The European Union (EU) constitutes a political system that shares powers with the member states, a fact that makes it difficult to comprehend its true nature. On the one hand, the Union appears to be superordinate to the member states and, as such, significantly constrains national sovereignty. On the other hand, the Union seems to depend on the member states, since it is national governments that decide on any transfer of powers to the European level. For their part, most European citizens perceive the Union as being too powerful, as its decisions clearly impact on domestic politics and policies in fundamental ways. For example, citizens attribute the dismantling of welfare state measures at national level to decisions and policies that originate in the EU. At the same time, however, they wonder why the EU is often unable to make forceful decisions and take common actions in the face of pressing political problems — as, for example, with the economic and financial crisis or foreign policy issues. Overall, the European Union appears to be a political system full of contradictions, with widely varying perceptions and assessments of its nature.
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