Module 3: European Union

Lesson Title

Twelve historic steps from 1951-2015
o The start with the first 6 countries,
o The important treaties of Rome, Maastricht and Lisbon
o Founding of the EU Parlament

 

Introduction

In this lesson, students will learn about the major historic steps of the creation of the modern European Union and how treaties of Rome, Maastricht and Lisbon and creation of the European Parliament shaped the Union as we know it today.

 

Lesson time foreseen

40minutes = 1 lesson

 

Lesson Content

Between 1945 and 1950 Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi and Winston Churchill set about persuading their peoples to usher in a new era. New structures would be created in western Europe, based on shared interests and founded upon treaties guaranteeing the rule of law and equality between all countries.
 
Play movie »A Brief Summary of the history of European Union enlargement«:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE6QgoykLZU
 
Short overview:
• 1951 The European Coal and Steel Community is set up by the six founding members (ECSC)
• 1957 The same six countries sign the Treaties of Rome, setting up the European Economic
• Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
• 1973 The Communities expand to nine Member States and introduce more common policies
• 1979 The first direct elections to the European Parliament
• 1981 The first Mediterranean enlargement
• 1992 The European single market becomes a reality
• 1993 The Treaty of Maastricht establishes the European Union (EU)
• 2002 The euro comes into circulation
• 2004 The EU has 25 Member States, increasing to 28 by 2013
• 2009 The Lisbon Treaty comes into force, changing the way the EU works
• 2014 European elections take place with several candidates competing for the post of President of the European Commission
• 2015 There is a gradual return to moderate economic growth after 7 years of global crisis and consolidation of the euro area.
• 2016 British residents choose Britain to leave EU on a referendum with 51,9 % of votes for.
 
Detailed overview of the 12 historic steps
 
1. On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community, which became reality with the Treaty of Paris of 18 April 1951. This put in place a common market in coal and steel between the six founding countries (Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The aim, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was to secure peace between Europe’s victorious and vanquished nations and bring them together as equals, cooperating within shared institutions.
2. The ‘Six’ then decided, with the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 1957, to set up a European Atomic Energy Community and a European Economic Community. The latter would involve building a wider common market covering a whole range of goods and services. Customs duties between the six countries were abolished on 1 July 1968 and common policies, notably on trade and agriculture, were also put in place during the 1960s.
3. So successful was this venture that Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom decided to join. This first enlargement, from six to nine members, took place in 1973. At the same time, new social and environmental policies were introduced, and the European Regional Development Fund was set up in 1975.
4. June 1979 saw a decisive step forward, with the first elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. These elections are held every 5 years.
5. In 1981, Greece joined the Communities, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. This came after the fall of dictatorships in all these countries. This expansion of the Communities into southern Europe made it all the more necessary to implement regional aid programmes.
6. The worldwide economic recession in the early 1980s brought with it a wave of ‘euro-pessimism’. However, hope sprang anew in 1985 when the European Commission, under its President Jacques Delors, published a White Paper setting out a timetable for completing the European single market by 1 January 1993. This ambitious goal was enshrined in the Single European Act, which was signed in February 1986 and came into force on 1 July 1987.
7. The political shape of Europe was dramatically changed when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. This led to the reunification of Germany in October 1990 and the coming of democracy to the countries of central and eastern Europe as they broke away from Soviet control. The Soviet Union itself ceased to exist in December 1991. At the same time, the Member States were negotiating a new treaty, which was adopted by heads of state or government in Maastricht in December 1991. By adding intergovernmental cooperation (in areas such as foreign policy, justice and internal affairs) to the existing Community system, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union (EU). It came into force on 1 November 1993.
8. Three more countries — Austria, Finland and Sweden — joined the EU in 1995, bringing its membership to 15. By then, Europe was facing the growing challenges of globalisation. New technologies and the ever-increasing use of the internet were modernising economies but also creating social and cultural tensions. Meanwhile, the EU was working on its most ambitious project to date — creating a single currency to make life easier for businesses, consumers and travellers. On 1 January 2002, the euro replaced the old currencies of 12 EU countries, which together now made up the ‘euro area’. The euro has since been a major world currency.
9. In the mid-1990s, preparations began for the biggest-ever EU enlargement. Membership applications were received from six former Soviet-bloc countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), the three Baltic states that had been part of the Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one of the republics of former Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and two Mediterranean countries (Cyprus and Malta). The EU welcomed this chance to help stabilise the European continent and to extend the benefits of European integration to these young democracies. Negotiations opened in December 1997 and 10 of the candidate countries joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Bulgaria and Romania followed in 2007. Croatia joined in 2013, bringing the EU’s membership to 28.
10. To enable it to face the complex challenges of the 21st century, the enlarged EU needed a simpler and more efficient decision-making method. New rules had been proposed in a draft EU Constitution, signed in October 2004, which would have replaced all the existing treaties. But this text was rejected by two national referendums in 2005 in France and the Netherlands. The Constitution was therefore replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed on 13 December 2007 and came into force on 1 December 2009. It amends but does not replace the previous treaties, and it introduces most of the changes that featured in the Constitution. For example, it gives the European Council a permanent President and creates the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
11. The European elections in May 2014 marked a change in the institutional practices of the EU in that the political parties proposed candidates for the post of President of the European Commission. The European Council then nominated the candidate from the party obtaining the most seats, as foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty. This was Jean-Claude Juncker, a Luxembourger, of the European People’s Party. He was approved by a large pro-European coalition in the European Parliament, which included the socialist and liberal groups. The 2014 elections also showed gains for Eurosceptic parties which won around 100 of the 751 seats. They often vote in clear opposition to the majority political line dominating EU institutions and are usually sceptical on EU integration and vociferous on immigration.
12. A worldwide financial and economic crisis developed in 2008. This led to the establishment of new EU mechanisms to ensure the stability of banks, reduce public debt and coordinate Member States’ economic policies, particularly those using the euro. Years down the line, efforts made towards structural reforms and improvements in public accounts are beginning to bear fruit in the form of new economic growth. Economic policies in the euro area are being strengthened under the leadership of the Commission and the Council, who now have new legal instruments to implement the agreements reached by the Member States with a view to securing sound public finances. The European Central Bank is increasing liquidity and maintaining very low interest rates. The EU is also promoting new investments through its Strategic Investment Fund, particularly in public–private partnerships.
 
