2.1 The EU: a brief history
The 1940s and 1950s
"...the ever closer union of the peoples of Europe."
Preamble to the Treaty of the European Economic Community, Treaty of Rome, 1957.
The story of European economic and political integration began with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was established by the 1951 Treaty of Paris, by six countries. "The Six" were France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The far more significant, indeed crucial, Treaty of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) was signed in 1957. The Euratom Treaty was also signed in1957 in Rome. By the late 1950s there were, therefore, three European Communities: the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and Euratom.
"The primary reason why Britain entered into these negotiations was political, political in its widest sense."
Edward Heath, lecture at Harvard, 1967.
"Parliament must...resign itself to becoming a rubber stamp".
Lord Kilmuir, in advice to Edward Heath, December 1960.
During this decade French President de Gaulle attempted to model the EEC along broadly intergovernmental lines, led by France. This acted as a brake on the integrationist process. De Gaulle's rejection of two British applications for membership reflected his determination to have no leadership rival in Europe. The cornerstone of post-war cooperation between France and West Germany was established by the Treaty of the Elysée, signed in 1963.
Integrationist progress was, however, made. The Common Agricultural Policy was launched in 1962 and the system of "own resources" was developed (with an enabling Decision taken in 1970). The Merger Treaty (1965) created common institutions for the three Communities.
"The Government's guiding principle was...to swallow the lot and swallow it now."
Sir Con O'Neill, the British diplomat who led the UK's negotiations for EEC membership under Edward Heath.
The 1970s was a decade of currency turmoil and economic recession in the wake of the quadrupling of oil prices. The policy achievements were relatively modest but, nevertheless, included the launch of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Social Action Programme, the start of EEC activist policies along the lines of the European Social Market Model, and, in 1979, the European Monetary System (EMS) - the beginnings of Economic and Monetary Union.
The UK finally joined the European Communities in 1973, in a very disadvantageous deal, along with Denmark and Ireland. "The Six" became "the Nine". The Norwegian electorate rejected EEC membership in a referendum. A referendum in the UK (in 1975) returned a safe majority in favour of staying in the "Common Market", the British electorate being led to believe that the EEC was principally about free trade and not about progressive political unification.
"In ten years, 80% of the laws on the economy and social policy will be passed at the European and not the national level. We are not going to manage to take all the decisions needed between now and 1995 unless we see the beginnings of a European Government."
Commission President Jacques Delors to the European Parliament, 1988.
"In order to ensure its political future, the European Union must go beyond the completion of the internal market and the introduction of the single currency and move towards a real political union."
Resolution of the European Parliament, 22 October 1998.
Much of the 1980s was overshadowed by budget problems, which were eventually reasonably satisfactorily resolved: the British rebate was agreed and the EU's finances were put on a more assured basis. The first "financial perspective", relating to the 5-year period 1988-1992 (following "Delors I"), was instigated.
But the key policy theme of the 1980s was the Single Market Programme (broadly achieved by end 1992), which was enabled by the Single European Act (SEA, 1986). The SEA was the first major amendment to the Treaty of Rome. It extended the QMV procedures and was a markedly and, for the British Government apparently, a deceptively integrationist political development.
Other policy developments in the 1980s included:
There were three new members in the 1980s, making 12 member states. Greece joined in 1981 and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986.
"We're not here just to make a single market, but a political union."
Commission President Jacques Delors, 1993.
"The day of the nation state is over."
Roman Herzog, President of Germany, September 1996.
The 1990s was a decade of triumph for the builders of a nascent European State, with two major treaties: the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Amsterdam.
The Maastricht Treaty (1992) was concerned with both Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), setting out timetables and institutions, and European Political Union (EPU). The Treaty created the European Union, with 3 Pillars:
The importance of the Maastricht Treaty in building the supranational European Union cannot be overstated. In addition, the Social Chapter, highly contentious in the UK, was agreed by 11 of the then 12 members, the exception being the UK.
The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) was less ambitious but, nevertheless, extended QMV further, developed the CFSP (with the creation of the EU's "High Representative for the CFSP"), transferred much of the JHA (including asylum and immigration) from Pillar 3 to Pillar 1 and added new social provisions. The UK agreed to the Social Chapter, which became an integral part of the Amsterdam Treaty.
