibilities

Begin the lesson by talking to the students about Europe. Discuss the historical development of Europe and consider whether membership in the European Union is good for the UK.

Consider the development of the Euro. Look at which countries have adopted the Euro as their national currency. Discuss whether the students think that the United Kingdom should also adopt this currency.

Explain the different organisations that exist within Europe and look at the way in which their decisions affect our country.

Look at the role that Europe has in Consumer Protection and the organisations that exist to ensure consumer voices are heard.

  • Students will be able to recognise the existence and historical development of the EU as well as the impact that the European Union has on this Country.

Teachers Notes

What is the difference between Europe and the EU?

Background Information

On 1 January 1973, the United Kingdom became a member of the European Economic Community (now called the European Union). Now, years later, the debates are still going on: Was it such a good idea? Does it bring any real benefits? Have we gained anything or have we lost out? Why join in the first place?

It is necessary for us to consider what membership of the EU means and how it affects our everyday lives. It is also important to examine the history of its creation and look at the reasons for setting up the so-called Common Market.

Europe after the Second World War

In 1945, the Second World War ended. All over Europe cities lay in ruins. Millions had died in the fighting and millions more were homeless. Industry was at a standstill and the people looked to their political leaders to help them rebuild their shattered lives. One thing was agreed upon; no-one wanted another war.

The politicians believed that if their countries joined together to co-operate and help each other rather than fight against each other everyone would be much better off.

In 1946 Winston Churchill, the British war-time Prime Minister, made a speech in Zurich calling for a 'kind of United States of Europe'.

Not everyone agreed with Churchill. Russia had taken over several smaller countries in the east of Europe and showed no interest whatsoever in joining up with France in the west. The split between Eastern Europe and Western Europe deepened.

The countries that were interested in co-operating with each other went ahead making plans. In 1950 the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman suggested a European Coal and Steel Community. Its purpose was to allow coal and steel to travel freely between member countries without any barriers. Often, when goods are moved from one country to another, money has to be paid. This money is usually called "customs duty". Schuman's idea was to get rid of customs duties between member countries whenever they traded in coal and steel.

The Treaty of Rome

Six countries signed the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty:

Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and West Germany.

These six continued to work towards even closer unity and in Rome in 1957 they signed two new agreements including one called the Treaty of Rome.

This Treaty sets out in detail the aims of the European Economic Community. Any country wanting to join the EU has to sign the Treaty of Rome and agree to abide by all of its conditions.

The second Treaty signed that year was the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) Treaty. It was designed to look after and promote peaceful development of atomic energy.

Free Trade and Free Movement of Labour

These 6 countries also believed that it was important to trade freely in order to make it easier for goods to move between Member States. This meant doing away with customs duties that not only put up the prices of goods but also delayed their transportation.

They wanted to break down trading barriers like this so that manufacturers or producers in one EU country could sell their goods within any one of the others as easily as they could within their own.

However, although the Community is now free of import duties, there are still some restrictions that prevent the truly free market that the original six countries wanted.

The price of cars, for example, is often higher in Britain than in continental Europe, even though they are made by the same manufacturer.

It wasn't only goods that these founder members felt should be allowed to move freely. They believed that people should be allowed to move around freely too. It would mean that they would be able to share ideas and expertise - and have a greater choice of jobs and more opportunities for work.

Above all, the founder members of the 'Common Market' wanted their governments to have common policies so that they would all plan things in similar ways. They believed that this was particularly important in key areas of the economy, such as agriculture, industry and trade with the rest of the world.

The Common Market Today

Since 1957 membership of the EEC has grown. There have been five waves of accessions; 1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom; 1981: Greece; 1986: Spain and Portugal; 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden; and in 2004 Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, making a total of twenty-five Member States.

In 1992, all of the 12 countries that were members at that time signed the Maastricht Treaty (also known as the Treaty of EU). This Treaty came into force on 1st November 1993 and from that date the EC became known as the European Union (EU).

The ideas and aims set out in the Treaty of Rome have not been completely achieved yet. Many people doubt that they ever will be because different governments have very different ideas about how they should run their countries. It is difficult enough to run one country; so it is even harder when twenty five are involved.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Quiz

Ask the students to name the 25 countries that make up the EU. Can they also name the capital city of each country?

The European Union

Who is in the EU?

