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European Union's golden anniversary

By Ioan Voicu - posted Friday, 30 March 2007


Today's European Union is the culmination of a long and arduous effort in diplomacy and international law but there remains work to be done before its vision reaches fruition.

On March 25 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ''Treaties of Rome'' signed on March 25, 1957 by France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. These legal instruments led to the creation of an original entity, the aim of which was to accomplish a comprehensive economic integration by a common market. More specifically, the first Rome Treaty, consisting of 240 articles, established the European Economic Community (EEC), and the second treaty created the European Atomic Energy Community, known as Euratom. Both treaties entered into force on January 1, 1958.

The establishment of the EEC as a common market had two main objectives. The first was to radically transform the conditions of trade and manufacturing on the territories of the EEC. The second was the functional construction of a political Europe and a meaningful step toward the closer unification of Europe.

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The celebration of events which took place half a century ago cannot be only limited to Europe, as it is a source for wider political and diplomatic momentum and impartial assessments on all continents.

In the preamble of the first Rome Treaty, its signatories declared not only their determination ''to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,'' but in the same text they had the vision to clearly assert their intention ''to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries'' and ''to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations''.

Institutionally, the Single European Act (1986) was the first major reform of the Treaties of Rome, as it set the objective of achieving the internal market by 1992. The Treaty on European Union, known as the ''Maastricht Treaty'' (1992) brought together the European Communities and institutionalised co-operation in the fields of foreign policy, defence, police and justice together under one umbrella, to be officially called the European Union. It marked the transition from an economic community to a political union based on shared values.

The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) increased the powers of the EU, transferring to the communities some of the areas which were previously subject to intergovernmental co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs. It introduced measures for bringing the EU closer to its citizens and enabling an enhanced co-operation.

The Treaty of Nice (2000) dealt with the issues related to the EU's enlargement. It simplified the rules for an enhanced co-operation and made the judicial system more effective.

Other treaties should also be mentioned, particularly the Treaty of Accession of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland (1972), which increased the number of member states of the European Community from six to nine.

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Similar treaties were signed with Greece (1979); Spain and Portugal (1985); Austria, Finland and Sweden (1994); Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia (2003); Bulgaria and Romania (2005). These treaties increased the number of the EU members to 27 with a total population of nearly 500 million people.

Finally, in 2004, after long multilateral negotiations, the Treaty for a Constitution of Europe (TCE) replaced the previous treaties, with the exception of the Euratom Treaty. The drafting of the TCE, a complex legal instrument of more than 65,000 words, was a very difficult political and diplomatic exercise, but it was an integral part of the strong aspirations for building an organisation with a distinct identity, able to speak with one strong voice in the world community. With the envisaged establishment of an EU foreign minister, the EU might become a global diplomatic actor with broad strategic plans.

The TCE was signed on October 29, 2004 and was expected to enter into force on November 1, 2006. It has been ratified by 18 countries, but its rejection in 2005 by France and the Netherlands stopped the process of further ratifications and determined the adoption of a period of ''reflection'' which is still valid today.

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First published in the Bangkok Post on March 25, 2007.



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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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