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Treaty of Maastricht

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The Maastricht Treaty, 1992, officially called the Treaty on European Union, made amendments to the Treaty of Rome and advanced the agenda set out in the Single European Act (SEA). It pushed for completion of the single market, leading to the creation of the euro, and further integrated the European communities.

Negotiations for the new treaty began through two separate intergovernmental conferences – one dealing with monetary union, the other with political union. The treaty was the result of a commitment to reinforce the community’s status following the collapse of communism in eastern Europe and German reunification, and of member states wanting to make further progress on the single market and European integration.

In April 1991, a draft set of treaties was presented at the European Council, after which extensive negotiations took place between national governments. The signing of the treaty took place in the Dutch town of Maastricht on 7 February 1992 and entered into force on 1 November 1993.

What did the Maastricht Treaty do?

The treaty pushed forward EU integration and widened its areas of responsibility. It achieved this through structuring the EU into three pillars, laying out the process for the creation of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and making further changes to the functioning of the EU. It also introduced EU citizenship for all member state citizens.

The European Economic Community was renamed the European Community (EC) and formed the main component of the newly created EU. The EC, along with the European Steal and Coal Community and EURATOM, formed the Community pillar of the EU, which covered most areas of EU policy. As well as economic and environment policy areas, Community policies were established in six new areas – industry, consumer protection, education, youth, culture and trans-European networks. In these areas the European Commission had the most power as the only institution that could propose legislation. The treaty strengthened the parliament’s power by introducing the co-decision procedure, which meant in a number of policy areas the parliament would have equal power to the Council with both now having to vote on new laws.

The second two pillars set up a new set of responsibilities outside the remit of the Treaty of Rome in the areas of a common foreign and security policy and in justice and home affairs. These two pillars remained primarily under the control of the council requiring unanimous agreement from all member states for the introduction of EU policy in this area. The Council also provided guidance for the Commission in these areas. Denmark opted out of the European common security policy.

In order to make EMU possible, the treaty amended the Treaty of Rome, to reinforce the economic responsibilities of the European Community in line with the goals of the SEA and it set out requirements for the creation of a single currency, the euro, by 1999. The UK secured an opt-out from joining a single currency. Denmark secured a provision that allowed them to choose to join and they opted not to.

The treaty also made the principle of subsidiarity apply to all areas of the EU, meaning in areas where the EU has not specifically been given power by the treaties decisions should only be made by the EU if they cannot be made at a national level. Under the SEA (1986) this principle had only applied to environmental policy.

A social chapter was attached to the treaty. It set out EU rules on social provisions and employment, which included policies which limited working hours and setting minimum holiday allowances. The UK decided to opt out of its provisions.