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The EU treaties

Below we are presenting a summary of the provisions of the six major EU treaties, elsewhere are available downloads of the entire original scripts.

Treaty of Rome – 25th March 1957

Single European Act – 17th February 1986 (Luxembourg) and 28th February 1986 (The Hague)

Maastricht Treaty – 7th February 1992

Amsterdam Treaty – 2nd October 1997

Treaty of Nice – 26th February 2001

Lisbon Treaty – 13th December 2007


Due to the provisions of the 1689 Declaration of Right, and its statute equivalent Bill of Rights, in Britain we should by law have had a national referendum for each and every one of these treaties, in reality we only voted on membership of the then Common Market in 1976 in accordance with The Treaty of Rome.  It appears extra provisions were added behind the scenes in the 1976 referendum by the Edward Heath government which were withheld including among others the surrender of our fishing industry.

It is not in the gift of politicians, the monarch, or anyone else to sign away the sovereignty of the British Isles, to do so is act of treason.

Declaration/Bill of Rights 1689:

No foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm.


Also a significant agreement, not officially a treaty was the Schengen Agreement established in 1985.

Treaty of Rome – 25th March 1957

This treaty established the European Economic Community (EEC) and was signed by the original founding members – Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It also established the “four freedoms” – the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. Although ostensibly established as a tariff-free trading area, it established three powerful central organisations that were absent from other free trade organisations, such as EFTA and NAFTA.

These three organisations were the European Council, the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ was granted supremacy over all members’ national courts. Additionally, the European Investment Bank was created under the treaty of Rome.

Officially called the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (TEEC) it became active on 1st January 1958.


We can never sufficiently emphasise that the six Community countries are the forerunners of a broader, united Europe...’ – Jean Monnet, 1978

‘Europe will not be built in a day, nor to an overall design; it will be built through practical achievements that first establish a sense of common achievement.’ – Robert Schuman, 1950

Single European Act – 17th February 1986 (Luxembourg) and 28th February 1986 (The Hague)

 The Single European Act’s (SEA) main purpose was to set a deadline for the creation of a full single market by 1992. It also created deeper integration by making it easier to pass laws, strengthening the EU Parliament and laying the basis for a European foreign policy. In these ways it took the process of European integration to a new level, laying the groundwork for the rapid changes of the 1990s and 2000s.

By the mid-1980s the European Community had grown to twelve members: France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Although it had produced a large number of directives and regulations, it was having problems in implementing them because the need for consensus made it difficult to move forward with the single market project.

In 1985, British Commissioner Arthur Cockfield produced a report making 300 recommendations on how the single market could be brought into being. These recommendations led to the signing of the Single European Act in February 1986, which became effective in July 1987.

The SEA swept away restrictive practices in a range of areas of private enterprise and the public sector, in order to reach the target of a full single market by 1992. It sought to improve democracy by strengthening the power of the Parliament to discuss new laws, and it gave the Parliament the power to veto the admission of new member states. The SEA made it easier for laws to be passed by the Council of Ministers by increasing the number of areas covered by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV). The Treaty also officially included the comitology procedure. Finally, it laid the tentative groundwork for the creation of common European Foreign, Justice and Home Affairs policies, which would emerge in the Maastricht Treaty (1992).

comitology – the art or science of resolving matters by means of committees.


‘In ten years, 80% of the laws on the economy and social policy will be passed at a European not the national level.’ – Jacques Delors, European Commission President, 1985-1995

The Community is now launching itself on a course for the 1990s, a course which must make it possible for Europe to compete on equal terms with the United States and Japan… What we need are strengths which we can only find together. We must be stronger in new technologies. We must have the full benefit of a single large market‘. – Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, 1986

We want a European Union; we want the United States of Europe.’ Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor, 1989

Maastricht Treaty – 7th February 1992

The treaty led to the creation of the euro, and created what was commonly referred to as the pillar structure of the European Union. The treaty established the three pillars of the European Union — the European Community (EC) pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) pillar, and the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) pillar. The first pillar was where the EU’s supra-national institutions — the Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice — had the most power and influence. The other two pillars were essentially more intergovernmental in nature with decisions being made by committees composed of member states’ politicians and officials.

