Choose language: EnglishFrenchΕλληνικά
Search       OK
Previous  -  Back to contents  -  Next

3.1.  From European Community to European Union

    The fact that European integration is an ongoing and ever-changing process [see section 1.1.2] is best illustrated by the changing name or names of the multinational organisation(s), which personify it. In 1951, was born the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1957, this first ''Community'' was joined by the European Economic Community and by the European Atomic Energy Community [see section 2.1]. We spoke then about ''the Communities'' and usually about ''the Community'' understanding by that name the main European Economic Community and the sectoral Communities attached to it. Many adjectives were developed in the second half of the twentieth century to characterise the activities of the Community, such as ''Community'' method, ''Community'' policies, ''Community'' law, ''acquis communautaire'' and so on.

    In December 1991, the treaty of Maastricht renamed the European Economic Community as ''European Community'' and superposed on it the ''European Union'' [see section 1.2 and chapter 2]. At the same time was created the image of the three "pillars" of the European Union, the first being the European Community (EC), the second the common foreign and security policy (CFSP) and the third justice and home affairs (JHA). I have always disapproved of the image of the EU as three pillars, because it minimised the place of the Community, which was preponderant, since it contained all the common policies instituted in the framework of the three original Treaties and all the legislation adopted on their bases since 1952.

    I maintained (and still do) that the European Union should be visualised as an on-going construction. In this image, the European Community originally constituted the main edifice, solid and functional, thanks to the existence within it of a great number of common policies, which were at various stages of development. Next to it, the JHA and especially the CFSP were still at the stage of foundations and had to be built by the method of ''intergovernmental cooperation'' provided by the treaty on the European Union, instead of the well established ''Community method'' provided by the treaty on the establishment of the European Community. The inefficiency of the intergovernmental cooperation was soon recognized and the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam transferred into the Community edifice many subjects, which were originally under the JHA wing. In this wing, intergovernmental cooperation was then confined to police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. Finally, the Treaty of Lisbon extended the ''Community method'', renamed as ''ordinary legislative procedure'' to virtually all aspects of the field of justice and home affairs, named area of freedom, security and justice (FSJ), thus abolishing the so-called third pillar of the Union [see section 8.1.2]. Moreover, it abolished the so-called ''first pillar'' of the Union, since it merged the European Community with the European Union.

    A closer look at the metaphorical image of the European construction shows that the edifice of the European Union is divided horizontally in floors. The floor of the common market was built on the basement of the customs union. Apart from the four fundamental freedoms (free movement of goods, persons, services and capital), the common market floor consists of numerous horizontal and vertical compartments, which contain the common policies that constitute the bulk of this book. The compartments of coal, steel and nuclear energy, built with the Community method provided by the ECSC and Euratom Treaties, are also found on these first floors of the Community edifice. The ECSC treaty expired in July 2002 and its contents were absorbed in the European Community treaty and now the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. The EAEC (Euratom) treaty still remains aside the EU treaty and the treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

    The floor of economic and monetary union (EMU) is built above the floor of the common market. The Maastricht treaty establishing the European Community has drawn the architectural plans and the "memorandum of understanding" that the builders (European institutions and Member States) need to respect in order to succeed in the construction of the EMU. Some of the contractors (Member States), who have advanced faster than others, find themselves already in this floor of the European edifice, which shelters the single currency, and have started setting up common policies inside it. The others, i.e. the Member States with derogation will continue to work inside the lower floors, until the time that they are ready and/or willing to join the pioneers in the EMU floor of the European edifice.

    With the putting into effect of the Treaty of Maastricht (TEU), on November 1, 1993, construction work started on the wings of the CFSP and the JHA [see chapter 8]. The architects are the same - the heads of States or Governments meeting within the European Council. The principal craftsmen are also the same - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. The working methods for building these new wings, namely the decision-making process, differed at the outset from those used to build the main edifice, since they were closer to intergovernmental cooperation rather than to the Community decision-making process [see sections 4.3 and 8.2.1]. The Treaty of Amsterdam, however, has brought inside the European edifice the larger part of the JHA wing and the treaty of Lisbon demolished this wing and transferred all work done or to be done concerning freedom, security and justice (FSJ) at the top floor of the European edifice, that of political union [see section 8.1]. Hence, fundamentally only the wing of the CFSP is still being built with the very slow method of intergovernmental cooperation and should be seen as an annex of the main edifice, until that time as its contents are transferred to the top floor of the European edifice.

    As of the coming into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the 1st December 2009, the European Community seized to exist and legal personality was bestowed to the European Union alone, thus ending the confusion between the ''Community'' and the ''Union'' [see section 2.5]. It is correct to speak about the "Community" in respect of everything that happened and that was built up until the 1st November 1993, when the "European Union" came into being. It is even correct to speak about the "Community" for measures taken after that date by following the Community procedure on the basis of the EC Treaty (but also the ECSC and EAEC Treaties). As of December 2009, however, the term ''European Union'' should cover all the activities under way inside the European edifice and the adjective ''European'' should replace the formerly widely used ''Community'' adjective as a characteristic of all these activities.

    Previous  -  Back to contents  -  Next

    Your roadmap in the maze of the European Union.

    Based on the book of Nicholas Moussis:
    Access to European Union law, economics, policies

    Translated into 14 languages

    About this book

    Where to buy

    Order form

    Books by the same author

    (C) 2011. Powered by Keystone 5 - Upgraded & supported by Yawd web applications & online invoicing services. Original design by Terasoft.