|Maastricht: The EU's First Treaty on Political Union|
In April 1990, France and Germany launched the idea of a new Treaty on Political Union that would include foreign policy. That month, during the Dublin Summit the Community firmly committed itself to political union.
On December 15, 1990, the Council of Ministers met in Rome at an Intergovernmental Conference on Political Union (IGC).
In December 1991, one year later at Maastricht, the Netherlands, the conference convened.
Maastricht's most solid achievement was the firm commitment to establish economic and monetary union (EMU) involving a single currency governed by a European Central Bank by 1999, which it accomplished.
Along with monetary union, the treaty established the beginnings of a common defense component which would evolve with later treaties.
Article J.4 of the Treaty on European Union added: "The common foreign and security of the Union, including the eventual framing of a common defense policy, which might in time lead to a common defense." It paved the way to the creation of a distinct political identity.
The Maastricht agreement marked the first step in adding a political dimension to the EU, and transforming it from an economic venture into a political reality. An objective of the Maastricht Treaty was for the EU to "assert its identity on the international scene…through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy." The Maastricht Treaty, a 189-page document, allowed the EU to forge common foreign and defense policies for the first time.
Prior to Maastricht, the EU acted in the area of foreign policy through European Political Cooperation (EPC). This was the EU's process of consultation and common action among its members in the field of foreign policy. An EPC meeting brought together the Member States' highest officials, their foreign ministers, and the EU Commission. The confidential telex system (coreu) linked the twelve foreign ministries of the Member States, the EPC secretariat, and the Commission. It provided rapid and secure communications, and reduced the need for holding special ministerial meetings. Through its single, coherent approach, EPC aimed to maximize its influence in international affairs. Maastricht turned EPC into something more than a consultation club; it laid the foundation for a real government. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty changed the name of the European Communities to the European Union and gave the EU the formal title of "Union."
The Economist , commenting on the treaty, stated: "Believers in a federal Europe insist that the treaty lays down the main elements, if only in embryo, of a future European government, a single currency, common foreign and defense policy, a common citizenship and a parliament with teeth. It is just a matter of waiting they believe, for history to take its course."