COUNTRYCAPITAL
AUSTRIAVIENNA
BELGIUMBRUSSELS
BULGARIASOFIA
CYPRUSNICOSIA
CZECH REPUBLICPRAGUE
DENMARKCOPENHAGEN
ESTONIATALINN
FINLANDHELSINKI
FRANCEPARIS
GERMANYBERLIN
GREECEATHENS
HUNGARYBUDAPEST
IRELANDDUBLIN
ITALYROME
LATVIARIGA
LITHUANIAVILNIUS
LUXEMBOURGLUXEMBOURG VILLE
MALTAVALLETTA
NETHERLANDSAMSTERDAM
POLANDWARSAW
PORTUGALLISBON
ROMANIABUCHAREST
SLOVAKIABRATISLAVA
SLOVENIALJUBLJANA
SPAINMADRID
SWEDENSTOCKHOLM
UNITED KINGDOMLONDON

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What is the euro and which countries use it?

Background Notes

The euro is the new single currency that was created as part of the Economic and Monetary Union of the EU member states. There are now 12 member states that have adopted the euro as their currency, only the UK, Denmark and Sweden have decided not to join the EMU at this stage.

The change-over to the new currency took place gradually and in January 2002, euro and cent coins and bank notes were eventually introduced into the 12 'euro-zone' countries.

The European Central Bank, based in Frankfurt, is an independent bank that is responsible for controlling the euro. It is the only bank that may authorise the issue of euro bank notes.

At present the UK has not adopted the euro and the debate as to whether we should or not still continues.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Debating Topic

Ask the students to imagine that there is about to be a referendum on the United Kingdom giving up sterling in favour of joining the Euro. Split the students into 2 groups - one in favour of the proposal and one against the proposal. Ask them to prepare literature and posters that would help to persuade the public to vote the same as their opinion.

Also ask students to write a speech that gives all of the reasons why the public should (or shouldn't) vote in favour of the euro.

The students may like to look at the following websites to help with their preparation for this debate:

The European Union On-line (www.europa.eu.int/) contains information and advice about the euro (www.europa.eu.int/comm/economy_finance/euro/our_currency_en.htm)

Extension Activity

The students could present their arguments and literature to another class or even to all of the teachers at the school and then hold a mock referendum on the issue.

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How is the EU governed?

Background Information

By signing the Treaty of Rome each of the member countries agreed that they would work together to make a common set of trading laws. Instead of having separate national rules or standards they agreed to harmonise to create a common united market. In some instances this has meant changing some of our own national laws.

In order to share in the benefits of belonging to the Community we have had to be prepared to compromise as some decisions that affect our lives are made within other EU countries.

To bring out a new law, or to change an existing one, always takes time. The problem with an EU law is magnified twenty-five times. Often each country will want to keep the standards it already has. The law-making process is very complicated and can sometimes take years.

In order to understand how EU laws are made, it is necessary to start by looking at the organisations involved in the EU.

Governing the EU

There are five institutions involved in running the European Union:

These institutions are supported by other bodies:

Institutions

1) The European Parliament

The most important powers of the European Parliament fall into 3 categories:

It is often described as the 'watchdog' of the EU because it keeps an eye on how those other two bodies are working. It also watches how the money is being spent. The budget for the EU is quite large and has to be shared out as fairly as possible between all the countries.

Now more than ever before, it is in a much better position to do both because its responsibilities have been gradually widened and its powers strengthened first by the Single Act of 1987 and then by the Treaty of European Union of 1993.

Meetings of the Parliament are held about once a month in Strasbourg or Luxembourg. The people who sit in Parliament are called Euro-MP's, they are appointed by elections which are held every five years. They are directly elected by the 370 million citizens of the Union that it represents.

2) The Council of the European Union

More commonly known as the Council of Ministers, this institution has no equivalent anywhere in the world. This is the decision-making body and it decides on whether or not the proposals put to it by the European Commission become law.

Each country will send one of its own government ministers to attend the Council. Most of the time it will be the Foreign Minister but if, for example, the Council are discussing something which would affect agriculture, then the Minister of Agriculture would attend.

Meetings of the Council are held in Brussels or Luxembourg. The Presidency of the Council rotates between member states every six months: January until June, July until December.

3) The European Commission

The Commission is made up of representatives from each member country and sits in Brussels. They are not elected by the European people, but are chosen by each country's own government.

The Commission's job is to plan policies and to put together written proposals on what it feels the Union ought to be doing. It also acts as a mediator and will try to sort out arguments between governments if they can't agree between themselves.

Whenever they are looking at any proposals or problems, members of the Commission must put the European interest first. They should think about the situation in Europe as a whole rather than about their own country's individual needs.

The role and responsibilities of the European Commission place it firmly at the heart of the European Union's policy-making process. In some respects, it acts as the heart of Europe, from which the other institutions derive much of their energy and purpose.

