Maastricht Treaty

Maastricht Treaty in Europe

Description of Maastricht Treaty

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes maastricht treaty in the following terms: [1] The Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992 and officially known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU), introduced several important additions and amendments to the Treaty of Rome and signalled an advance in European integration equalled only by the 1986 Single European Act. Its central features were the incorporation of EMU into the Treaty of Rome and the establishment of the European Union by the addition of two new fields of policy co-operation: the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Justice and Home Affairs(JHA). These new areas were formulated as intergovernmental responsibilities, rather than responsibilities of the Community’s supranational organisations, an arrangement which was to a limited extent modified subsequently in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, where the Community was given more of a role in providing policy guidelines and certain aspects of JHA were transferred to come under the competence of the Commission and the Court of Justice (see more in this European encyclopedia). Together with the Community itself (the ‘first pillar’), the CFSP and JHAconstitute the second and third of the ‘three pillars’ of the EU.

The ratification of the Treaty came near to disaster on several occasions, notably when it was rejected in a Danish referendum in 1992, accepted by the narrowest of margins in a French referendum the same year and only passed by the UK’s House of Commons after unprecedented pressure by the whips in 1993. Nevertheless, it survived a second Danish referendum and a ruling by the German Constitutional Court to pass eventually into law, its obscure phraseology reflecting an uneasy compromise between integrationists and those who favoured a Community of voluntarily co-operating nation states. A notorious example of deliberate ambiguity was ‘subsidiarity’, a concept explained by the British government as recognising the vital role of national law-makers and simultaneously explained by Continental politicians as recognising the superior role of the Community.

The main legislative part of the Treaty concerned the implementation in progressive stages of economic and monetary union. There would be a fixed timetable, leading to the adoption of the single currency by those member states which were able to meet the convergence criteria. The British government accepted participation up to the preparatory Stage Two, but arranged an opt-out from Stage Three, when exchange rates would be irrevocably locked, the euro would come into being and national currencies would be abolished. As an inducement to hold another referendum, Denmarkwas also offered an opt-out from the single currency (as it was on defence and on certain other provisions of the Treaty).

Other features of the Treaty included the expansion of the structural funds to supply aid to the poorer EU regions; the widening of the competence of the Community to cover new areas such as education, culture, public health, consumer protection, trans-European networks, industry and the environment; the creation of the position of Ombudsman; and the formal introduction of the concept of citizenship of the Union.

A significant intention at Maastricht was to expand the Community’s social dimension by introducing policies covering such aspects as workers’ health and safety, workplace conditions, equal pay and the consultation of employees. These aspects were to be included in a separate section of the Treaty, called the Social Chapter (see more in this European encyclopedia). The British government refused to agree to this section being incorporated in the body of the Treaty and insisted on an opt-out. The 11 other members who supported the Chapter agreed to make it a protocol to the Treaty, which was not binding on the UK. In 1997 the incoming British Labour government cancelled the opt-out and agreed to sign the Social Chapter, which was thereupon put back into the main text as revised by the Treaty of Amsterdam.

After the Maastricht Treaty had been signed, such was the complexity of the drafting and so great the exhaustion of the negotiators that many of the protagonists had little clear idea of its meaning (see more in this European encyclopedia). The British team was temporarily proud that the word ‘federal’ appeared nowhere in this most federalising of documents. The public throughout Europe was baffled, and the unemployment that ensued in the mid to late 1990s did nothing to endear voters to a Treaty that they mistrusted and suspected of being at least partly responsible (through its strict monetary prescriptions) for the recession.

In 1997 the Treaty would undergo substantial amendment in the Treaty of Amsterdam. To distinguish between the original document and the later version, it is sometimes convenient to call the first one the Maastricht Treaty, reserving the technically correct Treaty on European Union for the amended and consolidated text. Likewise, those parts of the Treaty of Rome that were amended at Maastricht may be referred to equally correctly as being contained in the Treaty of Rome, the consolidated Treaty establishing the European Community (the revised name of the Treaty of Rome), or the Maastricht Treaty. (See also Common Foreign and Security Policy, EMU, Justice and Home Affairs, Treaty of Amsterdam, Treaty on European Union and Treaty of Rome.)

Maastricht Treaty and Treaty on European Union and the European Union

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See Also

  • Treaty of Maastricht

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Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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