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Pillars of the European Union

The Treaty of Maastricht (1992) introduced a new institutional structure which remained until the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. This institutional structure was composed of three “pillars”:

  • the Community pillar, which corresponded to the three Communities: the European Community, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the former European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (first pillar);
  • the pillar devoted to the common foreign and security policy, which came under Title V of the Treaty on European Union (second pillar);
  • the pillar devoted to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, which came under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union (third pillar);

The Treaty of Amsterdam transferred some of the fields covered by the third pillar to the first pillar (free movement of persons).

The three pillars functioned on the basis of different decision-making procedures: the Community procedure for the first pillar and the intergovernmental procedure for the other two.

The Treaty of Lisbon abolished this pillar structure in favour of creating the European Union (EU). Within the EU, decisions are taken in accordance with a procedure of common law, called the “ordinary legislative procedure”. However, the intergovernmental method continues to apply to the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Furthermore, although questions relating to justice and internal affairs have been “communitised”, some of them relating to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters continue to be subject to those procedures where Member States retain significant powers.

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