AN INTRODUCTION TO EUROPEAN UNION LAW

Updated: Aug 10

In this article we talk about the EU its history, background and development plans, for example the reasons for the establishment of the European Union and its subsequent expansion. A brief explanation of how the European Convention on Human Rights is different from the treaties that created the European Union. A discussion on the scope of the Lisbon Treaty reforms and citation of European Union legislation.


THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) AIMS TO UNITE EUROPE


To replace the old rivalries by combining their primary interests to establish "... a foundation for a larger and more encompassing community of people long separated by bloody wars". Preface to the 1951 Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community.


This article examines the legal framework that governs the European Communities. It was established in the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and as the Court of Justice has interpreted it. Different forms are part of European law (particularly that of the European Convention of Human Rights) that result from different initiatives, which can be better identified through reference to these initiatives. This article offers a brief overview of the different sources,


Although there was hope in the past for a united and peaceful Europe, it wasn't until after the Second World War that it could be a reality. The war brought devastating effects on the entire continent of Europe (as we've observed in the case of Ukraine). Many believed that cooperation was the only way to repair its political and physical infrastructure and forge an unbreakable future free of past conflicts. Not only was Europe compelled to invest in its future; the United States had a substantial stake in a stable and tranquil Europe, and not least, to defend itself against the dangers of Communism and an imposing expansion of the Soviet Union. On March 12th, 1947, President Truman requested funds to aid Greece and Turkey in an address to Congress. He stated:


“It should be official policy in the United States to help people who stand up to armed or outside pressure stop trying to subjugate minorities”.


It was only natural to apply the Truman Doctrine by extending the loan programme to all of Western Europe (with the added benefit of providing a marketplace for the growing US economy). In an address to Harvard University in 1947, George Marshall, Secretary of State, presented his European Recovery Programme "to achieve a common programme of recovery and establish a permanent organisation to that effect."


The Marshall Plan was important because it encouraged European countries to work together to share their wealth and, most importantly, to get rid of trade barriers that were getting in the way as time went on.


The Soviet Union and its satellites remained uninterested in the Marshall Plan. Still, Britain and France encouraged the rest of Europe to develop a development plan under the auspices of the Committee on European Economic Cooperation. This was told to Washington, and on April 16, 1948, the Convention on European Economic Cooperation was set up to help.


The time saw the blossoming of pan-European organizations. In the New Year's address delivered in 1948, Ernest Bevin put forward concepts to consolidate Western Europe in the face of the growing crisis in the Aegean. The idea included Britain, France, and the Benelux countries as the foundation of a western European cooperating network. The time was short for what was described as "ambitious plans for European unity." However, it did lead to the Brussels Treaty being signed in March 1948 between these countries. As an old defensive alliance, it did establish a consultative council that included five foreign ministers that could be convened upon request by any member. The states formed the Western European Union in 1955 to broadly ensure collective defence and economic and social cooperation. Western Germany and Italy likewise joined. The creation of NATO and the transfer of its economic and social responsibilities to the Council of Europe made this union less critical. Before the Maastricht Treaty, it didn't have much of an effect. But that changed when it became the second pillar of the European Union (the standard defence policy).


In addition to these official government actions, pressure groups and public opinion spoke out in support of the idea of a more radical view of European unity. For instance, the United Europe Committee argued for creating a "democratic federation of Europe" with the creation of a Constituent Assembly. Winston Churchill, speaking at Zurich University in September 1946, was referring to the 'United States of Europe' (although significant, he believed that there was a purely supporting role in that of the UK due to its active role in the world). He was the chairperson of his first Congress of Europe in 1948 in The Hague, comprising non-governmental federalists. They demanded the unification of Europe with the creation of a European Assembly and a Court of Human Rights. On May 5, 1949, in London, participants at this summit signed the Statute that established the Council of Europe. It became effective on August 3, 1949. This was due to how people were feeling at the moment.


