Don Melvin of the Cox News Service — a U.S. news agency that serves the Cox Newspapers chain of regional papers — has put together a nice series on the global influence of the European Union.

Imagine the uproar if this were reported about pints in the UK:

Take a close look at that Coca-Cola bottle in your refrigerator. Ever wonder why this quintessentially American concoction is sold in containers that say “2 Liters” instead of “two quarts?”

Blame it on the European Union. The EU says quarts are illegal, and bottlers — even those capping those ounces of liquid Americana — don’t find it cost-effective to make two different sizes, one for Europe, the other for the United States.

From dictating the size of Coke bottles to dissuading Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions, the EU has arrived as a force to be reckoned with in the world.

Americans for years have tended to think of the European Union as merely an extension of the Common Market, a cooperative agreement intended to help the economies of European countries.

But evidence is mounting that the EU does not only aspire to be a counterweight to the United States in global affairs; it has already become one.

I can imagine the Daily Express headline already. But I digress.

The story notes that there are some American conservatives aren’t too keen on extending the principle of free trade (which they are usually so fond of) across the Atlantic Ocean.

Last year, the EU pressured the U.S. Congress, against its will, into changing American tax law and eliminating tax breaks for American companies that sold goods overseas.

“My gut feeling about this is we fought a revolution 230 years ago to stop Europeans from telling us how we have to tax in this country,” said Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House. “But the fact is, we have to do it. The EU and the WTO [World Trade Organization] have sort of a sword to our head. We don’t like it, but we have to do what the Europeans are telling us to do.”

Another story
in the series looks at how American businesses are reacting to the influence of EU regulations. A final story looks at the history of European integration since the Second World War.

The stories quote former Washington Post London correspondent T.R. Reid, who made a very similar point about the influence of EU regulations on American businesses in his book The United States of Europe. The series clearly seems inspired by that book.

I’m glad to see stories like this appearing in regional newspapers in the United States: it can only help understanding of the mysterious institutions that are emerging on this side of the Atlantic.