by Jamila Zeynalzade - Young European Ambassador
The European Union (EU) is one of the most influential and democratic actors in the global world today. The article looks through the history of EU, its development levels and fundamental goals of European Union.
By signing the Treaty of Rome in 1957, forming the constitutional framework of EU, Europe achieved the end for long-lasting wars between its countries. Founder countries of EU- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands that set up The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951 established the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) by Rome Treaty, making European market common for its members. However, one of the strongest actors of those times, Great Britain did neither participate in the conference of ECSC creation nor joined it. There were mainly two reasons behind that position: firstly, the fear of losing its sovereignty by joining the Community and secondly, because of deterioration possibility of relations with USA.
Treaty of Rome in 1957
The first decade after Rome Treaty (also known as The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) was bonanza period for members. Customs duties among members were shifted and Europe began its era of economic growth. In light of the tensions that started to emerge in the Bretton Woods system (1944- 1971), the European Commission, created on 16th January of 1958, presented the memorandum on "Coordination of Economic Policy and Monetary Policy in the Community" known as Plan Barre to the Council in early 1969. The plan was to reach rapprochement and reconcilability of economic goals between members, apply and coordinate common economic policy and monetary cooperation at the Community level.
1970s is remembered as a period of first enlargement and more common policies. Denmark, Ireland and finally, the United Kingdom joined the Union on 1st January of 1973, raising the number of Member States to nine. Soon after, the European policy to support poorer areas, which is still continuing successfully, was launched. The regional policy started to allot decent sums for infrastructure improvisation and for new jobs. Awareness on climate change was also increased in 1970s. The Community adopted laws on environment protection, introducing the notion of ‘the polluter pays’ for the first time. 1979 is also remembered as the first direct elections to the European Parliament (EP). Before the Act of July 1978, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were selected by each of the Member States' national parliaments. The consistent unification of the capital markets were also improved until the full liberalization of capital movements achieved for future creation of common central bank in 1998. Started in 1986 the process of Single Market was fully achieved in 1993 with 4 fundamental freedom movements of goods, services, people and money. The Maastricht Treaty (1993), which is also remembered for establishment of EU and creation of Euro and Legal framework of Economic and Monetary Union, was another step toward sustainable development in Europe. A common foreign and security policy were set up and cooperation in domestic affairs was agreed to be enhanced for future possibilities. European Economic and Monetary Union was based on the three stage plan drawn up by a committee headed by Delors in 1989 (8th President of the European Commission.) The first phase was on strengthening cooperation between central banks, mainly supposing demolition of exchange controls. The second phase envisaged creation of European System of Central Banks (ESCB) carrying out the management of single monetary policy for the creation of a single currency in the third stage. The last stage was to fix the national currency items and replacement with single European currency. Thus, from 2002, the euro comes into circulation becoming one of the strongest currencies in the world.
The Maastricht Treaty 1993
1995’s new membership- Austria, Finland and Sweden was the following of Mediterranean enlargement of 1981 (Greece, Spain and Portugal.) The largest enlargement was in 2004, accepting Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, on the basis of Copenhagen criteria. Then Bulgarian and Romanian memberships of 2007 and with the latest member country Croatia taken in 2013, EU made the number of its members 28.
Lisbon Treaty, signed in 2009, changed the way of EU works. It amended 2 treaties (Maastricht and Rome Treaties), which form the constitutional basis of the European Union, as well as, the attached treaty protocols and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The prominent change was that the Treaty gave member states the explicit legal right to leave the Union. There were also changes in voting calculation and taken steps in a way of democratic legitimacy enhancement and improvisation of actions coherence.
As Robert Schuman said in his famous Declaration, launching the European integration project on 9 May 1950, ‘Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity’6. After 70 years, his words are still as true as ever. The solidarity and inclusiveness between European nations make them stronger to deal with the challenges of changing world. EU policy on international relations, particularly the idea of spreading European values beyond borders make it respected and highly valued actor of 21st century. Values such as respecting human rights, upholding the rule of law, protecting the environment and maintaining social standards in the social market economy are the main steps that will save the
future of our world. Of course, with imperfections, EU can hardly claim to be the perfect model for all humanity. But to the extent that Europe is successful and other regions look at it as an example makes the slogan of “The Future is Europe” a source of inspiration to the rest of the world. Regardless of the location, every government should work on ensuring security for its citizens without undermining their freedom, as it is being done in Europe today!