The process of European integration, in which we currently participate, was launched soon after the end of the World War II. It relies on tragic experiences connected with the largest and also most tragic armed conflict in human history, caused by Nazi Germany. After the war, in Europe, and more specifically in its western part, there arose conditions favourable for the start of a new, planned integration of the countries of the Old Continent. Western European countries, though very weakened after the war (destroyed economy, infrastructure, human resources), were, however, as never before agreeable to the necessity of defending basic human rights and democratic values. Western European leaders decided to undertake coordinated actions aiming at the reconstruction of European countries and their economies and introduction of a new political order, which could guarantee the security of nations and give a chance for their successful development in the future.
The genesis of the integration process in Europe after the World War II. In the process of planning the introduction of a new political order in post-war Europe, it was acknowledged that the key task was the reconstruction of European economies. Western European leaders realised that only efficient and effective European economy would be a foundation on which new safety and development structures could be built. The American aid plan for Europe – the European Recovery Plan, called the Marshall Plan, was a great support for those plans. At that time the actions of the Soviet Union, a former ally, which after the war began violently affirm its supremacy in the controlled area of Central and Eastern Europe, openly promoting antidemocratic communist ideology, became disturbing and at the same time mobilizing the Europeans. Only common, coordinated actions could provide European countries with the force with which Western Europe could resist the Soviet influence and the economic dominance of the United States of America. The post-war years were the time of formation of a new, bi-polar political configuration in Europe and in the world (the East – the West), which led the world to a new confrontation, this time a nuclear one. On one side there were Western democracies, on the other side the totalitarian Soviet Union and its subordinated satellite states building a military eastern block hostile to western democracies. This configuration had a decisive influence on the post-war European integration process and constituted mobilization for Western societies to undertake a firm integration action.
History of European Integration. The post-war European integration process began with the reconstruction of Western European infrastructure and the economies. Appropriate stimuli for its start proved to be the economic agreements and organizations set up at the end of the forties of the twentieth century: the Benelux Customs Union, the Treaty of Economic, Social, and Cultural Collaboration and Collective Self-defence and the Organization for European Economic Co-operation.
—The Treaty of Paris. The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (TECSC) was signed on 18 April 1951 in Paris by six western European countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy. The Treaty entered into force on 23 July 1952 (in force for 50 years till 23 July 2002). Established at the initiative of the French foreign minister Robert Schuman, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was charged with regulating the markets of strategic importance for rebuilding Europe’s resources – coal, steel and iron. The ECSC initiated the economic integration process of Western Europe. The Community, as an international organization, had legal personality. The ECSC was to contribute to the growth of its Member States and the raise of the standard of living of their citizens. The Treaty organized trading market for coal and steel. It took into account the abolition of export and imports levies on these strategic raw materials, the elimination of subsidies from the countries for the production of steel and coal mining, as well influenced the maintenance of permanent rules for the related trade. The treaty provisions were to be utilized in emergencies or in cases of unfair competition from third countries (the prices of coal and steel). Over time, other European countries began to join the ECSC.
—European political and defence co-operation. The establishment of the ECSC encouraged the supporters of European integration to intensify the integration efforts. It should be stressed that although the ECSC Member States accepted without too much trouble the fact of making joint decisions on economic and trade matters, it was harder for them to agree on common foreign or defence policy. At the period concerned the creation of two next communities was initiated: the European Defence Community (EDC) and the European Political Community (EPC).The treaty establishing the EDC was signed on 27 may 1952 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Italy. This treaty, as was the case with the ECSC, was to be in force for 50 years. The contract provided that the Community Member States will waive their competence in the field of defence and hand it over to supranational institutions. It was planned to create a common European army, composed of military contingents coming from particular countries and to organise a joint headquarters for the European army. The Treaty establishing the existence of the EDC was rejected on 30 August 1954 by the French National Assembly (formally removed from the agenda). The opposition of France led eventually to the abandonment of the plans to build the common European army, however, the discussion about this issue did not cease. The Western European Union, founded in 1954, was assumed to continue work towards the creation of a common security system for the Member States of the ECSC. The second of these communities created in this period was the European Political Community (EPC). In 1952 the Common Assembly of the ECSC suggested the establishment of a new community which could substitute both the EDC and the ECSC. The EPC was supposed to be this organisation. The main task of this organization was to coordinate foreign policies of Western European countries and to construct a common market. Although the Common Assembly of the ECSC managed to adopt the Treaty establishing the EPC, however, by the French rejection of the EDC in 1954, the fate of the EPC was doomed.
