Europe and the law
Europe and the law

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Europe and the law

3.2 The evolution of the EU

The EU has grown out of a series of intergovernmental political initiatives which have been expressed in a number of treaties. These treaties form the building blocks that give authority and power to the institutions and law-making bodies of the EU. The process is evolutionary, as treaties are reviewed and amended to reflect both the changing membership and the vision of the EU.

The EU is founded on several treaties:

  1. The treaty that established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was signed on 18 April 1951 in Paris and which expired on 23 July 2002.

  2. The treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), which was signed in Rome on 25 March 1957 and came into force on 1 January 1958.

  3. The treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), which was signed in Rome on 25 March 1957.

  4. The Single European Act (SEA) (1986).

  5. The Treaty on European Union (TEU), which was signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992 and which came into force on 1 November 1993.

  6. The Treaty of Amsterdam, which was signed on 2 October 1997 and came into force on 1 May 1999.

  7. The Treaty of Nice, which was signed on 26 February 2001 and came into force on 1 February 2003.

The EU started to evolve in the 1950s with what is known as the ‘Schuman Plan’. This sought to look at the economic position of European countries. The EU has now outgrown its purely economic role and has a wide range of responsibilities. The Maastricht Treaty recognised this with the renaming of the EEC to the European Community (EC) in 1993. That treaty also created a structure to represent the wide range of responsibilities and powers, including new areas of intergovernmental cooperation such as defence and home affairs. Three pillars are now used to represent the different policy areas and different decision-making systems. You will read more about these later.

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