Summary of the E.U. Treaties on Political Union: Treaties Establishing E.U. Government
The EU has been evolving politically since the early 1990's. A series of treaties amended the original E.U. treaties strengthening the EU government thus giving the E.U. a political dimension. These are:
The Maastricht Treaty
In December 1991 E.U. leaders convened the Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union (IGC) at Maastricht, the Netherlands.
The E.U.'s firm commitment to establish economic and monetary union (EMU) involving a single currency governed by a European Central Bank by 1999.
The first step in adding a political dimension to the E.U.
Allowed the E.U. to forge common foreign and defense policies for the first time.
The Amsterdam Treaty
In 1996, E.U. leaders met and concluded the intergovernmental conference that led to the signing of the Amsterdam Treaty on October 2, 1997 and entered into force on May 1, 1999. The treaty did not accomplish what many had hoped. This treaty was supposed to make many internal changes so that the Union could enlarge to include new members.
The Amsterdam Treaty:
The Amsterdam Treaty created a representative to speak for the Union on foreign policy issues; the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, which acted as a junior foreign minister.
Amended and renumbered the E.U. and E.C. Treaties.
Strengthened Union's powers in foreign policy and judicial cooperation.
The Nice Treaty
E.U. leaders met and negotiated the Treaty of Nice and signed it on February 26, 2001, as an amendment to the existing treaties. The Nice Treaty overhauled the institutions of the European Union in preparation for a union of twenty-seven Member States rather than fifteen.
The Nice Treaty:
Provided the E.U. with a military structure and staff.
Made changes concerning power sharing within the European institutions as the Union expands.
Capped the number of seats in the European Parliament and the size of the Commission, two of the European Union's leading institutions.
Prepared the E.U. for enlargement
Added more competencies for the E.U. including employment policy and a common foreign and security policy to cement the Union's political union.
The Laeken Declaration
On December 14 and 15, 2001, the European Council met in Laeken with the purpose of providing impetus to increase the momentum of integration. They adopted a declaration of their intention to achieve a simpler union, and one that would have more presence in the world.
They initiated a convention run by Federalists Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Giuliano Amato, and Jean-Luc Dehaene to write the Constitution of the Union-which, unlike the US Constitution, would become the final treaty, encompassing all of the previous treaties.
By October of 2002, the convention presented a draft treaty for the Union.
Laeken addressed the transition to euro coins, enlargement, internal market issues, the September 11 attacks, and the Union's policies on combating terrorism, including their actions in Afghanistan and a declaration of their position in the Middle East. The Laeken Declaration asked: "What is Europe's role in this changed world? Does Europe not, now that it is finally unified, have a leading role to play in the new world order, that of a power able both to play a stabilizing role worldwide and to point the way ahead for many countries and peoples?" Laeken also provided teeth to the military structure organized at Nice.
The Lisbon Treaty
In 2003, the E.U. drafted its Constitution and in 2004-2005, the E.U. Council approved the European Constitution (Treaty) and the Member States voted on it and rejected it.
The European Council met in Lisbon for a new E.U. reform treaty (instead of a European constitution.) In 2007, E.U. leaders signed the Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on December 1, 2009. The European Constitution merged into the Lisbon Treaty. The Lisbon Treaty amended previous E.U. treaties and is more modest than the previous constitutional project.
The Lisbon Treaty:
The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which covers freedom and speech and religion, will legally bind 25 of the 27 E.U. Members. Britain and Poland obtained an opt-out.
Made changes to the E.U. institutions- The European Central Bank gained official status of being an E.U. institution along with the Council of Europe.
The euro became the official currency of the Union
Renamed the E.U.'s leading institutions
The High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy created by the Amsterdam Treaty was promoted to Vice President and Foreign Minister of the Union along with other changes to help the 27 member union run smoothly, efficiently and to move it forward politically.
The EU's Sovereign Debt Crisis exposed the flaws of the previous treaties in the area of Monetary Union. The E.U. made as many possible changes short of a treaty change to correct these issues.
Discussions for a change to the Lisbon Treaty are well on their way and the Spinelli group has written and proposed The Fundamental Law of the European Union to consolidate all of the previous treaties.