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Treaty of Maastricht on European Union

The Treaty on European Union (TEU) represents a new stage in European integration since it opens the way to political integration. It creates a European Union consisting of three pillars: the European Communities, Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (JHA). The Treaty introduces the concept of European citizenship, reinforces the powers of the European Parliament and launches economic and monetary union (EMU). Besides, the EEC becomes the European Community (EC).

BIRTH

The Treaty on European Union (TEU), signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992, entered into force on 1 November 1993. This Treaty is the result of external and internal events. At external level, the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the outlook of German reunification led to a commitment to reinforce the Community's international position. At internal level, the Member States wished to supplement the progress achieved by the Single European Act with other reforms.

This led to the convening of two Inter-Governmental Conferences, one on EMU and the other on political union. The Hanover European Council of 27 and 28 June 1988 entrusted the task of preparing a report proposing concrete steps towards economic union to a group of experts chaired by Jacques Delors. The Dublin European Council of 28 April 1990, on the basis of a Belgian memorandum on institutional reform and a Franco-German initiative inviting the Member States to consider accelerating the political construction of Europe, decided to examine the need to amend the EC Treaty so as to move towards European integration.

It was the Rome European Council of 14 and 15 December 1990 which finally launched the two Intergovernmental Conferences. This culminated a year later in the Maastricht Summit of 9 and 10 December 1991.

OBJECTIVES

With the Treaty of Maastricht, the Community clearly went beyond its original economic objective, i.e. creation of a common market, and its political ambitions came to the fore.

In this context, the Treaty of Maastricht responds to five key goals:

  • strengthen the democratic legitimacy of the institutions;
  • improve the effectiveness of the institutions;
  • establish economic and monetary union;
  • develop the Community social dimension;
  • establish a common foreign and security policy.

STRUCTURE

The Treaty has a complicated structure. Its preamble is followed by seven titles. Title I contains provisions shared by the Communities, common foreign policy, and judicial cooperation. Title II contains provisions amending the EEC Treaty, while Titles III and IV amend the ECSC and EAEC Treaties respectively. Title V introduces provisions concerning common foreign and security policy (CFSP). Title VI contains provisions on cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs (JHA). The final provisions are set out in Title VII.

EUROPEAN UNION

The Maastricht Treaty creates the European Union, which consists of three pillars: the European Communities, common foreign and security policy and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters.

The first pillar consists of the European Community, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and Euratom and concerns the domains in which the Member States share their sovereignty via the Community institutions. The process known as the Community method applies in this connection, i.e. a proposal by the European Commission, its adoption by the Council and the European Parliament and the monitoring of compliance with Community law by the Court of Justice.

The second pillar establishes common foreign and security policy (CFSP), enshrined in Title V of the Treaty on European Union. This replaces the provisions of the Single European Act and allows Member States to take joint action in the field of foreign policy. This pillar involves an intergovernmental decision-making process which largely relies on unanimity. The Commission and Parliament play a modest role and the Court of Justice has no say in this area.

The third pillar concerns cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs (JHA), provided for in Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. The Union is expected to undertake joint action so as to offer European citizens a high level of protection in the area of freedom, security and justice. The decision-making process is also intergovernmental.

INSTITUTIONS

In the wake of the Single European Act, the Maastricht Treaty also expands the role of the European Parliament. The scope of the cooperation procedure and the assent procedure has been extended to new areas. Besides, the Treaty creates a new codecision procedure which allows the European Parliament to adopt acts in conjunction with the Council. This procedure entails stronger contacts between the Parliament and the Council in order to reach agreement. Besides, the Treaty involves Parliament in the procedure for confirming the Commission. The role played by the European political parties in European integration is recognised. They contribute to forming a European awareness and to expressing the political will of the Europeans. As regards the Commission, the duration of its term of office has been extended from four to five years with a view to aligning it to with that of the European Parliament.

Like the Single Act, this Treaty extends qualified majority voting within the Council to cover most decisions under the codecision procedure and all decisions under the cooperation procedure.

To recognise the importance of the regional dimension, the Treaty creates the Committee of the Regions. Made up of representatives of the regional authorities, this Committee plays an advisory role.

POLICIES

The Treaty establishes Community policies in six new areas:

  • trans-European networks;
  • industrial policy;
  • consumer protection;
  • education and vocational training;
  • youth;
  • culture.

ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION

The EMU puts the finishing touches to the single market. Economic policy consists of three components. The Member States must ensure coordination of their economic policies, provide for multilateral surveillance of this coordination, and are subject to financial and budgetary discipline. The objective of monetary policy is to create a single currency and to ensure this currency's stability thanks to price stability and respect for the market economy.

