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Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)

Initially created to coordinate the Member States' research programmes for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the Euratom Treaty today helps to pool knowledge, infrastructure and funding of nuclear energy. It ensures the security of atomic energy supply within the framework of a centralised monitoring system.

CREATION

The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which came into being in July 1952, was the first great achievement of the supranational Europe. For the first time, the six Member States of this organisation surrendered part of their national sovereignty, albeit in a limited field, to the Community.

The limitations of this first attempt at integration were quickly revealed with the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC) in 1954.

While it might have been feared that the effort undertaken by the ECSC would not bear fruit, the Messina Conference of June 1955 attempted to relaunch the European process. The Conference was followed by a series of other meetings of ministers and experts. A preparatory committee was set up at the beginning of 1956 with the task of preparing a report on the creation of a European common market. This committee met in Brussels and was chaired by P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Foreign Minister at the time. In April 1956, the committee proposed a set of two projects which corresponded to the two options chosen by the States:

  • the creation of a generalised common market;
  • the creation of an atomic energy community.

These famous "Treaties of Rome" were signed in Rome in March 1957.

The first treaty established a European Economic Community (EEC) and the second established a European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom.

Following unproblematic ratification in the various countries, the two treaties entered into force on 1 January 1958.

This summary sheet deals only with the Euratom Treaty.

OBJECTIVES

To tackle the general shortage of "conventional" energy in the 1950s, the six founding States (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) looked to nuclear energy as a means of achieving energy independence. Since the costs of investing in nuclear energy could not be met by individual States, the founding States joined together to form Euratom.

The general objective of the Treaty is to contribute to the formation and development of Europe's nuclear industries, so that all the Member States can benefit from the development of atomic energy, and to ensure security of supply. At the same time, the Treaty guarantees high safety standards for the public and prevents nuclear materials intended principally for civilian use from being diverted to military use. It is important to note that Euratom's powers are limited to peaceful civil uses of nuclear energy.

Moreover, in the preamble, the signatories described themselves as:

" - recognizing that nuclear energy represents an essential resource for the development and invigoration of industry and will permit the advancement of the cause of peace …,
- resolved to create the conditions necessary for the development of a powerful nuclear industry which will provide extensive energy resources, lead to the modernization of technical processes and contribute, through its many other applications, to the prosperity of their peoples,
- anxious to create the conditions of safety necessary to eliminate hazards to the life and health of the public,
- desiring to associate other countries with their work and to cooperate with international organizations concerned with the peaceful development of atomic energy …".

SCOPE

The objective of the Euratom Treaty is to pool the nuclear industries of Member States. In this context, it applies only to certain entities (Member States, physical persons, and public or private undertakings or institutions) which carry out some or all of their activities in an area covered by the Treaty, i.e. special fissile materials, source materials and the ores from which source materials are extracted.

STRUCTURE

The Euratom Treaty comprises 234 articles which are set out under six titles and preceded by a preamble. The number of articles was reduced to 177 following the signature in December 2007 of the Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty).

  • The first title sets out the seven tasks which the Treaty entrusts to the Community.
  • The second title sets out provisions to encourage progress in the field of nuclear energy (promotion of research, dissemination of information, health and safety, investment, joint undertakings, supplies, safeguards, property ownership, the nuclear common market and external relations).
  • The third title deals with the institutions of the Community and with general financial provisions. These provisions were adapted in line with the Treaty amending the EU Treaty and the EC Treaty signed in December 2007.
  • The fourth title deals with specific financial provisions.
  • The fifth and sixth titles deal respectively with general provisions and provisions relating to the initial period (setting up the institutions, initial application provisions and transitional provisions).

Furthermore, the Treaty also includes five annexes dealing with the fields of research concerning nuclear energy referred to in Article 4 of the Treaty, the industrial activities referred to in Article 41 of the Treaty, the advantages which may be conferred on joint undertakings under Article 48 of the Treaty, a list of goods and products subject to the provisions of Chapter 9 on the nuclear common market, and the initial research and training programme referred to in Article 215 of the Treaty.