Budgets were set for the 7-year period 1993-1999, following "Delors II" and underpinning Maastricht, and for the 7-year period 2000-2006, which underpinned the next major enlargement. Alleged financial mismanagement, if not fraud, was endemic in the EU and in March 1999 the entire Commission, under President Jacques Santer, resigned after pressure from the European Parliament.
The push towards the single currency was, in many ways, the theme of the 1990s. The euro, fundamentally a political project, was launched in 1999 with 11 of the then 15 EU member states. (Greece joined in 2001 and Slovenia joined in 2007.) The pace of the development of "Social Europe" speeded up, thus undermining the EU's international competitiveness even further. The UK, arguably, was one of the most affected because it had had relatively lightly regulated labour markets.
Three more countries joined the EU in the 1990s: Austria, Finland and Sweden (all in 1995). The EU12 became the EU15. The Norwegian electorate rejected EU membership for a second time by referendum in 1994, even though it had joined the European Economic Area (EEA), incorporating the Single Market, in 1992. The Swiss rejected by referendum EEA membership in December 1992.
"The single market was the theme of the Eighties; the single currency was the theme of the Nineties; we must now face the difficult task of moving towards a single economy, a single political unity."
Romano Prodi, Commission President, 13 April 1999.
"The Union stands at the crossroads, a defining moment in its existence. The unification of Europe is near. At long last, Europe is on its way to becoming one big family".
Laeken Declaration setting up the Convention on the Future of Europe, December 2001.
"Reflecting the will of the peoples and the States of Europe to build a common future, this Constitution establishes a Union, on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common."
Text of the Constitution, Article I-1, July 2003.
The push for further political integration has been one of the two major developments of the decade to date. Even though the Treaty of Nice (2001) was mainly concerned with deciding the necessary institutional changes for enlargement to the east, there were other important integrationist developments including Eurojust and the further erosion of unanimity voting procedures. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was annexed to the Treaty of Nice.
The Constitutional Treaty (2004) was, without doubt, a major, fundamental step towards political union. It was signed by the then 25 member states (EU25) in October 2004. It had major constitutional implications, made significant changes to the institutions, provided for major extensions of the EU's powers and incorporated the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Under no circumstances could it honestly be described as a "tidying up exercise". The formal ratification process did, however, face difficulties. The French and the Dutch electorates voted against the Treaty in the referenda of 29 May 2005 and 1 June 2005 respectively. But despite the fact that the Constitution was not ratified by all member states and therefore not enforced, there is evidence that parts of the Constitution were, nevertheless, being effectively implemented.1
After the rejection of the Constitution by the voters of France and the Netherlands, a period of reflection was announced. In 2007 the German Presidency of the EU announced this over, and worked to redraft the Constitution, now deemed the Reform Treaty. This was formally signed in Lisbon on 13th December 2007, becoming the Treaty of Lisbon. All estimates agree that the Treaty contains over 90% of the rejected Constitution. The major differences are that the Reform Treaty amends previous treaties, instead of replacing them like the Constitution did, and the removal of the symbolic parts of the Constitution. Provocative names, like 'EU Foreign Minister' have been replaced with titles such as 'High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy'. The British government negotiated four 'red-lines', more about which can be found out on the Global Vision 'Perspectives' page.
The second major development has been enlargement to the east. In May 2004, there was a quite unprecedented enlargement of the EU, with the accession of 10 new countries. Eight were Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEECs): Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The other two were Cyprus (Greek part only) and Malta. The EU15 became, therefore, the EU25 in 2004. The EU25 became the EU27 in 2007 when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU.
One of the other main policy developments has been the Lisbon agenda, launched in March 2000, with the aim of turning the EU into the world's "most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy" by 2010. It is generally recognised that the Lisbon agenda has, so far, failed to achieve its targets and the goal of being the most world's competitive economy 2010 has been dropped. At the mid-term re-launch in March 2005, the Lisbon agenda was simplified and refocused on growth and employment.
Other policy developments have included:
1. Norman Blackwell, Sleepwalking in to an EU legal system: how the Charter of Fundamental Rights is being incorporated into British law, CPS, March 2006.
RL, February 2007
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