Europe Day 2018
The European Union was not created in one go by the Maastricht Treaty but was the result of gradual integration since 1945, an evolution when one level of union has been seen to work, giving confidence and impetus for a next level. In this way, the EU can be said to have been formed by the demands of its member nations.
At his speech in Paris in 1950, Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea for this new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable. His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later (the historical 'Schuman declaration'). Schuman's proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.
Europe’s post-war nations weren’t just after peace, they were also after solutions to economic problems, such as raw materials being in one country and the industry to process them in another. War had left Europe exhausted, with industry greatly damaged and their defences possibly unable to stop Russia.
In order to solve this six neighbouring countries agreed in The Treaty of Paris to form an area of free trade for several key resources including coal, steel and iron ore, chosen for their key role in industry and the military. This body was called the European Coal and Steel Community and involved Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, and Luxembourg. It began on 23 July 1952 and ended on 23 July 2002, replaced by further unions.
France had suggested the ECSC to control Germany and to rebuild industry; Germany wanted to become an equal player in Europe again and rebuild its reputation, as did Italy; the Benelux nations hoped for growth and didn’t want to be left behind. France, afraid Britain would try and quash the plan, didn’t include them in initial discussions, and Britain stayed out, wary of giving up any power and content with the economic potential offered by the Commonwealth.
Also created, in order to manage the ECSC, were a group of ‘supranational’ (a level of governance above the nation state) bodies: a Council of Ministers, a Common Assembly, a High Authority and a Court of Justice, all to legislate, develop ideas and resolve disputes. It was from these key bodies that the later EU would emerge, a process which some of the ECSC’s creators had envisaged, as they explicitly stated the creation of a federal Europe as their long term goal.
The Treaty on European Union, signed at Maastricht in 1991, formally established the European Union as the successor to the EC. At the same time, Maastricht expanded the concept of European Union into new areas. It introduced a Common Foreign and Security Policy and moved towards an EU coordinating policy on asylum, immigration, drugs and terrorism.
EU citizenship was brought into being for the first time, allowing people from member countries to move freely between member states. The treaty included a Social Chapter, from which the UK opted out, laying down EU policies on workers' rights and other social issues. Crucially, Maastricht established the timetable for economic and monetary union and specified the economic and budgetary criteria which would determine when countries were ready to join.
The subsequent Stability and Growth Pact tightened up the approach to these criteria, stressing that strict fiscal discipline and coordination would be vital to the success of economic and monetary union. It also laid down penalties for members failing to control budget deficits.
Nowadays, as of the end of the middle of 2016, there are twenty-seven countries in the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Each year, the EU institutions in Brussels open their doors to the public for celebrations and activities (this year on 5 May) during the Europe Day celebrations, while EU Delegations around the world organise activities and events throughout the whole month of May. Moreover this day gives everyone, not only EU citizens the chance of learning about the European Union’s past and history as well as about its benefits and accomplishments in times like the one we are presented with right now.
written by Karo Van