Lastly, two protocols are also appended to the Treaty. These are the Protocol on the application of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community to the non-European parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Protocol on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Atomic Energy Community.

TASKS

According to the Treaty, the specific tasks of Euratom are:

  • to promote research and ensure the dissemination of technical information
    The Commission calls upon Member States, persons or undertakings to communicate to it their programmes relating to nuclear research. At regular intervals the Commission publishes a list of the sectors of nuclear research which it considers to be insufficiently explored. It has also established a joint nuclear research centre. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) has grown into one of the leaders in nuclear research in the Community and also in research in fields such as the environment and food safety.
    Member States, persons or undertakings have the right, on application to the Commission, to obtain non-exclusive licences under patents, provisionally protected patent rights, utility models or patent applications owned by the Community.
  • to establish uniform safety standards to protect the health of workers and of the general public and ensure that they are applied
    Each Member State lays down the appropriate provisions, whether by legislation, regulation or administrative action, to ensure compliance with the basic standards which have been established by the Treaty, including the necessary measures with regard to teaching, education and vocational training. Legislation has also been adopted on medical applications, research, the maximum permissible levels of radioactive contamination in food and the health protection measures to be taken in the event of a radiological emergency.
    Each Member State is required to provide the Commission with the general data relating to any plan for the disposal of radioactive waste. At the same time, the assent of the Commission is required where these plans are liable to affect the territories of other Member States.
  • to facilitate investment and ensure the establishment of the basic installations necessary for the development of nuclear energy in the EU
    The Commission regularly publishes illustrative nuclear programmes (PINCs) indicating, in particular, nuclear energy production targets and the investment required for their attainment. Persons and undertakings engaged in the industrial activities listed in Annex II to the Treaty are required to notify the Commission of any investment projects.
  • to ensure that all users in the EU receive a regular and equitable supply of ores and nuclear fuels
    Supplies of ores, source materials and special fissile materials are ensured by means of a common supply policy based on the principle of equal access to sources of supply. In this context, the Treaty:

- prohibits all practices designed to secure a privileged position for certain users;

- establishes an Agency with a right of option on ores, source materials and special fissile materials produced in the territories of Member States and an exclusive right to conclude contracts relating to the supply of ores, source materials and special fissile materials coming from inside the Community or from outside.

The Euratom Supply Agency has legal personality and financial autonomy and is under the supervision of the Commission, which issues directives to it and possesses a right of veto over its decisions.
Member States are required to submit an annual report to the Commission on the development of prospecting and production, on probable reserves and on investment in mining which has been made or is planned in their territories.

  • to make certain that civil nuclear materials are not diverted to other (particularly military) purposes
    The Euratom Treaty introduces an extremely comprehensive and strict system of safeguards to ensure that civil nuclear materials are not diverted from the civil use declared by the Member States. The EU has exclusive powers in this domain, which it exercises with the aid of a team of 300 inspectors who enforce the Euratom safeguards throughout the EU.

The Commission must ensure that, in the territories of the Member States:

- ores, source materials and special fissile materials are not diverted from the intended uses declared by users;

- the provisions relating to supply are complied with, together with any particular commitments to ensure access to the best available techniques by means of a common market in materials, equipment, etc.

The Commission may send inspectors into the territories of Member States. These inspectors have access at all times to all places and data and to all persons who, by reason of their occupation, deal with materials, equipment or installations subject to the safeguards.

The Euratom safeguards are applied in conjunction with those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under tripartite agreements concluded between the Member States, the Community and the IAEA.

In the event of infringement of these obligations, the Commission may impose sanctions on the persons or undertakings responsible. These sanctions can range from a simple warning to the total or partial withdrawal of source materials or special fissile materials, and also include the withdrawal of special benefits (such as financial or technical assistance) or the placing of the undertaking under the administration of a person or a board.

  • to exercise the right of ownership conferred upon it with respect to special fissile materials
  • to foster progress in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by working with other countries and international organisations
    The IAEA is an autonomous organisation based in Vienna (Austria) which cooperates with the United Nations (UN). Its objectives are, on the one hand, to foster peaceful uses of nuclear energy and, on the other hand, to ensure that the aid which it provides is not used for military purposes.