4) The European Court of Justice

The European Court of Justice sits in Luxembourg and is made up of one judge from each Member State. It is there to make sure that once an EU law is made, all the countries within the Community follow it fairly. If there is a disagreement, then the Court of Justice can decide who is right.

The Court may be called upon by the Commission, the Council of Ministers, a Member State or an individual citizen. But once it has made a decision, it has the full force of law. This means that everyone in the EU has to obey the Court's ruling or decision.

The Court of Justice provides the judicial safeguards necessary to ensure that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaties and generally in all of the activities of the Union.

Community law has successfully become part of the law in each Member States, due to it having been interpreted and applied by the citizens, the administrative authorities and the courts of all of the Member States. It is now a uniform body of rules that individuals may rely upon in their national courts.

The decisions of the Court have made Community law a reality for the citizens of Europe and often have important constitutional and economic consequences.

Example

Retirement Age

In 1986, the European Court of Justice ruled that it is illegal to force British women workers to retire from their jobs earlier than men. The case had been brought by Mrs Helen Marshall who was asked to retire from her job as Senior Dietician in a Southampton hospital when she reached 60 years of age. She felt that this was unfair because her male colleagues were allowed to stay until 65.

The Court of Justice decided that the British Government was acting unlawfully and had broken the EU's 1976 Sex Equality Rules.

5) Court of Auditors

This is the taxpayers' representative, responsible for checking that the European Union spends its money according to its budgetary rules and regulations and for the purposes for which it is intended.

It guarantees that certain moral, administrative and accounting principles are respected. The Court's reports are a rich source of information on the management of the Union's finances, and a source of pressure on the institutions and others with administrative responsibility to manage them soundly.

Other Bodies

1) Economic and Social Committee

This is an important group which gives advice to the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. The opinions that it delivers (either in response to a referral or on its own initiative) are drawn up by representatives of the various categories of economic and social activity in the European Union.

Members of the committee come from each EU country. They are chosen by their government and represent people from different backgrounds and with different interests. Some may be employers, some workers or trade union members or ordinary consumers.

2) Committee of the Regions

This is the European Union's youngest institution whose birth reflects Member States' strong desire not only to respect regional and local identities and prerogatives but also to involve them in the development and implementation of EU policies.

For the first time in the history of the European Union, there is now a legal obligation to consult the representatives of local and regional authorities on a variety of matters that concern them directly.

3) The European Ombudsman

Every citizen of each Member State is both a national and a European citizen. One of the rights of all European citizens is to apply to the European Ombudsman if they are a victim of an act of 'maladministration' by any of the EU institutions or bodies.

The Ombudsman has wide ranging powers of inquiry:

4) European Investment Bank

This is the European Union's financing institution. It provides loans for capital investment promoting the Union's balanced economic development and integration. The EIB is an enormously flexible and cost-effective source of finance whose 33 billion euro volume of annual lending makes it the largest international financing institution in the world.

However, the consumer groups often do not wait to be asked for their opinion. If they feel strongly about something they will lobby, or put pressure on, their Euro-MPs in much the same way as United Kingdom MPs are lobbied at Westminster. That way, the groups make sure that the Euro-MPs are kept in touch with the way ordinary people feel.

Suggested Teaching Activity

Project work on the EU

You could start by reproducing a large map of Europe and indicating, by making up coloured national flag pins, the position of each of the 25 EU countries. This could form the centre piece of a display - the remainder being devoted to other aspects of individual members.

Divide the class into groups (You could gather the information needed on the UK). Ask each of them to look at the country they have been allocated. They need to think about:

How people live in that Country

Ask the students to write up an A4 information sheet on their country. These can be placed around the map, so that everyone can learn about the different EU countries.

Finally, the map could also be used to show the location of the main European institutions:

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How does Europe help Consumers?

Background Notes

In 1975, the Community produced a plan of action to help consumers. It listed five basic rights that it felt that consumers must have. They are:

Suggested Teaching Activity

Further Resources and Information

1) The European Resource Centres for Schools and Colleges provide information and advice to teachers and students on issues relating to Europe and European Union education and training programmes.

The Centres offer resources, many of the free of charge and in group sets, which can be used to introduce a valuable European dimension and international dimension into the classroom.

The material available includes workbooks for different age groups that are designed to help teachers develop the European dimension in the curriculum. The workbooks contain activities, exercises and information to stimulate further class discussions.

Find the contact details of the office in your area on the European Information Network in the UK website (www.europe.org.uk/infolinks/-/ctid/4/).

2) The My Europe website (myeurope.eun.org/ww/en/pub/myeurope/home.htm) contains information and activities to help to raise pupils awareness of citizenship within the European Union.

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