From common market to people’s Europe
Entering into force on 1 January 1958, the Treaty of Rome laid the foundations of the modern EU. Primarily an economic organisation at its inception, the EU has evolved into a project to guarantee high levels of social protection for its citizens.
In the much harsher climate of post-war Europe, the overriding priority was to secure Europe’s economic prosperity through a common market. As living standards improved, EU efforts to improve social rights quickly gained momentum, and greater importance was attached to promoting democracy, human rights and civil society, and combating discrimination.
Important achievements in this context include:
gender equality laws on access to work, training, career advancement and working conditions, as well as equal pay, security benefits and the right to parental leave
- rules making EU bodies more transparent, such as free access to documents and more openness over EU spending
- a European ombudsman - an independent body set up to investigate complaints about maladministration by EU bodies
- the Charter of Fundamental Rights, bringing together the EU’s founding principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
European communication initiatives, designed to involve Europeans in EU law-making through debate, discussion and public consultation.
The EU is moving with the times, developing more far‑reaching rights – the right to a sustainable environment, consumer protection and data protection are now among its top priorities.