The present EU builds on the cooperation which began with the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) back in 1952. The Coal and Steel Union, which this cooperation was also called, no longer exists today since the Treaty which formed the basis for it was concluded for a period of fifty years and expired on 23 July 2002. Its significance to the EU today is not that great, however, since cooperation has grown over the years to cover much more than just coal and steel.
The Coal and Steel Community was founded by six countries – France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy . It involved cooperation on the coal and steel production of these countries, which was important to the arms industry and was a major commodity in trade between them. The purpose of the cooperation was to pave the way for greater European cohesion by making the countries mutually dependent on each other’s coal and steel production, thereby preventing hostilities between them and ensuring durable peace in Europe.
West and East Germany
At the time when the Coal and Steel Community was established, Germany was divided into East and West Germany – the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany, respectively. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 a reunification treaty was signed by the two states. This reunification treaty came into force on 3 October 1990, and the former East German state became part of the EC.
The areas of cooperation between the six countries were extended five years later, however, when the Coal and Steel Community was supplemented by two new communities, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). These two Communities were established with effect from 1 January 1958.
From Messina to Rome, or from the ECSC to the EEC
In 1955 the foreign ministers of the six countries which were members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) met in Messina in Sicily . At that meeting the foreign ministers of the six Member States decided to work towards the establishment of a framework for close economic cooperation between their countries. The Belgian Foreign Minister, Paul-Henri Spaak, was given the task of drawing up a detailed plan for this framework and, on 6 May 1956, he presented draft treaties for the establishment of the European Economic Community and Euratom to the other ECSC foreign ministers.
Mr Spaak’s draft texts were approved and, on 26 June 1956, the foreign ministers began negotiations on the two Treaties. Subsequently, on 25 March 1957, the ECSC Member States were able to sign the Treaties establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
The purpose of Euratom is ‘to contribute to the raising of the standard of living in the Member States and to the development of relations with the other countries by creating the conditions necessary for the speedy establishment and growth of nuclear industries’.
The EEC was the dominant Community, providing for cooperation on a customs union, a common market with freedom of movement for goods, persons, services and capital. Rules on competition, common agricultural and fisheries policies, measures for regional development, etc., were added.
The EEC later changed its name to the EC (from ‘the European Economic Community ’ to ‘the European Communities’). This change was made with effect from 1 November 1993, when the Maastricht Treaty came into force. The change of name reflects the fact that the cooperation was no longer merely economic in nature, but was gradually extended to include fields such as transport policy, taxes and excise duties, social policy, employment policy, education, culture, health and consumer protection, research, the environment and development aid.
The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union and extended cooperation by making provision for an economic and monetary union, a common foreign and security policy for the EU, cooperation on justice and home affairs, a social dimension, etc.
The European Communities – the foundations of the EU
The EU (the European Union) is the general name for the cooperation based on the EC Treaty, the Euratom Treaty and the Treaty on European Union.
Over the last fifty or more years since the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, the EU has undergone extremely rapid development in its fields and forms of cooperation. The latest addition is the new Lisbon Treaty which was signed in 2007. The Lisbon Treaty has not yet come into force. In order for it to do so, it must be ratified in all member states, which is not yet the case.
The Merger Treaty
The original three Communities each had their own institutions to carry out the tasks of the Communities. When the Merger Treaty came into force on 1 July 1967, the institutions of the three communities were combined into single institutions serving the EC as a whole. This means that passages mentioning ‘the Commission’ in the EC, EURATOM and EU Treaties all refer to the same institution.