Friday, 30 May 2014

The European project in the 1990s


In Maastricht, on 7 February 1992, the Foreign and Finance Ministers of the 12 Member States of the European Communities signed the Treaty on European Union.

Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, said in 1992“The European Union Treaty... within a few years will lead to the creation of what the founding fathers of modern Europe dreamed of after the war: the United States of Europe.” 

The Treaty of Rome was amended again, this time by the 7 February 1992 Maastricht Treaty (which came into force in November 1993). The agenda set out under the Single European Act in 1986 took a significant step forward by ostensibly creating a “European Political Union” (EPU).

The Maastricht Treaty created:
  • a new organizational structure based on three 'pillars': (1) economic relations, essentially controlled by the Commission and which incorporated the three Communities, (2) foreign affairs and (3) home affairs controlled by the European Council;
  • the European Union (EU);
  • Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which lead to the Euro (2002), reinforcing the economic responsibilities of the European Community;
  • an expanded European Council giving national governments more say.

The Treaty is seen as a central moment of European integration. However, it met strong opposition from eurosceptics; the Danes only ratified it after a second referendum, and John Major’s Government only narrowly won the vote on the treaty in the British House of Commons. Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary from 1989 to 1995 summed up British recalcitrance: “Those in favor of the creation of a European state want to see all European co-operation channeled through the institutions established by the Treaty of Rome. We do not accept that model.”

The Treaty resulted in the widening of EU responsibilities (to include a Common Foreign and Security Policy, home affairs, and the environment) and the deepening of integration. This meant using supranational structures in some areas while using intergovernmental ones in others. The process of closer integration through Monetary Union made it vital to have closer political co-operation.

The deepening measures of the Treaty pushed forward a federalist model of European integration, based on the supranational institutions. Jacques Delors, the EU Commission President, said in 1993: “We're not just here to make a single market, but a political union.” However, the British Government succeeded in including the principle of subsidiarity in the Treaty (the idea that the EU should act only when member states cannot act), which helped counter-balance federalist tendencies. Even Delors recognized that the European Union was in fact more a "federation of Nation States".

In the 1990s, Europe underwent important changes following the end of the Cold War. German reunification in 1990 meant that Germany was to become more powerful; Helmut Kohl and Fran├žois Mitterrand ensured the continuing constructive French-German relationship. The war in ex-Yougoslavia from 1991 to 1999 showed that, despite its CFSP, the creation of Eurocorps in 1992 and Eurofor in 1995, the EU was incapable of coordinating its efforts to deal with a major conflict even within the continent without help from NATO or the USA...

Signatories of the Amsterdam Treaty, 2 October 1997

The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam was the third major amendment to the 1957 Treaty of Rome. It changed the operation of the Council of the European Union, absorbed the Schengen Convention and increased the role of the EU in home affairs, pushing forward the model of a supranational European Union at the expense of intergovernmental co-operation.

The Treaty of Amsterdam:
  • gave the framework for the future accession of ten East European member states;
  • incorporated the Schengen Convention into EU law;
  • expanded the role of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by creating a High Representative for EU foreign affairs;
  • extended the powers of Europol, the European police agency;
  • increased the number of decisions covered by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), including on some foreign policy issues;
  • gave the Commission a say over the majority of Justice and Home Affairs;
  • created the idea of enhanced co-operation to allow some members to co-operate without unanimous agreement;
  • it recognized the idea of constructive abstention (a member state could opt out of security or foreign affairs without preventing other countries from going ahead), which effectively created a two-speed Europe.

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