Since the 1950s, European integration has seen the development of a supranational system of governance, as its institutions move further from the concept of simple intergovernmentalism and more towards a federalized system. However, with the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, new intergovernmental elements have been introduced alongside the more federal systems, making it more difficult to define the European Union (the EU). The European Union, which operates through a hybrid system of intergovernmentalism and supranationalism, is not officially a federation – though various academic observers regard it as having the characteristics of a federal system.〔Kelemen, R. Daniel. (2007). In ''Making History: State of the European Union'', Vol. 8, edited by Sophie Meunier and Kate McNamara, Oxford University Press, p. 52.〕
In the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1818, Tsar Alexander, as the most advanced internationalist of the day, suggested a kind of permanent European union and even proposed the maintenance of international military forces to provide recognized states with support against changes by violence.
A Pan-European movement gained some momentum from the 1920s with the creation of the Paneuropean Union, based on Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi's 1923 manifesto ''Paneuropa'', which presented the idea of a unified European State. The movement, led by Coudenhove-Kalergi and subsequently by Otto von Habsburg, is the oldest European unification movement.〔Otto von Habsburg: ''Die Paneuropäische Idee. Eine Vision wird Wirklichkeit''. Amalthea Verlag, Wien-München 1999, ISBN 3-85002-424-5〕〔Vanessa Conze: ''Das Europa der Deutschen; Ideen von Europa in Deutschland zwischen Reichstradition und Westorientierung (1920–1970)''; Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag; 2005; ISBN 978-3-486-57757-0.〕〔Ben Rosamond, Theories of European Integration, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000, pp. 21–22.〕 His ideas influenced Aristide Briand, who gave a speech in favour of a European Union in the League of Nations on 8 September 1929, and in 1930, who wrote his "Memorandum on the Organization of a Regime of European Federal Union" for the Government of France.〔D. Weigall and P. Stirk, editors, ''The Origins and Development of the European Community'', Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1992, pp. 11–15.〕
At the end of World War II, the political climate favoured unity in Western Europe, seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism which had devastated the continent.〔(【引用サイトリンク】publisher=European NAvigator )〕 In a speech delivered on 9 September 1946 at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill postulated a United States of Europe.〔http://www.europa-web.de/europa/02wwswww/202histo/churchil.htm〕
One of the first practical and successful proposals for European cooperation came in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community. Since then, the European Community has gradually evolved to Union in which a whole range of policy areas where its member states hope to benefit from working together.
The process of intergovernmentally pooling powers, harmonizing national policies and creating and enforcing supranational institutions, is called European integration. Other than the vague aim of "ever closer union" in the 1983 Solemn Declaration on European Union, the Union (meaning its member governments) has no current policy to create a federal state.
Debate on European unity is often vague as to the boundaries of 'Europe'. The word 'Europe' is widely used as a synonym for the European Union, although most of the European continent's geographical area is not in the EU, and some of the EU is outside of Europe (e.g. French Guiana). Most of Europe's people do, however, live in the EU.
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