The Council of Europe (HQ Strasbourg) comprised several democratically elected governments that could ensure the protection of human rights. It expanded from its initial ten members to its current 47 (including most eastern European states and other states like Azerbaijan). Its job was to bring people together in Europe, protect human rights, and create the idea of European culture. The Council of Europe created the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) (adopted on November 4, 1950, and was in force in 1953) following Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe. It comprised two bodies: the European Commission for Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, which was initially open to states and individuals. However, they were combined in 1998. Since then, the Council of Europe has reached additional accords. The European Social Charter, adopted in 1961, could be the most significant.


The Council of Europe has no part in the European Union, whose laws EU law is a part of. The Court of Justice (Luxembourg) made human rights part of its "General Principles" so that only one court could decide on legal matters in Europe. This was done to ensure that only one court had the power to decide on European legal matters. The Council of Europe and its creations, the ECHR and the European Judiciary of Human Rights (ECtHR), must not be confused with the EU, the treaties that founded the EU, and the Court of Justice (CJ), which is the Union's court. The treaties that govern the EU were established, as was the Court of Justice (CJ), the only court within the Union. The Council of Europe is an entirely distinct organisation, not part of the EU. The ECHR is an entirely separate treaty, not part of the treaties that establish the EU. The ECtHR is an entirely separate judiciary from the CJ.


There were various other attempts to connect states using economic measures. In the end, the Benelux countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) signed an agreement on customs on September 5, 1944, to eliminate trade barriers within their borders. The agreement went into effect in 1948, and all trade barriers were gone by 1956. It worked, and the Treaty of the Benelux Economic Union (signed on February 3, 1958, and in effect on November 1, 1960) was extended. It also created a powerful economic union between these nations that allowed the free transport of goods, workers' capital, services, and goods that mirrored those of the EEC itself. The EEC also included a ministerial committee and a court. By the year 1980, there were no border restrictions between the states. This resulted in a growth of 50% in trade.


TREATIES THAT FOUNDED THE EUROPEAN UNION


We are currently talking about “the European Union, but that "union" has undergone several changes since its inception after the Second World War. It's primarily derived from the Schuman Plan, which the current European Union developed. Fears of a resurgent Germany prompted France to attempt two customs unions with Italy and the United Kingdom. The failure of these plans caused France to completely change the way it usually dealt with Germany by accepting it as a cooperative partner.


The Schuman Plan envisaged the merging of the production of what at the time were two essentials for wartime coal and steel to make sure they wouldn't be used to promote war. To ensure this, it was suggested that the management of these two sectors of the economy would be handed to an independent international body, called the High Authority, comprising individuals who were not government officials; however, they were given the authority to set prices and make sure that competition rules were followed. The Schuman experiment in economic cooperation was the removal of these crucial industrial sectors during the war from governments of the nation to create a more substantial basis for peace and stability throughout Europe.


The original plan, which French politician Jean Monnet and French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman supported, called for only France and Germany to sign the agreement. Schuman extended an invitation to the rest of Western Europe. At the conference that followed (1950), France, Germany, Italy, and Benelux nations came up with the treaty draught (1951), which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The Treaty creating the ECSC was signed in Paris on the 18th of April 1951 (coming into force on the 25th of July 1952).


The Treaty of Paris was the first Treaty which led to the creation of the current EU. The ECSC existed for 50 years and ended at the end of July. In 1954, all trade barriers to steel and coal were removed. Trade has increased. It was reported that the High Authority had established a common pricing policy and production limits, which allowed for the rationalisation of production. The Treaty also set out to establish a united Europe.


The ECSC Treaty set up the Schuman Plan's institutions to run the Community and achieve these goals. Together with being the High Authority, there was a Council of Ministers, a representative of the states of the ECSC, an Assembly, and a Court of Justice to review the legality of acts that the High Authority passed. With this structure, the ECSC could have a degree of separation from the member states. This was unique in the context of an organisation created through an agreement between nations. This independence was achieved by transferring sovereign rights from the Member States to the institutions of the ECSC.


