Some Eurosceptics revel in re-naming the EU the EUSSR. I strongly object to this comparison.
There is absolutely no resemblance between the EU and the USSR. Such comparisons are reckless, childish and nonsensical.
It shows no understanding or respect for those people who truly suffered and were horribly murdered in their millions under both the Communist and Nazi regimes.
The EU has democracy, human rights and free market trade as the non-negotiable membership requirements for all members. All member states of the EU volunteered to join, and all are free to leave.
The USSR was not a democracy, but a one-party state. There were no human rights, or respect for life. There was no free market, but a state controlled one.
Member states of the Soviet Union were forced to join, under threat of violence that was often used to bludgeon any member state that didn't comply. No countries caught up the Soviet sphere of control were free to leave, until the Soviet empire itself collapsed.
Far from being a one-party state, the European Union is made up of many governments, and democratically elected MEPS, from right across the political spectrum.
The EU is a democracy with free movement of its people, unlike the sealed borders and oppressive one-party state that represented the now defunct Soviet Union.
Starting with six founding members back in 1957, the EU has now expanded to 28 members (see animated map) with more wanting to join.
There are strict membership requirements for joining the EU, which have helped to transform many of the old countries of Europe into modern, successful, democratic nations.
Membership of the EU is open to any European country which respects the inherent values of the EU, as laid down by the Treaty of the European Union (TEU).
Anyone who’s lived in a Soviet Union country will immediately recognise the profound differences between USSR values and EU values.
The EU values include, "respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
Before becoming a member, a country has to demonstrate that it has a stable government guaranteeing, “democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy, and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.”
Furthermore, unlike the Soviet Union, which consumed member states, countries applying to join the EU didn't do so fearing the loss of their national identities and cultures; quite the opposite.
Indeed, the motto of the European Union is, "United in diversity".
This signifies how European countries have come together, in the form of the EU, to work for peace and prosperity, while at the same time being enriched by the continent's many different cultures, traditions and languages.
Most countries who applied to join the EU did not meet the strict membership requirements and so they needed many years to prepare for the process before their application could be accepted.
The entire procedure, from initial application to achieving membership, typically takes about ten years, although some countries, notably Sweden, Finland, and Austria have been faster, taking only a few years.
Some countries who applied a long time ago have still not achieved the membership requirements to join the EU. Turkey for example first applied in the 1950s and has yet to conclude accession negotiations.
And contrary to myth and media mistruths, no new country can join the European Union without the unanimous consent of ALL existing member states, and the agreement of the European Parliament.
So, for example, if the UK objected to Turkey or any other candidate country joining the EU, then it could not happen.
Frankly, the differences between the European Union and the Soviet Union couldn’t be more stark. Indeed, the former Iron Curtain countries who became members of the EU have seen their nations transformed.
These countries joined the European Union with thanks, but many of them had been forced to join the Soviet Union with tanks.
These erstwhile Soviet-sphere countries are currently net recipients of EU funds, so sceptics may argue that they would be thankful to join the EU, wouldn't they?
But these countries suffered decades of Nazi and Communist rule, and it will take time for them to recover.
However, their return to the family of Europe will, I believe, reap great rewards in future, as these countries restore their dignities, independence and wealth-creating abilities.
In time, they will be sufficiently recovered to become net-contributors to EU funds, helping our continent to be safer and more prosperous.
And the signs are looking exceptionally good. These countries are now the fastest growing economies of Europe.
Poland, for example, sailed through the world-wide economic crisis unscathed. Since 2007 its economy has grown by a third, and it now has Europe’s fastest growing number of millionaires.
And Romania was recently described by The Economist magazine as ‘the tiger economy of Europe’. Both Poland and Romania are economically stable countries, with low inflation, relatively low public debt (public debt of Romania is only at 39% of the GDP), low interest rates and a relatively stable exchange rate.
GDP growth in Romania is around 4% and in Poland around 3.5% - rates that our British government could only dream about. British businesses are significantly benefiting from the export markets in both Poland and Romania.
Research from KPMG shows wealthy Poles spend 18% of their income on luxury goods, and aspirational Poles spend 13% on luxury goods - representing great export opportunities for British businesses.
Poland is Tesco's largest Central European market, with over 440 stores and nearly 30,000 employees, and serving more than 5 million customers per week.
Romania is also a successful export market for British businesses, currently worth about £1 billion a year. Commented Enterprise Network Europe, “Romania represents a high-growth market close to home, offering the prospect of major new business partnerships and considerable catch-up potential within the European Union.”
Former USSR member, Estonia, has become the world’s most advanced country in the use of internet technologies. Just a generation ago, it was still under Soviet domination as a very poor backwater on the Baltic Sea. Now it is a developed country and a member of both the EU and NATO.
According to the Cato Institute, “The Estonians now have the rule of law, the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the EU, a balanced budget, free trade, and a flat-rate income tax — all of which have led to their high economic growth and prosperity.
"The Estonians now rank globally number 22 out of 152 countries on the Human Freedom Index, number 8 out of 186 economies on the Index of Economic Freedom, and are in the number 1 category in the Freedom in the World report.”
Without becoming members of the EU, it’s highly unlikely that any of this could have been achieved.
Britain has also hugely benefitted from EU membership. We first applied to join the European Community back in 1961, when it became clear that we were no longer a super power.
Our Empire was finished, our Commonwealth diminished as was our relationship with the USA, together with our reduced standing in the world following the failure at Suez. Rightly or wrongly, it was seen that our future economic survival depended on becoming part of the European Economic Community (later to be called the European Union).
We eventually joined in 1973, following the democratic agreement of Parliament, and confirmed by a decisive referendum in 1975. Britain has prospered during its membership, and is now the world’s fifth largest economy.
Would we have been more or less successful if we hadn’t joined? That’s impossible to answer. But on 23 June the British electorate will have a second referendum to decide whether to remain in the EU. Countries in the USSR didn’t have such a choice.
In 1962, one year after we applied to join the EEC, Spain also applied. The country was then ruled by military fascist dictator, Franciso Franco. The application was flatly and unanimously rejected by all EEC members. The reason? Because Spain wasn’t a democracy.
Doesn't that say something about the difference between the EU and the USSR?
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