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Treaty of Rome

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Introduction

The Treaty of Rome was the founding treaty of the European Economic Community (EEC), which later became the EU. It was officially known as the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community. All the subsequent European treaties have built upon or amended the Treaty of Rome and its provisions still form the majority of EU treaty law.

History

Following the two world wars the governments of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, West Germany, the Netherlands and Italy sought to find a way of increasing co-operation through economic integration. The idea behind this was that by integrating European economies, countries would have to work together to ensure prosperity. This would reduce the risk of conflict and boost the economies in Europe.

In 1952 the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) became the first step toward a supranational organisation in which countries gave up part of their sovereignty, opening up the coal and steel markets across all six member states and allowing them to be regulated by a new international organisation.

The negotiations that led to the Treaty of Rome began at Messina, Italy, in 1955.  The treaty adopted many of the institutional structures of the ECSC but set out to have far greater reach by creating a common market for all goods and services between all member states.

The treaty set out the foundations for ‘an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe’ which would ‘ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe.’

The treaty was signed on 25 March 1957 and came into force on 1 January 1958. Later treaties were agreed which amended the Treaty of Rome and the number of countries which are signed up to the treaty has grown from six to 28.

In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty established the European Union with the Treaty of Rome remaining as the EU’s core documents. The EEC was renamed the European Community and embedded into the EU. The official name of the Treaty of Rome was revised to the Treaty establishing the European Community. In 2009, under the Lisbon Treaty, the European Community ceased to exist separate from the European Union and the Treaty of Rome was formally renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

What did the Treaty of Rome do?

The treaty established four institutions – a Commission, a Council of Ministers, a European Parliament and a European Court of Justice.  These were to be staffed by officials, ministers, judges and parliamentarians from member states. They were in charge of creating closer co-operation on a range of economic issues and ensuring the treaties were implemented.

Fundamentally, the treaty created an international organisation to govern and ensure the establishment of a European economic community, which would have a common market – with the freedom to move goods, services, capital and people – and a customs union.

Another treaty was signed at the same time which encouraged co-operation in the use of atomic energy, under an organisation called EURATOM, which was later absorbed into the structure of the European Community.