The Maastricht Treaty served two purposes. It amended the provisions of the Treaty of Rome while significantly advancing the agenda set out under the Single European Act (SEA) in 1986, for deepening European Political Union (EPU). It created a new model for the Community based around three ‘pillars’ which, broadly speaking, covered economic relations, foreign affairs and home affairs. It also officially created the European Union (EU), which became the title to cover all the functions of the much-expanded European governmental structure. In addition, it began the process of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which would lead to the creation of the Euro. Coming at a time of political upheaval in Britain and across Europe, the Treaty was hugely controversial and has come to be seen as a central moment in the movement towards deeper European integration.


‘We’re not just here to make a single market, but a political union.’ – Jacques Delors, EU Commission President, 1993

‘Those in favour of the creation of a European state want to see all European co-operation channelled through the institutions established by the Treaty of Rome. We do not accept that model.‘ – Douglas Hurd, British Foreign Secretary, 1989-1995

‘The European Union Treaty… within a few years will lead to the creation of what the founding fathers of modern Europe dreamed of after the war, the United States of Europe.’ – Helmut Kohl, German Chancellor, 1992

Amsterdam Treaty – 2nd October 1997

The Treaty of Amsterdam (1997) was the third major amendment to the arrangements made under the Treaty of Rome (1957). It was largely an exercise in tying up the loose ends left over from the Maastricht Treaty (1992). However, in the ways in which it changed the operation of the Council of the European Union, absorbed the Schengen Convention and increased the role of the EU in home affairs, it pushed forward the model of asupranational European Union at the expense of intergovernmental co-operation.

The most symbolically important gesture of the Treaty of Amsterdam was the framework sketched out for the future accession of ten new member states. This projected an image of a Europe soon to be united across the old Iron Curtain. Yet it made many more immediate changes. It absorbed the Schengen Convention into EU law, creating open borders between twelve of the member states; expanded the role of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by creating a High Representative to take overall responsibility for EU foreign affairs, and extended the powers of Europol, the European police agency, on the understanding that both these powers were controlledintergovernmentally.

Most significantly however, it changed the way that decisions were made in the EU by expanding the number of decisions covered by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), including on some foreign policy issues. For the first time, it gave the Commission a say over the majority of Justice and Home Affairs, which had previously been in the hands of the European Council. It also created the idea of enhanced co-operation to allow some members to co-operate more closely on areas outside the remit of the EU treaties without unanimous agreement. At the same time, however, it recognised the idea of constructive abstention – whereby a member state could opt out of security or foreign affairs without preventing other countries from going ahead.


The success of this ever closer Union among the peoples of Europe depends, as we have seen, on its ability to meet citizens’ demands. However, it must also be based on common principles which must be reaffirmed. They inspire the common core which characterizes the Community‘ – Reflection Group Report, 1995

‘What disturbs people in Britain and many elsewhere is that they see a constant transfer of power in one direction only. They see all the footprints leading into the cave and none coming out… where does it end?’ – Malcolm Rifkind, British Foreign Secretary, 1997

Nice Treaty – 26th February 2001

The Treaty of Nice was agreed at the Nice European Council in December 2000. It represented a further attempt by the governments of the member states to find a workable means of moving forward the process of European integration, and to prepare for the coming enlargement of the EU to include ten new members. Negotiations were divided by the re-emergence of old arguments over the benefits of intergovernmental as opposed tosupranational models for the running of the EU. Nevertheless, the final document made significant changes to how the EU would be run in the future.

Much of the text of the Treaty was concerned with reforming the decision-making of the EU. It extended Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in the European Council and removed national vetoes from thirty-nine areas. It gave the power to elect the Commission President to the European Parliament and gave him the power to sack individual Commissioners.

Looking forward to enlargement, it set limits on the numbers of future Commissioners and MEPs, revised the voting powers of the member states in the European Council to give more weight to the largest states, and formalised the idea of enhanced co-operation first set out in the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Treaty strengthened the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by creating special representatives and the idea that the Council should be able to negotiate on behalf of all members at international meetings. Finally, in the ‘Declaration on the Future of the European Union’, it announced that another Intergovernmental Conference should be set up to write an EU constitution.


