The Paris Treaty, signed on 18 April 1951 by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, is officially called "The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)". The ECSC Treaty became operative on 27 July 1951.
The post-war problems, especially the awkward relations between France and Germany, lie at the basis of the treaty. The idea was to put the management and control of the market for coal and steel into the hands of an independent authority, which transcends national structures. The more specific aim was to strengthen European unity through cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, and judicial fields.
The treaty provides for the lifting of trade obstacles in the coal and steel markets of the Member States and for the abolition of every type of discrimination in the field of prices, delivery conditions, and transport costs of the producers. In addition, the treaty is characterised by a joint action in such fields as investment, production, wages, movements of employees, and trade relations with non-Member States. The ECSC is financed by levies on production, which make it possible to grant loans for, among other things, research programmes, restructuring, and retraining. Also, new life can be given to areas where old industries are languishing.
The management of coal and steel production in the member countries will be in the hands of a body consisting of nine members: the High Authority. The ECSC further consists of the following institutions: an assembly of 78 delegates from the national parliaments, a Court of Justice with seven judges, and a Council. The first president of the High Authority is Jean Monnet.
The Paris Treaty was concluded for a period of fifty years and expired on 23 July, 2002. The powers of the ECSC were transferred to the remaining Communities.
Treaties of Rome
The Treaties of Rome, signed on 25 March 1957 by Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, are officially called the "Treaty establishing the European Economic Community" (EEC), and the "Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community" (EAEC or Euratom). The treaties became operative on 1 January 1958.
The EEC Treaty provides for a customs union and a common market in which there is a free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. Furthermore, the decision was made to develop a common policy for the important sectors of agriculture and transport.
Hence, Europe has had three communities since 1958: the ECSC, the EEC, and Euratom. The European Parliament and the Court of Justice are common institutions for the three communities. Since the 1967 merger treaty, they have had the Commission and the Council, which are also common institutions. In May 1958, the constituent meeting of the Economic and Social Committee was held in Brussels.
The European Act was signed in February 1986 and became operative in July 1987. The European Act is a revision of the Treaties of Rome.
As a result of this, the decision-making procedure within the EEC was changed. The issues on which Member States could use their right of veto were limited. Instead, the Council increasingly decides with a qualified majority. The Act can also be seen as the beginning of a real economic and monetary union between the Member States. In addition, the treaty was augmented by, among other things, technology and environmental policies.
Treaty of Maastricht
The Maastricht Treaty, signed by the twelve Member States on 7 February 1992, is officially called the Treaty concerning the European Union. The treaty became operative on 1 November 1993.
In the Treaty, the already existing European treaties were extended with new provisions in the field of economic and monetary policy, foreign and security policy, and components of legal policy and home affairs. The cooperation that already existed in some of these fields was given a new legal framework in the Union Treaty. The Treaty may be considered the result of the existing supranational kinds of cooperation in combination with intergovernmental kinds of cooperation. In fact, the Treaty is a compromise, reached after negotiations, between advocates of a federal Europe and Member States that do not wish to go beyond a Europe of Nation States. A compromise is clearly apparent from the structure of the Treaty: the so-called temple structure with three pillars.
The EMU is characterised by a common financial market without internal borders, the principle of convergence which forces the Member States to increasingly harmonise their economic and monetary policies, the foundation of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) which monitors and supervises this harmonisation, and the formation of a Monetary Union with one European currency.
The social policy has partly been accommodated in a Social Protocol that was added to the Union Treaty. In the Protocol, the Member States agree that 11 of them, Great Britain excepted, will further shape the social policy, using EC institutions and procedures.
It is also worth mentioning that the Treaty reinforced the position of Parliament by introducing the co-decision procedure. This complex decision procedure was intended to decrease the so-called democratic deficit. The Committee of the Regions was also founded in the Treaty; it is to have advisory powers in regional matters. Finally, it introduced the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that the European Union is authorised to act and implement rules "if and in as far as the objectives of the intended action cannot be sufficiently realised by the Member States and, due to the magnitude of the consequences of the intended action, can therefore be better realised by the Union". Naturally, this principle is politically very sensitive.
The ratification of the Treaty was a laborious process. In a first referendum, the Danes rejected the Treaty. Only in a second referendum did the Danes agree to the Treaty, after Denmark had reserved the right not to participate fully in the common defence policy and the monetary union.
The Treaty of Amsterdam
The Treaty of Amsterdam, signed on 2 October 1997, is fully entitled the "Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts".
