Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
European Union and its role
The new EU constitution is in trouble as two public votes, to accept an over-arching set of rules for all 25 countries, end in rejection.
Students look at the difficulties of establishing a shared set of rules.
By the end of the lesson, students should understand:
- The meaning of EU constitution
- A brief history of the EU
- The pros and cons of a common set of rules
What is the EU constitution?
Brainstorm what students understand by the term European Union constitution and write a class list of their ideas.
Explain that the European Union is a group of 25 countries forming a kind of club with members.
The members have lots of agreements to help them work together. But many people say this is not enough. They want one rule book to set out what all the members can and cannot do.
This rule book is called the European Union constitution.
However, the set of rules will only become law if all 25 members agree to it by the end of October 2006.
This explanation is taken from Newsround's guide to the EU Constitution.
French and Dutch referenda
Read out this story to the class.
Ask the class the following questions:
They are available on a printable worksheet by clicking on the link in the blue box.
1. Which two countries have recently rejected the new set of rules for the European Union?
Netherlands and France.
2. Which nine countries have agreed to accept the new set of rules for the European Union?
Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
3. How many countries have to agree to the new set of rules for it to become law?
All 25 European Union members.
4. What could be the benefits of having one set of rules for all 25 countries in the European Union?
It could bring people in the 25 countries closer, making it easier for them to work and live together.
5. What might be some of the drawbacks of adopting one set of rules?
It could strip countries of their independence and identity.
With the rapid expansion, it mean new members are unable to join the EU for a while.
6. What does the British government plan to do about the EU constitution?
People in the UK will are expected to vote on the constitution in 2006, but this might be delayed.
One rule for all
Students imagine they are the head of a school. Individually they write down one rule about school uniform in their school.
Tell students that the six schools in the town have decided to work together to create a set of uniform rules to suit ALL their pupils.
In groups of six, students take turns to read out their school rules then try to come to an agreement about uniform.
One student from each group reports back to the class on how their discussions went and whether they managed to work together to come to an agreed set of rules.
Tell students that all the schools in the area (as many as there are children in the class) have decided to work together to create a set of common uniform rules.
Acting as head teachers, the whole class must now decide on a set of rules to suit ALL their pupils.
How do they go about doing this?
- Chose one rule by voting on all suggestions
- Find the most common rule and apply that across the board
- Everyone obeys all of the rules
- Which students (head teachers) had their rule implemented?
- Which students (head teachers) had their rule scrapped?
- How did six of you to come to an agreement on a set of rules?
- How did the whole class come to an agreement on a set of rules?
- Do you think the 25 countries in the European Union need ONE set of rules? Why/why not?
Students imagine they are a head teacher whose original uniform rule has been scrapped. They write a letter or design a leaflet for parents, outlining the new uniform rules and explaining why they have changed.
History of the EU
The groups of six students reflect the six countries that clubbed together to pool steel and coal supplies in 1951.
The European Coal and Steel Community came into existence in July 1952.
Moves to create a broader "common market" began with the creation of the European Economic Community, six years later.
In 1973, the UK joined the European Union along with two other countries.
There are now 25 members, after ten countries joined in 2004.
The constitution will only become law if all 25 members agree to it by the end of October 2006.
On Sunday 29 May 2005, the French people were asked whether they want an EU constitution. They voted "No."
On Wednesday 1 June, 2005, the Dutch people were asked whether they want an EU constitution. They alos voted "No."
What does a "No" vote mean?
If any of the 25 countries say "No" to the European Union Constitution, the way forward is unclear:
- The country could hold a second vote
- It could leave the European Union
- Or the constitution could be changed or thrown out altogether
Voting (referenda) has given the EU problems in the past. Irish and Danish voters both said "No" to agreements between countries, then said "Yes" in a second vote.
Could the EU manage without a constitution?
Yes, it would just continue using the existing set of rules.
However, many experts say that without a constitution, the European Union will not have a clear plan and will not work as well.
They also think new members would be unable to join the EU for a while.
For hundreds more news-based lesson plans, click on Teachers on the left hand side.