The present generation should lay the final brick in the edifice of Europe. This is our task and we ought to get down to it.‘ – Tony Blair, 2000

‘The European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the Court are our institutions. They provide the guarantees, the checks and balances without which nothing lasting will be built.’ – Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, 1999-2004

‘The EU is on the brink of becoming a European Federation by the year 2010… I feel sure that Britain will fall in line.‘ – Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister 1998-2005

Lisbon Treaty – 13th December 2007


The Treaty for the Establishment of a Constitution in Europe (commonly referred to as the EU Constitution) was written by a Convention that met from 2002. On 29 October 2004, the heads of the EU’s then 25 member states signed the Constitutional Treaty and started the ratification process.

The EU Constitution would have shifted the European power balance and changed its decision-making process. It was emphasised that the Constitution was intended to represent a treaty between co-operating states, not the formation of a ‘super-state’ – but this remained the primary concern of critics of the text. In June 2005, the French and Dutch electorates both rejected the Constitution in referenda, causing the project to stall.

Following the rejection of the 2004 draft Constitution, EU leaders supportive of a European Constitution (notably the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy) explored other means of introducing constitutional provisions. Developments culminated at the EU summit of June 2007 under the German Presidency of the European Council; constitutional issues were brought back onto the agenda and all 27 EU states agreed on a mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to draft a new ‘Reform Treaty’. A new Treaty was drafted and subsequently signed in Lisbon in December 2007 (therefore it is known as the Lisbon Treaty). With its aims to draw together resources and to harmonise policies, critics were concerned that the new Lisbon Treaty was simply a reformulation of the original, rejected, EU constitution.

However, the ‘constitutional project’ faced further problems. To come into force, the Treaty needed to be ratified by all EU member states, so when Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty in a referendum in June 2008 there was intense debate and speculation about the future of the Lisbon Treaty. The EU decided to take measures to encourage Ireland to ratify the Treaty: a number of ‘protocols’ were negotiated and added to the Treaty. Ireland then successfully ratified the Treaty following a second referendum in October 2009.

Before Germany ratified the Lisbon Treaty, the German Parliament passed new legislation to strengthen its role in implementing EU legislation to ensure that the EU could not ‘exceed the powers given to it’. The EU-sceptic President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus used delaying tactics as he vehemently opposed the Treaty. Nevertheless, the Czech Republic became the last member state to ratify the Treaty when President Klaus finally signed it on 3 November 2009. The Lisbon Treaty came into force in December 2009.

The Lisbon Treaty of 2007

The majority of innovations proposed in the original EU Constitution were carried over to the Lisbon Treaty. Some of the most significant included:

  • Centralised EU power
  • Granted the EU a legal personality
  • Created a new President and single Foreign Policy post
  • New powers for the European Parliament
  • Extended ECJ powers into Home Affairs
  • Made the Charter of Fundamental Rights (CFR) legally binding
  • New powers to harmonise national legal systems

Voting System

When membership of the EU rose to 27 nation states, it became impractical that the majority of decisions were made through unanimity. New methods of decision-making were needed, and the Lisbon Treaty changed voting in the Council of Ministers so that more decisions are now made by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV), rather than using unanimous voting. Decisions made through QMV must be approved by a ‘double majority’ – 55% EU member states (15 states), representing at least 65% of the EU’s population. Also, all decisions made using QMV are now subject to the co-decision procedure, so that Parliament and the Council of the EU must both vote. Majority voting was extended into over 40 new areas, controversially including certain external affairs (however Britain, Ireland and Denmark have opt-outs in the areas of justice and home affairs). The new voting system will be implemented from 2014.

Theoretically, the EU now functions with greater efficiency, by passing legislation more easily. However, the ability for individual nation states to prevent contentious legislation being passed and implemented has been reduced. It has been calculated that the extension of QMV cut Britain’s ability to prevent legislation that it opposes from being passed by 30%.

Presidential and Foreign Policy Posts

The Lisbon Treaty created the two new posts suggested in the original Constitutional Treaty. It created a permanent President of the European Council. The President has a mandate of two and a half years, and the occupant can’t be a serving Head of State. The first President, Belgium’s Herman Van Rompuy, was appointed in December 2009. There are fears that this President of the European Council could eventually be merged with the President of the Commission, creating a very powerful position.