TREATY OF ROME
 
The Treaty of Rome, officially the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (TEEC), is an international agreement that brought about the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), the best-known of the European Communities (EC). It was signed on 25 March 1957 by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany and came into force on 1 January 1958. It remains one of the two most important treaties in the modern-day European Union (EU) as it lay foundations to the modern European Union.

Aims
The aim of the EEC and the common market was to:
• transform the conditions of trade and production on the territory of its 6 members and
• serve as a step towards the closer political unification of Europe.
 
The signatories agreed to:
• lay the foundations of an ‘ever closer union’ among the peoples of Europe
• ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by joint action to eliminate trade and other barriers between them;
• improve their citizens’ living and working conditions;
• ensure balanced trade and fair competition;
• reduce the economic and social differences between the EEC’s various regions;
• gradually abolish restrictions on international trade through a common trade policy;
• abide by the principles of the UN charter;
• pool their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty and call on other peoples of Europe who share this ideal to join them in these efforts.
 
MAASTRICHT TREATY
 
The Maastricht Treaty (formally, the Treaty on European Union or TEU) undertaken to integrate Europe was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty. Upon its entry into force on 1 November 1993, it created the three pillars structure of the European Union and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro.

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).
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.
 
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 three pillars:
First pillar: European Communities
Second pillar: Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Third pillar: Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCCM)
 
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.
 
EU 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:
• 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.
 
FOUNDING OF EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

The European Parliament first met on September 10th, 1952, known as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community. The Common Assembly was made up of seventy-eight representatives, or members of parliament, from the original member states. Although the Assembly had consultative powers, it held no legislative powers. The Common Assembly was generally described as a 'talk-shop' with no legislative or executive oversight powers.
 
In 1962, the Common Assembly became known as the European Parliament, the name it still holds today. In 1970 the European Parliament was granted some Community Budget powers, and five years later the Parliament was granted powers over the entire budget. In 1979, the first directly elected members took the seats of the parliament, with Simone Veil being the first member to be elected as the President of Parliament.
 
