On February 7th 1992, the Member States – then twelve – signed the most important act of the building of Europe, after the Treaty of Rome (which will soon be sixty years old).
The Maastricht Treaty has first of all, laid the foundations of a European cooperation both economic and monetary but also political : the European Union. Hence, it built its framework around three pillars, broadening the Community’s competences (1st pillar). This Treaty, also known as the Treaty on European Union (TEU), introduced the common foreign and security policy (2nd pillar) and cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs (3rd pillar).
But one can also notice that the Maastricht Treaty created the EU citizenship, allowing notably the free movement of EU citizens and their right to vote. Finally, this Treaty has been the source of the establishment of a single currency and implemented at the same time the euro convergence criteria – the « Maastricht criteria » – which are four fiscal criteria member states should abide by in a bid to adopt the euro as their currency. This marked the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union.
Twenty-five years later, despite several revisions of the Treaty and after a financial crisis, the continuation of the European construction did not go all that smoothly. Above all, it even showed signs of unravelling as UK Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to trigger Brexit because of the recent approval of the House of Commons. This situation is pretty striking when put in parallel with the fact that the United Kingdom is one of the twelve States signatories of the Maastricht Treaty.
The Treaty on European Union was lastly amended by the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 which phased out the three-pillar structure and endowed the Union with its own legal personality. It also provided the possibility of withdrawal of a State Member of the EU in the article 50. Lastly, the Lisbon Treaty eased the revision procedure of EU treaties. Alongside the ordinary revision procedure which existed so far, there are now a simplified revision procedure and « passerelle » clauses. That is how in 2012 the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union was changed to add the European Stability Mechanism.
Since then, there is a shared will to modernize the EU treaties in greater depth.
A report has just been tabled in this regard at the European Commission by Guy Verhofstadt. A plenary debate is scheduled for today February 14th about the possible evolution of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the EU.
Thus, it is not true to say that the Treaties governing the European Union were not reviewed and adapted according to criticism and practice.
Ulrike Guérot, a German political scientist, is, however, convinced that UE’s main woe lies in the fact that it is only a community of States and also not a community of citizens, whereas the first article of the Maastricht Treaty specifies, « This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen ».
To find out more :
- Euronews « EU health check – how are the bloc’s vital signs 25 years since Maastricht? » (02-07-2017)
- Euractiv « Four possible scenarios for the EU in 2023, 30 years after Maastricht » (11-26-2015)
- Committee report on possible evolutions of and possible adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union (12-20-2016)