The Lisbon Treaty also created a single foreign policy post merging the external relations commissioner and the high representative for foreign affairs posts into a single High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This post is currently held by Britain’s Baroness Catherine Ashton. She conducts foreign policy on behalf of the European Council, such as representing all member states at the UN.The High Representative for Foreign Affairs automatically gains membership to the European Commission, as a Vice President, but does not have the power to independently generate policy.

The failed Constitution’s contentious use of the term ‘Foreign Minister’ was abandoned in the Lisbon Treaty, in addition to symbols such as the flag and a national anthem that implied a supranational state.

Legal Personality

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU gained a legal personality. The Charter for Fundamental Rights was given full legal status and accepted by most member states as legally binding, although the UK and Poland have been granted ‘opt-outs’ from its implications (and the Czech Republic with also gain an opt-out at the next EU treaty change).

It is argued that the inclusion of the CFR helps develop the concept of EU citizenship. The UK in particular has its own legal traditions that might be undermined by the CFHR under the Lisbon Treaty, notably its Common Law system that differs from the Civil Law systems found across Europe.


Structural changes and new powers

The European Parliament has more rights under the Lisbon Treaty, placing it on an even level with the Council of Ministers regarding legislation. Furthermore, when the European Council nominates the President of the Commission, it must take consideration of the EU Parliament election results and the nomination must then be confirmed by an absolute majority vote in the Parliament.

The Lisbon Treaty had originally been intended to reduce the size of the Commission so that only two-thirds of EU members (18 states) would be represented by a Commissioner at any one time from 2014. However, negotiations following Ireland’s rejection of the Treaty in 2008 confirmed that all member states will keep their Commissioner unless National Leaders vote unanimously to not have one Commissioner per state.

The ECJ’s scope for activity was extended into new areas, allowing it full jurisdiction over Justice and Home Affairs for the first time. However, the UK secured an ability to opt-out of police cooperation and the option to opt-in to legislation relating to judicial issues, although it has been suggested any opt-outs could be undermined by the extended jurisdiction of the ECJ.

The Lisbon Treaty abolished the EU’s pillar structure, which was introduced under the Maastricht Treaty. As a result, decisions on Justice and Home Affairs policy are now subject to the co-decision procedure and QMV. Foreign policy decisions, however, are decided unanimously. Member states lost the right to veto in a number of policy areas. However, national parliaments were given the opportunity to raise a ‘yellow card’ or ‘orange card’ when they think that the principle of subsidiarity is not being respected.

The Lisbon Treaty defined the distribution of competences between the EU and the member states, stating in which areas the EU is solely responsible and in which areas competences are shared with member states. Competences that were not explicitly given to the EU remain with the member states.

Lastly, for the first time, the Lisbon Treaty set out an exit clause allowing member states to withdraw from the EU.

In December 2010, member states voted for a narrow revision to the Lisbon Treaty. This will allow the EU to create a new permanent crisis mechanism for the Eurozone, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which will succeed the temporary European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) in 2013.


What you cannot do is have a situation where you get a rejection of the treaty and bring it back with a few amendments and say, “Have another go”. You cannot do that‘. – Tony Blair, 2004

The fundamentals of the Constitution have been maintained in large part.‘ Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, 2007

There is no constitutional change that would justify holding a referendum‘ – Peter Mandelson, European Trade Commissioner, 2007

A few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans.’ – Wolfgang Schaueble, German Interior Minister, 2008

The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution.’ – Jose Barroso, European Commission President, 2008

Schengen Agreement – 14th June 1985

The Schengen Area is a group of 26 European countries which have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders. It functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The Area is named after the town of Schengen in Luxembourg where the Schengen Agreement, which led to the Area’s creation, was signed. Joining Schengen entails eliminating internal border controls with the other Schengen members, while simultaneously strengthening external border controls with non-Schengen states.

Twenty-two EU member states and four EFTA member states participate in the Schengen Area. Of the five EU members which do not form part of the Schengen Area three – Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania – are legally obliged to join the area, while the other two – Ireland and the United Kingdom – maintain opt-outs.

Four non-EU members – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – participate in the Schengen Area while three European microstates – Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican – can be considered as de facto part of the Schengen Area as they do not have border controls with the Schengen countries which surround them. The area currently covers a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).

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