The Treaty provides for the establishment of a single currency in three successive stages:

  • the first stage, which liberalises the movement of capital, began on 1 January 1990;
  • the second stage began on 1 January 1994 and provides for convergence of the Member States' economic policies;
  • the third stage should begin by the latest on 1 January 1999 with the creation of a single currency and the establishment of a Central European Bank (CEB).

Monetary policy is based on the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), consisting of the CEB and the national central banks. These institutions are independent of the national and Community political authorities.

Special rules apply to two Member States. The United Kingdom has not proceeded to the third stage. Denmark has obtained a protocol providing that a referendum shall decide on its participation in the third stage.

SOCIAL PROTOCOL

Thanks to the social protocol annexed to the Treaty, Community powers are broadened in the social domain. The United Kingdom is not a signatory of this protocol. Its objectives are:

  • promotion of employment;
  • improvement of living and working conditions;
  • adequate social protection;
  • social dialogue;
  • the development of human resources to ensure a high and sustainable level of employment;
  • the integration of persons excluded from the labour market.

CITIZENSHIP

One of the major innovations established by the Treaty is the creation of European citizenship over and above national citizenship. Every citizen who is a national of a Member State is also a citizen of the Union. This citizenship vests new rights in Europeans, viz.:

  • the right to circulate and reside freely in the Community;
  • the right to vote and to stand as a candidate for European and municipal elections in the State in which he or she resides;
  • the right to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of a Member State other than the citizen's Member State of origin on the territory of a third country in which the state of origin is not represented;
  • the right to petition the European Parliament and to submit a complaint to the Ombudsman.

PRINCIPLE OF SUBSIDIARITY

The Treaty on European Union has established the principle of subsidiarity as a general rule, which was initially applied to environmental policy in the Single European Act. This principle specifies that in areas that are not within its exclusive powers the Community shall only take action where objectives can best be attained by action at Community rather than at national level. Article A provides that the Union shall take decisions as close as possible to the citizen.

POST-MAASTRICHT

The Maastricht Treaty represents a key stage in European construction. By establishing the European Union, by creating an economic and monetary union and by extending European integration to new areas, the Community has acquired a political dimension.

Aware of the progress of European integration, future enlargement and the need for institutional changes, the Member States inserted a revision clause in the Treaty. To this end, Article N provided for an Intergovernmental Conference to be convened in 1996.
This conference culminated in the signature of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997.


AMENDMENTS MADE TO THE TREATY

  • Treaty of Amsterdam (1997)
    The Treaty of Amsterdam increased the powers of the Union by creating a Community employment policy, transferring to the Communities some of the areas which were previously subject to intergovernmental cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs, introducing measures aimed at bringing the Union closer to its citizens and enabling closer cooperation between certain Member States (enhanced cooperation). It also extended the codecision procedure and qualified majority voting and simplified and renumbered the articles of the Treaties.
  • Treaty of Nice (2001)
    The Treaty of Nice was essentially devoted to the "leftovers" of Amsterdam, i.e. the institutional problems linked to enlargement which were not resolved in 1997. It dealt with the make-up of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council and the extension of the areas of qualified majority voting. It simplified the rules on use of the enhanced cooperation procedure and made the judicial system more effective.
  • Treaty of Lisbon (2007)
    The Treaty of Lisbon makes sweeping reforms. It brings an end to the European Community, abolishes the former EU architecture and makes a new allocation of competencies between the EU and the Member States. The way in which the European institutions function and the decision-making process are also subject to modifications. The aim is to improve the way in which decisions are made in an enlarged Union of 27 Member States. The Treaty of Lisbon also reforms several of the EU’s internal and external policies. In particular, it enables the institutions to legislate and take measures in new policy areas

This Treaty has also been amended by the following treaties of accession:

  • Treaty of Accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden (1994), which increased the number of Member States of the European Community to fifteen.
  • Treaty of Accession of Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia (2003)
    This Treaty increased the number of Member States of the European Community from 15 to 25.
  • Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania (2005). This Treaty increased the number of Member States of the European Community from 25 to 27.

REFERENCES

Treaties of AccessionDate of signatureEntry into forceOfficial Journal
Treaty on European Union (Treaty on Maastricht)7.2.19921.11.1993OJ C 191 of 29.7.1992
Treaty of Amsterdam2.10.19971.5.1999OJ C 340 of 10.11.1997
Treaty of Nice26.2.20011.2.2003OJ C 80 of 10.3.2001
Treaty of Lisbon13.12.20071.12.2009OJ C 306 of 17.12.2007
Treaty of AccessionDate of signatureEntry into forceOfficial Journal
Treaty of Accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden24.6.19941.1.1995OJ C 241 of 29.8.1994
Treaty of Accession of the ten new Member States16.4.20031.5.2004OJ L 236 of 23.9.2003
Treaty of Accession of Bulgaria and Romania25.4.20051.1.2007OJ L 157 of 21.6.2005

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: 15.10.2010

See also

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