The Treaty of Rome (Treaty) was signed in the Italian capital on 25 March 1957 and is the decisive step in the assemblage process of the European Communities. The six signing States (France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries) entered the Treaty instituting the European Economic Community 1 and – on the same day – a treaty instituting a European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). In 1951, they had also established a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) with a treaty that expired on 23 July 2002. Euratom remains in force, although its institutions are in common with the European Union.
After the Second World War, the need was felt to begin an integration process in Europe, in order to prevent new conflicts, particularly between France and Germany, which had been the two main continental opponents in the two world wars. The first result was the institution of the ECSC, through which the strategic activity of the production of coal and steel was put in common under a shared authority and open to access by other States. Thus, with the Treaty signed in Paris on 18 April 1951 by France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries, the Member States relinquished part of their sovereignty, although in a single sector. This initiative is to be seen in a context of several projects aiming at a closer European integration2, which led, among others, to the institution of the OEEC in 1948, the Council of Europe in 1949 (and the subsequent adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights), and the OECD in 1960. The process of European integration came to a halt with the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC), as its Treaty did not enter into force due to the opposition of the French Parliament, which was concerned with the rearming of Germany, even within the Community. New impetus for the European integration came from the Messina Conference of June 1955, where foreign affairs ministers of the future six founding states of the European Economic Community revamped the integration project, focusing on market liberalization and common policies, particularly in the fields of transport and atomic energy. In order to develop the project, in 1956 a preparatory committee was entrusted with the drafting of a report on the creation of a European common market. In April 1956 the Committee submitted two drafts, which corresponded to the two options selected by the Member States and which reflected the choice to avoid the issues that had doomed the EDC: (i) the creation of a general common market; and (ii) the creation of an atomic energy community. The two projects led to the signing in Rome of the Treaties establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957. Member States relinquished part of their sovereignty in the fields interested by the Communities. As for their structures, the three Communities then existing (ECSC, EEC and Euratom) had institutions partially separated: the Court of Justice and the Assembly were common, while the High Authority of the ECSC and the two Commissions of the EEC and of Euratom were separated. Only in 1967, the Council and the Commission became common institutions to the three communities.
Structure of the Treaty
The Treaty, as it results from the reforms of the subsequent modifying treaties up to the Nice treaty 3, consists of 314 articles in six separate parts, preceded by a preamble.
- The first part is devoted to the principles which underline the establishment of the Community, initially based on the common market, the customs union and the common policies. The Treaty on European Union – also known as Maastricht Treaty – and the Treaty of Amsterdam deeply affected this part, by adding fundamental principles, such as monetary union, social equality and between the genders, employment policies, training, subsidiarity and enhanced cooperation.
- The second part, as modified by the Treaty on European Union, concerns the rights related to the European citizenship.
- The third part concerns the economic foundations of the Community; it initially comprised four titles devoted respectively to the free movement of goods; agriculture; the free movement of persons, services and capital; and finally transport. In time, with the extension of the competences of the Community, this part has been relevantly enlarged, also by absorbing policies previously regulated elsewhere in the Treaty, particularly with the Single European Act and the Treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam.4
- The fourth part is devoted to the association of overseas countries and territories;
- The fifth part is devoted to the Community institutions, with one title on the institutional provisions and another on the financial provisions. The institutions are currently the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, the Court of Auditor, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, and the European Investment Bank.
- The final part of the Treaty concerns general and final provisions.
The original Treaty also included various attached documents organised in three parts 5 and which comprised: four annexes relating to certain tariff positions, agricultural products, invisible transactions and overseas countries and territories, a total of twelve protocols and 6 a Convention on the association of the overseas countries and territories were also annexed. These annexes have been relevantly modified in the years.