The European Parliament has been gaining power with every subsequent treaty since its establishment, especially by way of the co-decision procedure, which has helped the Parliament gain equal power to the council on a legislative level. The Treaty of Lisbon recently gave greater power to the parliament; this treaty is yet another piece of the puzzle which has helped the European Parliament go from a relatively unimportant body (labelled as the Common Assembly) to one of the most powerful legislative bodies in Europe and the world.
 
TREATY OF LISBON

The Treaty of Lisbon (initially known as the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement which amends the two treaties which form the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU). The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states on 13 December 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009. It amends the Maastricht Treaty (1993), known in updated form as the Treaty on European Union (2007) or TEU, and the Treaty of Rome (1957), known in updated form as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2007) or TFEU. It also amends the attached treaty protocols as well as the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

What it brings?
1. Top jobs
A politician will be chosen to be president of the European Council for two and a half years, replacing the current system where presidency is rotated between member states every six months. Another post to be created will be the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, combining the current roles of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and external affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
2. Charter of Fundamental Rights
The Lisbon Treaty makes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights a legally-binding document. The charter lists the human rights recognized by the European Union.
3. Citizens’ initiative
Under the Lisbon Treaty, the commission is obliged to consider any proposal signed by at least one million citizens from a quarter of member states.
4. National parliaments to get ‘yellow card’ facility
All proposals for EU legislation will have to be sent to national parliaments, who will then have eight weeks to offer a ‘reasoned opinion’ on whether they believe the proposal respects the principle of subsidiarity (this is the principle by which decisions should as far as possible be made at local or national level). If enough national parliaments object to a proposal, the commission can decide to maintain, amend or withdraw it.
5. Smaller commission
The European Commission is the EU’s executive arm; it puts forward legislation and ensures that EU policies are correctly implemented. Since 2004, it has been made up of 27 commissioners, one from each member state. Under the new treaty, the commission will be reduced to 18 members from 2014, with membership rotating every five years. This means that only two-thirds of member states will have their own commissioner at any one time, and each country will lose its commissioner for five years at a time.
6. European Parliament to get greater powers but reduced numbers
Currently, the European Parliament has joint lawmaking power with the Council of Ministers over about 75% of legislative areas. If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, co-decision will be extended to virtually all areas of EU policy. The European Parliament comprises 785 MEPs from across the union; under the treaty, this will be permanently reduced to 751.
7. New areas of EU competence
The Lisbon Treaty will set out those areas over which the EU has exclusive competence, shared competence with member states, or supporting competence. The treaty gives the EU no new areas of exclusive competence; however, it establishes joint competence in the areas of space and energy. It also gives the EU the role of supporting competence in several new fields including health, education, tourism, energy and sport.
8. Redistribution of voting weights between member states
Within those areas to be decided by qualified majority voting, the current rules require the support of a little over 72% of member states for a law to be passed. Under the new system due to come into effect from 2014, a vote can be passed if it is backed by 55% of member states, and secondly, if these countries represent 65% of the EU’s population. It can also be passed if less than four countries oppose it. The changes mean that it is easier to pass legislation, and more difficult to block it. Countries with smaller populations will have less chance of blocking legislation.
9. Shift from unanimity to majority voting
The Lisbon Treaty will see an increase in the number of policy areas to be decided by a majority vote at the council, rather than by unanimity. Qualified majority voting will become the norm; however, there are some notable exceptions that will still require unanimous decisions, including taxation and defense. One area where the unanimity veto will give way to qualified majority voting is Justice and Home Affairs, covering issues such as asylum, immigration, criminal law, border controls and police cooperation.
10. Changes to common security and defense policy
The Lisbon Treaty provides for the progressive framing of a common defense policy for the European Union, which will nonetheless respect the neutrality of member states. It also allows the European Council to change decision making from unanimity to majority voting in a number of areas, excluding military and defense. However, such changes will themselves require unanimous decisions. The treaty extends the range of peacekeeping and humanitarian missions for which the union may draw on member states to include disarmament operations, military advice and assistance and post-conflict stabilization.
 
 

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