The Commission negotiates and concludes agreements governing nuclear cooperation with third countries. However, conclusion of such agreements is subject to approval by the Council. The Member States are required, for their part, to notify the Commission of any draft agreements or contracts with a third State, an international organisation or a national of a third State. Currently, there are Euratom agreements with many countries, including the USA, Australia and Canada.

  • to establish joint undertakings
    Such undertakings are set up for specific projects of fundamental importance to the development of the nuclear industry in Europe. Examples include the Joint European Torus (JET) in the field of nuclear fusion (this undertaking was dissolved in 2000, but its activities continue under the aegis of the European Fusion Development Agreement (EFDA) and the ITER project, which should even extend beyond Europe.

INSTITUTIONS AND MEMBER STATES

The institutional structure of the Euratom Treaty is broadly similar to that of the EEC Treaty and is built around the same "institutional triangle" (Council, Commission and European Parliament). Thus, the fulfilment of the tasks entrusted to the Community is ensured not only by the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, but also by the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. Each institution acts within the limits of the powers conferred on it by the Treaty. The Council and the Commission are assisted by an Economic and Social Committee acting in an advisory capacity.

The Community institutions are responsible for implementing the Treaty and for the two specific Euratom bodies: the Supply Agency and the Safeguards Office (which carries out physical and accounting checks in all nuclear installations in the Community).

Although the Euratom Treaty gives the Community no strict, exclusive powers in certain fields, it retains real added value for its members: on the basis of this Treaty, the Commission has adopted recommendations and decisions which, although not binding, set European standards. In addition, it must be stressed that other Community policies, for example the environment and research policies, also have a marked impact on the nuclear industry.

The value added by Euratom and the EU can be seen particularly clearly in the context of enlargement. As a result of Euratom, the EU pursues a harmonised Community approach to nuclear energy with which candidate countries must comply. The enlargements of the EU to the East put the spotlight on the nuclear sector, particularly nuclear safety issues. Nuclear power is an important energy source for many eastern European countries (candidates or new members of the EU). However, the safety standards in their nuclear power plants and the level of protection of the public and workers are not always sufficient. In this context, the Commission has provided them with support to improve the situation via the PHARE programme. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the newly independent States (NIS) are facing the same problems, and they too receive aid from the Commission.

Over the years, other nuclear energy issues have grown in importance, too, notably operational safety of nuclear facilities, storage of radioactive waste, and nuclear non-proliferation (nuclear safeguards). Although the Member States retain most powers in these fields, a degree of uniformity has been achieved at international level with the aid of a series of treaties, conventions and initiatives which, one by one, have pieced together an international regulatory framework governing activities in the nuclear sector (the Convention on Nuclear Safety).

THE FUTURE OF THE EURATOM TREATY

Unlike the EC Treaty, no major changes have ever been made to the Euratom Treaty, which remains in force. The European Atomic Energy Community has not merged with the European Union and therefore retains a separate legal personality, while sharing the same institutions. The Treaty amending the EU and EC Treaties, which was signed in December 2007, changed certain provisions of the Euratom Treaty via its "Protocol No 12 amending the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community". These changes are limited to adaptations to take account of the new rules established by the amending Treaty, particularly in the institutional and financial fields.

In March 2007 the Commission reviewed and assessed the outlook for the Euratom Treaty. The result was generally positive, particularly in the areas of research, health protection, monitoring of the peaceful use of nuclear material, and international relations. Interest in nuclear power is being boosted by the need to ensure a secure supply of energy and by concern over climate change. In future, the application of the Euratom Treaty will need to continue focusing on the security and safety of nuclear materials. The Euratom Community will need to continue helping to guide the development of the nuclear industry and ensure the observance of high standards of radiation protection, safety and security.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Euratom Treaty

25.03.1957

01.01.1958

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These fact sheets are not legally binding on the European Commission. They do not claim to be exhaustive and do not represent an official interpretation of the text of the Treaty.

Last updated: 19.10.2007

See also

  • For more information, see the DG Energy website
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