—The Treaties of Rome. In spite of the failure of the EDC and the EPC, and narrowing of the integration process to the area of economy, Western European leaders proposed the creation of other communities. Proponents of extending the integration process concluded that, in these circumstances, economic integration was the most important and yet the most effective form of integration. The Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Beyene, who proposed a European common market, gave t he most emphatic expression to this conviction. It was a different approach than the previously advocated concept of sector integration of economies of Western European countries. Beyene’s plan, as well as works of a special committee created in a short time to develop the concept of an economic community and cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, led by Belgian Foreign Minister Paul Henri Spaak ─ resulted in the creation of two communities essential for the European integration process
– the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The Treaties establishing the existence of the EEC and Euratom were signed on March 25, 1957 in Rome. The Treaties of Rome entered into force on 1 January 1958. In contrast to the ECSC Treaty they were to be in force for an indefinite period of time. The Treaties of Rome contributed to a gradual elimination of barriers and restrictions separating markets and economies of integrating Western European countries. For this purpose the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community introduced the four freedoms of the common market: the free movement of persons, services, foods and capital.
—The Single European Act. The Single European Act (SEA) was an international agreement concluded in the framework of the European Communities, which modified the Treaties of Rome. The Treaty entered into force on 1 July 1987. The SEA was an initiative of great importance for the European integration process. It influenced the transformation of decision-making procedures in the Communities, gave a rise to a common European market and enhanced political co-operation between the Member States of the European Communities. The SEA widened the field of institutional and substantive law of the European Communities, by extending the co-operation of the Communities to economic and social policy, environment protection, science development and technological progress. The key change introduced by the Community on the basis of the SEA, was the start from 1 January 1993 of the European Union’s Internal Market within the Community.
—The European Union Treaty. The second half of the eighties of the twentieth century and the beginning of the next decade was a time of the integration process slowdown. This was caused by events taking place in Europe and in the world, and above all, the collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union (including the military structures of the Eastern Block). Economic integration in Western Europe reached the planed objectives, but nevertheless political importance of the Communities on the international arena still was not too large. Changes in Central and Eastern Europe, “the fall of the Berlin Wall” and the unification of German states (3 October 1990), forced major reforms within the European Communities. The Treaty of Maastricht on European Union (TEU), which entered into force on 1 November 1993 became a breakthrough document. In the legal aspect the Treaty introduced changes to treaties establishing the European Communities (the European Economic Community was substituted by the European Community), and introduced new areas of co-operation among the Member States of the Communities. To the initial economic sphere of co-operation among the Member States of the Communities (since the creation of the European Union – the First Pillar) Common Foreign and Security Policy (the Second Pillar) and Justice and Home Matters (the Third Pillar) were added. The newly created European Union was composed of the European Community (previously the European Economic Community), the European Coal and Steel Community (till 2002) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
The European Union was formed as the structure of inter-state cooperation of a different nature than is the case of traditional international organizations. It did not have legal personality. It was to constitute a transition stage towards full economic, political and monetary integration of western European countries. According to the provisions of the Treaty on European Union the following objectives were set for the Union:
-to promote economic and social progress and a high level of employment and to achieve balanced and sustainable development, in particular through the creation of an area without internal frontiers, through the strengthening of economic and social cohesion and through the establishment of economic and monetary union, ultimately including a single currency,
-to assert its identity on the international scene, in particular through the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defense policy, which might lead to a common defense, in accordance with the provisions of Article,
-to strengthen the protection of the rights and interests of the nationals of its Member States through the introduction of a citizenship of the Union,
-to maintain and develop the Union as an area of freedom, security and justice, in which the free movement of persons is assured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime,
-to maintain in full the acquis communautaire and build on it with a view to considering to what extent the policies and forms of cooperation introduced by this Treaty may need to be revised with the aim of ensuring the effectiveness of the mechanisms and the institutions of the Community.