In the Treaty, parliament is given the role of co-legislator in a greater number of fields. Union institutions are charged with coordination of employment. Civil rights are explicitly incorporated into Community law. Cooperation in the field of free movement of persons, asylum, and immigration is transferred from the third pillar to the Community part of the EC Treaty. The Schengen cooperation is included in the Treaty. After the British abandoned their exceptional position, the Social Protocol was included in the Treaty.
Title VI of the Treaty concerning the European Union ("third pillar") was entirely transformed by the Amsterdam Treaty and the formation of an area of freedom, security and justice. The earlier title "Justice and Home Affairs" henceforth only concerns the "police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters", whose aim is the prevention of, and the fight against:
Furthermore, the principle of closer cooperation was introduced in the Amsterdam Treaty. Since not all the Member States desire the same rate of integration, there are countries which in certain fields want to go further than others. The idea to create a kind of avant garde or "hard core" within the Union can have a stimulating effect. In any case, it can prevent the building of Europe from proceeding at a pace dictated by the slowest or least enthusiastic partner. But at the same time, this idea creates serious political and judicial problems: how are decisions going to be made? How will institutions be functioning in the case of initiatives involving only a small number of Member States? The Treay answers these questions and makes closer cooperation possible within three pillars of the Union, adding quite strict conditions, however (furthering the realization of the aims of the Union, observing the principles of the treaties and the institutional character of the Union, making use of this possibility only in the last resort and with at least a majority of the Member States, not violating the acquis communautaire, being open to other Member States, etc).
Finally, a new provision was included with respect to sanctions applicable in cases of the serious and continuing violation of fundamental rights by a member state.
The Treaty of Nice
The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) opened on 14 February 2000 led to the signing of the Treaty of Nice by the Heads of State or Government on 26 February 2001. After ratification in the Member States the Treaty will enter into force. The new treaty paves the way for the enlargement of the European Union with the countries of central and eastern Europe by changing the institutional framework.
The Treaty of Nice limits the number of Members of Parliament to a maximum of 732 and allocates seats between Member States and candidate countries. Furthermore, it introduces qualified-majority voting in the council in a number of cases in which Member States now can impose their veto. The Treaty provides for a change in the weighting of votes in the Council from 1 January 2005. The Treaty limits the Commission to one member per Member State from 2005 onwards. A ceiling will be imposed once the Union has 27 Member States. The powers of the President will be increased. The Court of Justice will continue to consist of one judge for each Member State. However, the Court may sit in a Grand Chamber of 13 judges instead of meeting in plenary sessions. The number of members of both the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will not exceed 350.
The principle of enhanced cooperation between a certain number of Member States, introduced with the Treaty of Amsterdam, is made more workable. A minimum of eight Member States is required, for establishing enhanced cooperation. It is no longer possible for a Member State to veto the launch of this kind of cooperation.
In addition, the possibility was created of establishing closer cooperation in the field of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), with the exception of Defence. The Treaty guarantees that this closer cooperation takes place in the framework of the Union, that the role of the institutions is respected, and that the Member States which do not immediately participate in the closer cooperation can at all times join in.
Regarding democratic values, the Treaty enables the Council to declare that a clear danger exists of a Member State committing a serious breach of the fundamental rights or freedoms. In the Treaty of Nice - partly as a result of the Austrian Haider affair -, it is stipulated that the Council determines, with a four-fifth majority, after the European Parliament's agreement and after hearing the Member State in question, that there is a clear danger of a serious violation by a Member State of the fundamental rights and the fundamental freedoms on which the Union is founded (before the Treaty of Nice, a violation actually had to be the case; now the danger of a violation is enough to take action). The Council can make suitable recommendations to this Member State. The initiative for such a decision can be taken by a third of the Member States, by the Commission or by the European Parliament.
The Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union (which was announced on 7 December, 2000, by the Nice European Council) encompasses the whole of civil rights and economic, political, and social rights of the European citizen, which is subdivided into six categories: dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens' rights, and justice. These rights are especially founded on the fundamental rights and freedoms recognised by the European Convention on Human Rights and on the constitutional traditions of EU Member States.
To the Treaty of Nice, a Declaration concerning the Future of the Union is attached, which provides for a broad debate about that future. This was the forerunner of the European Convention. The most important themes in this debate are:
After the completion of the preparatory activities, a new Intergovernmental Conference will be convened in 2004 to deal with the above-mentioned points and to make the pertinent changes in the Treaties. This IGC must under no circumstances constitute an obstacle to the enlargement of the Union. The candidate countries which have completed the entry negotiations with the Union will also be invited to this conference; the other candidate countries will be able to participate in the conference as observers.