The institutional balance of the Treaty is based on the relationship between the Council 7, the Commission and the European Parliament, all three of which are called upon to work together. The original text provided for clearly distinct roles, with the Commission drafting proposals, the Council approving them and the Parliament playing an advisory role 8. However, in time the role of the Parliament has been greatly enhanced as, coherently with its transformation in a body of elected representatives 9 (instead of representatives designated by the Governments) the legislative procedure of co-decision – which provides for two readings both from the Council and the Parliament – has been first introduced and later expanded 10. The Commission, an independent college of the governments of the Member States, appointed by common agreement, represents the common interest. It has a monopoly on initiating legislation and proposes Community acts. As guardian of the treaties, it monitors the implementation of the treaties and secondary law. In the framework of its mission, the Commission has the executive power to implement Community policies, manage the programs of the Union and manage the budget 11. The Council is made up of representatives of the governments of the Member States and is vested with decision-making powers. It is assisted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), which prepares the Council's work and carries out the tasks conferred on it by the Council. Among the other institutions, the Court of Justice – and the Court of First Instance since 1988 - is particularly important. The Court has a wide range of competences, the most relevant being the reference for a preliminary ruling for the interpretation of the Treaty 12. The Court, often through an extensive interpretation of the Treaty, has played a pivotal role in the European integration process.
The original Treaty was based on the establishment of a common market, a customs union and common policies. Articles 2 and 3 directly address these three issues. They stated that the Community's primary mission is to create a common market and they specified the measures to be undertaken to achieve this objective. Article 2 specified that "The Community shall have as its task, by establishing a common market and progressively approximating the economic policies of member states, to promote throughout the community a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increase in stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between the states belonging to it". The common market was founded on "four freedoms", namely the free movement of persons, services, goods and capital. It created a single economic area establishing free competition between undertakings. It laid the basis for approximating the conditions governing trade in products and services over and above those already covered by the other treaties (ECSC and Euratom). Article 8 stated that the Common Market was to be established during a transitional period of twelve years, divided into three stages of four years each. Each stage contemplated a set of actions to be initiated and carried through concurrently. Subject to the exceptions and procedures provided for in the Treaty, the expiry of the transitional period constituted the latest date 13 by which all the rules laid down had to enter into force 14. The customs union was implemented by abolishing quotas and customs duties between the Member States. A common external tariff was established substituting the preceding tariffs of the different states. This customs union was accompanied by a common trade policy, managed at Community level and no longer at state level, which differentiated the customs union from a mere free-trade association. The market being based on the principle of free competition, the Treaty prohibited restrictive agreements and state aids (except for the derogations provided for in the Treaty) which can affect trade between Member States and whose objective is to prevent, restrict or distort competition 15. While certain policies are explicitly provided in the Treaty, others may be launched depending on needs, as specified in Article 235 16, according to which: "If action by the Community should prove necessary to attain, in the course of the operation of the common market, one of the objectives of the Community and this Treaty has not provided the necessary powers, the Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the Assembly, take the appropriate measures 17." A European Social Fund was also created, with the aim of improving job opportunities for workers and of raising their standard of living. Finally, a European Investment Bank was set up in order to facilitate the Community's economic expansion by creating new resources 18. As already mentioned, the scope of the Community and the number of policies explicitly regulated in the Treaty have been greatly expanded in time, by including new sectors as well as principles of great social relevance, such as equality and non discrimination, employment and European citizenship. While a full examination of the provisions of the Treaty falls outside the scope of this work, a brief description of the treaties that, in time, have amended it is proposed in order to help understand the general developments.
Amendments to the Treaty
The Treaty has been amended by the treaties of accessions for 21 new Member States 19 and by the following other treaties:
- Treaty of Brussels, known as the "Merger Treaty" (1965)
It replaced the three Councils of Ministers (EEC, ECSC and Euratom) on the one hand, and the two Commissions (EEC, Euratom) and the High Authority (ECSC) on the other hand, with a single Council and a single Commission. This administrative merger was supplemented by the institution of a single operative budget.
- Treaty amending Certain Budgetary Provisions (1970)
It replaced the system of financing the Communities with contributions from Member States with that of own resources. It also put in place a single budget for the Communities.
- Treaty amending Certain Financial Provisions (1975)
It gave the European Parliament the right to reject the budget and to grant a discharge to the Commission for the implementation of the budget. It established a single Court of Auditors for the three Communities to monitor their accounts and financial management.
- Treaty on Greenland (1984)
It established that the Treaties would no longer apply to Greenland and provided for special relations between the European Community and Greenland, modelled on the rules that apply to overseas territories.
