Home Business NewsPolitics News Why we must stop referring to the EU as "Europe"

Why we must stop referring to the EU as "Europe"

22nd Apr 12 10:23 pm

Confusing the two is lazy and inaccurate

In The Inbetweeners movie the miserable teenager Simon agrees to get a smack in the balls every time he mentions his ex-girlfriend Carly. It might help if the same rule was applied to anyone referring to the European Union as “Europe”.

The vast majority of European institutions have nothing to do with the EU. The boundaries of the EU do not mark the edge of a free trade bloc, nor is the EU the same thing as a currency union (the UK and Sweden are members of the EU, but not of the currency union). Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are part of Europe but are not members of the EU. Same for the Ukraine, the Faroe Islands, Isle of Man, Russia, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus and Serbia.

The EU budget is a seventh of the UK government.

Over time the EU has tried to imply that it is synonymous with Europe. That it is the sun around which all European institutions revolve, and that isolation from the EU means being cut-off from European nations and bodies.

But the EU is in fact only one of a long list of European organisations.

Here’s a list of just some of the major bodies which have nothing to do with the EU:


European Court of Human Rights

Council of Europe

European Broadcasting Union

European Pharmacopoeia Commission

European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises

European Association of Archaeologists

European Society of Cardiology

European Association for Endoscopic Surgery

European Society for Human Genetics


European Association of Zoos and Aquaria

European Endangered Species Programme

European Association for Theoretical Computer Science

European Association for International Education

European Bioinformatics Institute

European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy

European Association of Historic Towns and Regions

European Journalism Centre

European Association of Science Editors

European Association of Conservatoires

European Higher Education Area

European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education

European Association of Urology

European Golf Tour

European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists

European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers

European Association for Astronomy Education

European Planetarium Network

European Association for Osseointegration

European Association of Co-operative Banks

European Association for Japanese Studies

European Association of Chinese Studies


European Association of Geochemistry

European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences

European Association of Political Consultants

European Patent Office

European Association for the Study of Diabetes

European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control

European Association for Renewable Energy

European Society of Endocrinology

European Association for Banking History

European Society of Criminology

European Association for Machine Translation

European Institute of Business Administration

European Institute of Oncology

European Institute of Cultural Routes

European Federation for Retirement Provision

European Athletic Association

European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

European Association for Body Psychotherapy

European Club Association

European Automobile Manufacturers Association

European Association of Fashion Retailers

European TRIZ Association

European Wind Energy Association

European Science Foundation

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

European Space Agency

Arguably the most important of these bodies is the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe has 47 members, including Russia. Confusingly it uses the same flag as the European Union.

But, to repeat, it has nothing to do with the EU, which it predates and is considerably larger than.

The Council of Europe runs the European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights. That’s correct – human rights have nothing to do with the European Union. So when the Daily Mail moans at “another outrage” by the ECHR and its readers assume the European Union is the culpable party then they are guilty of an elementary error.

The Council of Europe also runs the European Pharmacopoeia Commission which monitors pharmaceutical products, something most people assume is a remit of the EU.

The other bodies on this list are also often assumed to be a part of the EU. None is.

UEFA is based in Switzerland and is “politically and religiously neutral”. Members include Kazakhstan and Israel. The European Broadcasting Union is the association of state broadcasters. The EBU is the force behind that most European of events, the Eurovision song contest. Members include Azerbaijan, Israel and Jordan. The reason Jordan doesn’t participate in the Eurovision song contest is because it refuses to broadcast Israel’s entry.

The European Association for Renewable Energy has offices in Russia and Ukraine, something not possible if only EU members were allowed to join. The European Association for Banking History connects bankers across the continent, including Albania, Iceland and Turkey. Former European Central Bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet is the president of this emphatically non-EU body.

The European Wind Energy Association has members from 60 countries – that’s more than twice the number of EU member states.

The EBRD spearheads the regeneration of Eastern Europe. The EBRD is owned by 61 nations, plus the EU and European Investment Bank. The EU is a mere shareholder. And not a very important one. Canada pays more in funding than the EU, Japan pays three times as much. In no way can the EBRD be said to be an arm or initiative of the EU. The USA has more involvement.

CERN is the organisation behind the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva which is searching for the Higgs Boson particle. CERN has no connection to the EU. It is funded and run by its 20 members states.

The European Patent Office is independent of the EU, though works increasingly in co-ordination with it. In fact it can’t be absorbed by the EU, because it is larger, including the likes of Turkey and Albania as full members. It needs to be independent of the EU to cover Europe properly.

How about free trade? Surely that is an EU issue? Not at all.

The nations of the European Economic Area includes non-EU members Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. Switzerland is not a member of either the EEA or the EU, yet has free trade and movement across the whole territory.

The EU will often claim to dominate certain activities, from defence to copyright. In fact the major bodies are usually international.

The main military organisation for the UK is Nato – which is outside the control of the EU. The main international trade body is the WTO. The main body for intellectual property is WIPO, which comprises 184 member states.

The EU would like us to imagine that it is “Europe”, and that it is the authority on trade, on culture, science, sport, medicine and every other area of co-operation by the nations of the continent.

The European Union is often frustrated by its lack of involvement in some of these important bodies. For example, the European Space Agency is an intergovernmental agency founded in 1975. It works perfectly well without any input from the EU.

hen in 2004 the EU joined as a member, and is now trying to insist the European Space Agency “co-ordinate” policy with the European Commission. But the ESA states clearly that it and the EU are “separate organisations” with “different ranges of competences, different Member States and are governed by different rules and procedures”.

The reality is that the European Union controls far less than most citizens imagine.

Far from being “Europe”, the EU is just one exotic club competing for attention with many, many others.

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