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The EU in the context of a changing world


A study of Europe’s past reveals that different methods of managing conflict have been tried over time. In 1945 the continent emerged from a period of terrible violence and the search for methods to manage conflict without violence was resumed. The European Union of today is part of that story of managing conflict without violence. Of course time and events have not stood still since 1945. There have been key decisions made that have shaped Europe. There have been dilemmas for Europe’s people and policy makers. Studying how and why decisions are made and exploring the dilemmas that Europe has faced, and continues to face, is very revealing about what has been called, ‘The European Project’. Who makes decisions, when, why and how? What influences decision-making? How successful is decision making? What are the dilemmas in Europe today and how much have they changed? Through a range of content resources and learning activities, this section explores topics and issues that resonate with importance for the continent today. By engaging with these, students will be able to use the past to contextualise the world around them, deepen their understanding of the European Union and develop a reasoned approach to assessing the extent to which it is successful in managing conflict, and reasons for successes and failures. In this section you will find a decision making activity and evidence files for mini-research projects. Each one addresses a subject which has had an impact on the evolution of modern Europe. These activities may follow on from work with the other materials in this module. They can also be used as a series of options to be chosen as can best fit curricula, interests, and the level of the class. \\\\\\\\---

 Changing Europe
  1. Post-War Europe (1944-1951)
  2. The EU in the context of the long search for stability
  3. The EU in the context of a changing world

This unit has been made by the team working on the projects "Decisions and Dilemmas - Learning about the EU from a historical perspective” and “Decisions and Dilemmas: exploring EU history through the lens of contemporary issues”. These projects are funded by the European Union Erasmus+ Programme as a Jean Monnet Activity. The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi¬ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


This module is published under the CC BY 4.0 licence.

Cold War Europe military alliances

Old fears and new threats: Western European defence negotiations

This is a decision making activity that focuses upon the attempts to form a European Defense Community between 1948 and 1954. Although unsuccessful, these negotiations have much to reveal about the early Cold War years, the desire to try to find a solution that existed between Western European countries in those years, and the complexity of international negotiation processes. There is contemporary resonance with attempts to provide solutions to large problems today and the need to consider a range of factors, from public opinion within Europe, to the world-wide context. By taking on the roles of key characters, students will engage with the dilemmas of the time and understand how decisions were reached.

Learning Activities

Coat of arms of the European Union Military Staff

Why has it proved so difficult to agree a common European foreign policy?

This section addresses the question: ‘why has it proved so difficult to agree a common European Union foreign policy?’ This is a very big enquiry question. Students are encouraged to think about what a foreign policy actually is, to identify what a common European Union foreign policy would look like, and to use criteria to decide when the European Union has been closest to achieving such a policy. The activity is designed to enable students to investigate the enquiry question by learning about past and contemporary debates about it, working with evidence in specific time periods, and to discuss and arrive at their own, evidence-based viewpoint.

Learning Activities

Eurozone participation

What has the European Project tried to do to make Europe more stable?

The evidence file and activity plans in this section enable students to engage with the concept of stability. Students learn how European people convinced of the need to work across nation states have tried to manage stability since 1945\. They also learn when Europe has been more or less stable across the post-World War Two years and have the chance to discuss how effective attempts to achieve stability have been. This material can be used to follow on from learning about European stability 1648-1945 elsewhere in this unit, or as a standalone topic. The evidence file can be used with students or for teacher learning to help teach the activities that are detailed in this section.

Learning Activities

EU organic farming logo

Does the European community still need a Common Agricultural Policy?

European agriculture and the CAP tells us a lot about the challenges and dilemmas that have faced, and continue to face, the European Community since it was first established. It reminds us just how economically diverse the EU member states are, and, when looked at historically from 1962 until today, it helps to demonstrate that the European Community is a dynamic international political system, which is complex and subject to various influences. Our parents and grandparents did not always have the choice, quantity and quality of food that we can now take for granted and yet the CAP now has new problems facing it, such as those relating to the environment. Students will investigate the need for a CAP and its priorities.

Learning Activities