—The Amsterdam Treaty. The Treaty of Amsterdam amending the Treaty of the European Union, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts (TA) entered into force on 1 May 1999. The document was intended to regulate many issues important for the functioning of the European Union which have not been duly established in the Treaty on European Union. One of the most important changes introduced by the TA were changes in the Second and Third Pillars of the European Union. As regards the Second Pillar, The Common Foreign and Security Policy, became even more the domain of the European Union, a common task for all Member States of the Community. It was an important step towards the transformation of this policy, previously having coordinative, international nature into supranational cooperation. The protection of the integrity of the European Union was included in the goals of the Second Pillar and the office of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy was established (this function was performed by the Secretary General of the Council of the European Union). In the case of the Third Pillar, Justice and Home Matters, under the TA the division was made into matters transferred to supranational cooperation (the First Pillar) and included in the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) (policies concerning visas, asylum, immigration and other regulations related to the free movement of persons), and matters left within the Third Pillar and still included in the intergovernmental cooperation method. In connection with this, from the entry into force of the TA, i.e. from 1 May 1999, the Third Pillar of the European Union was identified as Policy and Judicial Co–operation in Criminal Matters. The above changes were significantly influenced by the realisation of the Schengen Agreement, aiming at the introduction of the free movement of persons within the Community. A lot of attention in the records of the TA is devoted to social issues (employment of workers, social policy, consumer protection) and the protection of human rights and combating discrimination. The matter of European Union citizenship was also raised. The Treaty stressed the meaning of the so called enhanced cooperation of the Member States and introduced the possibility of adopting sanctions against a Member State of the European Union, which would violate the law and rules binding in the Community. The position of the European Parliament was also strengthened, it acquired the ability to block most of the European Commission’s legislative proposals. The TA initiated a process of simplification and consolidation of treaty foundations. This was important in the context of the future EU enlargement (2004).
—The Treaty of Nice. Due to the fact that the scope of changes introduced by the Amsterdam Treaty was insufficient for the planned enlargement of the European Union, it was necessary to convene another summit meeting of the Community Member States to prepare the organization to operate in the conditions of the dramatically increased number of members. The final form of the new treaty, which was the result of work of the intergovernmental conference, which took place in 2000 in Nice, was officially presented on 30 January 2001 in Brussels. The Treaty of Nice amending the Treaty on European Union, the treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts (TN) was signed in Nice on 26 February 2001. The protracted ratification process made the agreement enter into force on 1 February 2003. The participants of the Intergovernmental Conference in Nice, primarily engaged themselves in matters that are not regulated by the Treaty of Amsterdam, among which special attention was paid to the shape and composition of the European Commission, the weighted voting system in the Council of the European Union, the extension of qualified majority voting and changes in the institutional system. During the debate of the Intergovernmental Conference in Nice a historic decision for the European Union was made on the accession of young democracies of Central and Eastern Europe to the Community. The European Union would be increased for the first time by as many as 12 new countries (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus (excluding the Turkish part), Romania and Bulgaria). According to the provisions of the Treaty, the European Commission was to be composed of a number of commissioners corresponding to the number of the Member States of the Community. The Treaty strengthened the position of the President of the European Commission and reformed the judicial system of the European Communities.
—The Schengen Agreement. An important role in the European integration process was played by the Agreement from Schengen. On 13 July 1984 Germany and France concluded an agreement in Saarbrücken to facilitate crossings of their shared border for their citizens. The agreement covered only the controls on existing border crossings. The Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) also soon became interested in the Agreement. Referring to the agreement from Saarbrucken, on 14 June 1985 a new agreement, termed the Schengen Agreement, was concluded in Schengen (Luxembourg). It concerned the gradual abolition of control at the common borders of the Member States of the European Communities (Schengen I). The Schengen Agreement was concluded outside the Community legal order acquis communautaire (the Schengen Agreement was included in acquis in the Treaty of Amsterdam). The Schengen Agreement came into force on 26 March 1995. The agreement not only abolished the control of persons at internal borders of countries that signed the document, but also strengthened their co-operation on security and asylum policies. The Schengen Agreement covered cross-border police cooperation among individual countries. Thanks to the Agreement external border control of the Schengen Area was considerably improved and cooperation in combating various forms of crime, especially organized crime was reinforced. Country’s entry into the Schengen Agreement was also connected with its participation in the Schengen Information System (SIS) and the European Union Visa Information System (VIS), as well as the determination of the competence of authorities in the area of the introduction and sharing of data collected in databases of the SIS and VIS.
