History of the European Union – Government (200 Level Course)

History of the European Union – Government (200 Level Course)

The European Union consists of 15 member states and from 2004 on there will be most probably 25-member states. But how were the beginnings and why was it founded.

The EU had its beginnings in the economic sector but the integration of Europe was a main aim as well. Through the experience of two world wars it was clear that the European states had to develop a kind of connection between each other that was so intensive and interconnected that the conflicts of the future would be solved with peaceful measures.

Six main motivations for the European Integration:

1. Peace keeping
2. Belonging to a special system of values
3. Increasing of the economic prosperity
4. More influence in foreign and security policy
5. More success in solving European wide problems
6. Strengthening of the national economy

So in September 1946 Winston Churchill suggested in his well-known speech of Zürich an intergovernmental solution with a European court of justice. Also several new international institutions were founded to help regulate relationships between states on political and economic level for example the United Nations (Oct. 1945), international monetary fund (1945) and the General Agreement on Traffics and Trade (1948).
In the Hague in May 1948 there were general agreements for closer relationships and a federal state of Europe or a closer union.

Which lead to the building of the “Council of Europe” in May 1949
In 1950 a new treaty was founded, the so called “Shuman Plan” which was created to control the production of coal and steel in Western Germany and France, but in the end it was signed by six countries and so as additional partners were also included Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and Holland.

The treaty came in to effect in 1951 and is known as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC/Europäische Gemeinschaft fürKohle und Stahl).

With this step a common market was established which was completely new, because the states who signed the treaty were surrendering a substantial proportion of their national sovereignty to the new created supranational institution.

In 1955 the Benelux states made a proposal at the conference of Messina, which was lead by the Belgium foreign minister Paul Henri Spaak, to work together and combine on the nuclear energy sector also there were proposals for customs union (Zollunion).
So they created a commission, which worked the details for the customs union and an Organisation for the development and using of nuclear energy out. Based on this it came to the treaty of Rom in 1957, it included the European Economic Community (EEC/Europäische Wirtschafts Gemeinschaft) and a European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC/Euratom). Both treaties came in to force from the 1st of January in 1958.

The EEC was a huge success and exceeded all expectations (übertraf alle Erwartungen), it made the EEC one of the most important Trade partners in the world, it lead to an growth of the GDP in Union states of 21,5% in the years of 1958-1962 also the industrial production grew about 37% in the same time.

In the 1960s the integration process slowed down, because of the nuclear balance between USA and USSR the conflict lost its integrative effect, and national interests were more important and lead to doubts about the nessecarity of more integration steps.

For example there were trials to change the decision-making process in the council of ministers from unanimous to the majority principle in 1966, but the French government was against it. Also in 1965 there were suggestions for a new financial system in agriculture but France has blocked it with so called “empty chair policy” (what means they withdrew all there Ministers from the council for over half a year).
So it ended in the way that the principle of unanimous decision-making continued de facto.

The stagnation ended with the early 70s in 1972 new members joined the EEC: Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark only Norway’s people said no to the integration through a referendum.
Afterwards in the end of the 70s negotiations about the integration of Greece, Spain and Portugal started, not only for economic reasons, moreover to stabilise the democracy in these countries. In January 1981 Greece joined the EU followed by Spain and Portugal in January 1986.

The next step was to create the “Single European Act (SEA/Einheitliche Europäische Akte)” to give the European states an economic impulse to stop the European economy from falling behind the USA and Japan.

So the main aim of the SEA was the internal market program (Binnenmarkt) with its four freedoms that were free traffic and exchange of
1. Goods
2. Persons
3. Service
4. Money

Also the policy of the integration was stretched, new was development- and technological policy, the ecological policy and economic and currency as well as work protection and social policy.

For further integration and an increased deepening, two intergovernmental conferences led to a monetary and political union in 1992 in the treaty of Maastricht which came to effect in end of 1993.
The next treaty was in Amsterdam in 1997, which concerned the asylum in the EU the outbordercontrols etc.

Finally I want to mention the treaty of Nice that aimed the foreign and security policy in the union and a list of basic and human rights in the EU.