- Single European Act (1986)
It was the first major reform of the Treaties. It extended the areas of qualified majority voting in the Council, increased the role of the European Parliament through the cooperation procedure and widened Community powers. It set the objective of achieving the internal market by 1992.
- Treaty on European Union, known as the "Maastricht Treaty" (1992)
It brought the three Communities (Euratom, ECSC, EEC) and institutionalized cooperation in the fields of foreign policy, defence, police and justice together under the single framework of the European Union. The EEC was renamed as EC. It also created the economic and monetary union, put in place new Community policies (education, culture) and increased the powers of the European Parliament though an expansion of the codecision procedure.
- Treaty of Amsterdam (1997)
It increased the powers of the Union by creating a Community employment policy, transferring to the Communities some of the areas which were previously subject to intergovernmental cooperation in the fields of justice and home affairs, introducing measures aimed at bringing the Union closer to its citizens and enabling closer cooperation between certain Member States (enhanced cooperation). It also extended the codecision procedure and qualified majority voting and renumbered the articles of the Treaties.
-Treaty of Nice (2001)
It dealt with the institutional problems linked to enlargement which were not resolved in the Amsterdam Treaty. It dealt with the make-up of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council and the extension of the areas of qualified majority voting. It simplified the rules on the use of the enhanced cooperation procedure and made the judicial system more effective.
- Treaty of Lisbon (2007, in force since December 2009)
The latest treaty amending the Treaty is the result of difficult developments. In October 2004, a treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was signed. It was designed to repeal and replace all the existing treaties (with the exception of the Euratom Treaty) with a single text, and consolidate 50 years of European treaties. To enter into force, the Treaty establishing the Constitution had to be ratified by all Member States in accordance with each one's constitutional rules. Following the difficulties in ratifying the Treaty in some Member States, the Heads of State and Government decided, at the European Council meeting on 16 and 17 June 2005, to launch a period of reflection on the future of Europe. At the European Council meeting on 21 and 22 June 2007, European leaders reached a compromise and agreed to convene an intergovernmental conference to draft, instead of a Constitution, a reform treaty for the European Union. The result was the Treaty of Lisbon, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, after ratification by all the 27 Member States, and includes relevant institutional and procedural reforms aimed at conforming the Union to its enlargement to 27 States and preparing it for the current economic and geopolitical challenges.
1The Community was renamed European Community (EC) with the Treaty of Maastricht, pursuant to the expansion of its competences.
2Until the end of the Cold War, only Western European countries were concerned.
3The original Treaty consisted of 240 Articles and an additional 8 Articles of final provisions.
4This part is now composed of sixteen sections.
5Nine additional declarations were also annexed.
6The first one concerned the European investment bank, while the others treated matters regarding a specific Member State or specific products.
7The Council, as a EC institution and an actor of the legislative process, is not to be mistaken with the European Council, formed by the Heads of State and Government of the Member States and which has a political role, specified in Article 4 of the Maastricht Treaty.
8A supportive role is also provided for the European Economic and Social Committee.
9Council Decision 76/787/ECSC, CEE and Euratom
10See Article 251 of the EC Treaty, introduced by the Maastricht Treaty.
See Article 211 of the EC Treaty.
11See Article 211 of the EC Treaty.
12See Article 234 of the EC Treaty.
13The Single European Act of 1986 provides for the common market to be established by 31
14The overseas countries and territories are also part of the common market and the customs union.
15Competition law originated in North America. The European model partially differed, both in the assessment of anti-competitive practice and in the regulation of State aids, as the goal of protecting the development of the common market was added to the typically northern American one of consumer protection.
16This article was later renumbered as 308.
17This provision has allowed, since the Paris meeting of 1972, the development of policies in the fields of environment protection, regional development and social and industrial matters.
18The European Social Fund acts based on cooperation between the competent Departments, the European Commission, the Regions and the social parties. In time, other structural funds have been created: the European Regional Development Funds (ERDF), the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF), the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG).
19 The United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland in 1972, Greece in 1979, Spain and Portugal in 1985, Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1994, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungry, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2003, Bulgaria and Romania in 2005. As of 30 January 2010, Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey are candidate Member States.
Editor: Lucio LANUCARA
© 2010 ASSONEBB