—The Constitutional Treaty. The draft of the Constitution for Europe was prepared by a specially appointed for this purpose the Convention on the Future of Europe, chaired by Valery Giscard ď Estaigne. The Convention completed its work on the draft of the Constitutional Treaty on 10 July 2003. Their effect was a document composed of 278 pages – the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. The Treaty was to replace primary law of the European Union (treaties and other documents from this group). It repealed the Treaty on European Community and the Treaty on European Union, and all the documents amending and supplementing these contracts. At the same time, by virtue of the Constitutional Treaty, the European Union was to obtain legal personality. The draft of the Constitution for Europe divided the competences into the European Union’ ones, its Member States’ ones and shared ones. After adding the final amendments to the draft, the treaty was approved by the European Council on 18 June 2004. That moment began the Euro-Constitution ratification process by the individual Member States of the European Union. On 29 October 2004 in Rome the representatives of 25 Member States of the Community signed this historical document. Representatives of countries preparing for European Union Membership, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as of Turkey aspiring to Membership in the Community, signed the Final Act of the Constitution. For the Constitutional Treaty to enter into force, it had to be ratified by all Member states of the Community. Initially it was assumed that the ratification process would last for two years. Depending on the laws of particular countries the Treaty ratification could be carried out by the Parliament or by referendum. In the majority of the European Union’s Member States the ratification was successful, however, the rejection of the document in national referenda by the French (29 May 2005) and Dutch (1 June 2005), effectively stopped the ratification process and ultimately led to the abandonment of the Euro-Constitution.
—The Treaty of Lisbon. At the beginning of 2006, the case of a new treaty for the European Union was resumed. It was proposed to prepare a new document that would not give rise to such controversies as the Euro-Constitution. The contents of the Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community, TL, also called the Reform Treaty, was decided upon during the European Union Summit in Lisbon on 18-19 October 2007. The Treaty was signed in Lisbon the Hieronymites Monastery on 13 December 2007. The document entered into force after long and exceptionally difficult ratification on 1 December 2009. In order to avoid controversy, which occurred during the preparation of the Constitution for Europe, all the records that may suggest that this was another document of fundamental character were removed from the treaty. Consequently, the word ‘constitution’ was not used in this document, the articles talking about the flag, anthem and motto of the European Union were removed, the usage of terminology of legal acts specific for national laws was renounced (e.g. an act, previously known ‘regulations’ and ‘directives’ were retained). Moreover, the document allowed a Member State to resign form the European Union’s Membership and for the first time laid down the appropriate procedures for such a case.
The TL introduced a unified organisational structure of the European Union and gave legal personality to the Community. According to the provisions of the TL, the European Union functions on the basis of two hitherto basic documents, that is the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), which were amended by the establishments of the International Conference on 29 October 2004 during which a draft of the European Constitution was accepted. The settlements of first part of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe were included in the TEU, whereas the communal policy principles contained in the third part of the Constitutional Treaty were added to the TEC. The TL, gave legal personality to the European Union. The European Union became a legal successor of the European Community (EC). The Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) was renamed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The new treaty abolished the three pillar organisational system of the European Union, retaining certain separateness within the Community, related to the previously functioning the Second and Third Pillars. The implementation of the TL provisions results in the division of the Community’s competences into three areas: I the European Union’s competences (the realisation of the EU’s goals and foreign policy and safety), II shared competences (in which communal/Union’s law takes precedence over national law of the European Union’s Member States, excluding certain areas which are in the competence of the Member States), III competences in which decisions are made independently by the individual Member States of the European Union.
The TL changed the way of leadership in the Council of the European Union. The hitherto six months’ Presidency of the Member States the European Union was substituted by the leadership conducted commonly by three Member States for 18 months. Also a function of a president of the European Council was established, termed informally “the President of the European Union”. The treaty strengthened the role of the European Parliament, providing it with new competences in the sphere of the creation of communal law, budgetary issues and political control. For the first time the citizens of the European Union’s Member States gained the indirect right of legislative initiative. The implementation of the TL provisions results in the change in the European Commission composition. It was decided that from 2014 on the European Commission will be composed of the representatives of 2/3 of the Community’s Member States and the individual countries will nominate commissioners in a rotating system. The TL appointed the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Polity, whose aim is the lead the European External Action Service.
One of the most important changes introduced by the TL is the voting system in the Council of the European Union. The hitherto voting system by the qualified majority voting (the Nice Treaty system) is to be valid till the end of October 2014 and then a double majority voting system will be introduced (55% of the EU’s States representing at least 65% of the Community’s population). Additionally a stipulation was made that till 31 March 2017 r. each Member State of the European Union will be able to demand repetition of particular voting according to the Nice system. From 2017 on it is planned to move totally to the double majority system (retaining a safety mechanism enabling Member States to delay decision taking for a particular period of time even when they don’t have the required blocking capacity (a mechanism analogous to the Ioannina compromise).