The following and most significant change within the development of the EU was in 1957 when the six states signed a treaty that established the European Economic Community (EEC), which is often called the Treaty of Rome after the city where it was made. Also signed was the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Each of these communities was provided, just like the ECSC, with an independent institution, with the sovereign power transferred to the Member States and an Assembly and the ECJ being the only institution shared by the three. Both treaties came into force in 1958.


Each of these communities offered a means of collaboration with an important component of the European economy. The ECSC and Euratom included cooperation in key, however, specific industries - the steel and coal industries and the nuclear energy industry. The EEC was a greater scope of the area of focus. Its goal was to connect the economies of six Member States initially by becoming a customs union and eventually an open market. Then, in the last few years, the whole Economic and Monetary Union has been the primary goal of a group that has grown to include 27 Member States.


The EU was created in 1993 due to the Treaty of the European Union (TEU), also called the Maastricht Treaty, signed the prior year. The EEC was later changed in 1993 to the European Community (EC). The EU encompasses all European communities that, in the past, had been created with Euratom, the EC, Euratom, and the ECSC. It facilitated economic cooperation that could be developed towards the Economic and Monetary Union. It also aspired to broaden the reach of intergovernmental cooperation beyond its primary focus on economics. This process dates back to Maastricht, when the EEC was transformed into the EC. This broadening was facilitated by three "pillars' that the EU that was established by the TEU:

  • Pillar I was constituted by the EC, Euratom and, originally, the ECSC (the coal and steel industries now coming within the regime set up by the EC Treaty upon the expiry of the ECSC in July 2002).

  • Pillar II is achieved through collaboration on a common foreign and security policy.

  • Pillar III: Cooperation Between the Police and the Judiciary in Criminal Matters. (Note that this pillar was originally called Justice and Home Affairs. But large parts of Justice and Home Affairs were moved to Pillar I. As a result, Pillar III's focus was narrowed, reflected in its new name.)


Above three pillars up to last year formed the EU. Following the Lisbon Treaty, the three-pillar structure was replaced by one unifying collection comprising EU law. The four treaties, which are the ECSC Treaty, the Euratom Treaty, the EC Treaty, and the TEU, are the founding agreements that comprise the EU. The member states that are part of the EU have also signed other treaties, which have altered the founding treaties.


THE AMENDING TREATIES


The first amending Treaty to be amended was the Merger Treaty, signed in Brussels in 1965. It came into effect in the year 1967. In the Treaty, those institutions from the in existence three European communities (the ECSC, EEC and Euratom) were combined into a single Commission together with a Council of Ministers and the already existing shared Assembly and the Court of Justice.


The Single European Act (SEA), which Luxembourg and The Hague governments signed, made much more extensive amendments to treaties in force than Merger Treaty. It expanded the scope of (then) EEC competence, allowed for institutional and democratic changes to make communities more efficient and accountable and laid the groundwork for establishing the market inside. The Assembly was officially changed to the European Parliament (EP), and the Court of First Instance (CFI) was founded. The SEA was officially signed in 1986 and became effective in the following year.


The Treaty of Amsterdam (ToA) was signed in 1997. It was primarily a consolidating treaty to improve decision-making procedures and make the current treaty framework more understandable. The most visible component of this procedure was the renumbering of the EC Treaty and the TEU. Because of the Treaty of Lisbon, these numerals have been renumbered. In 2001, the Treaty of Nice (ToN) was signed. The ToN entered into force in 2003, intending to pave the basis for the EU's significant expansion with the accession of ten additional Member States, predominantly from Eastern and Central Europe, which occurred in May 2004.


THE ACCESSION TREATIES


The accession treaties are the agreements through which new Member States join the Union and its communities. Since France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg founded the three founding communities, the ECSC, the EC, and Euratom, the following nations have also joined:

  • UK, Ireland and Denmark in 1973;

  • Greece in 1981;

  • Spain and Portugal in 1986;

  • Austria, Sweden and Finland in 1995; and

  • The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, Cyprus and Malta in 2004.

  • Bulgaria and Romania in January 2007

There are now 27 countries that make up the European Union. In gaining accession, the candidate nation must develop its legal, economic, and political system to one that can be integrated with the current Member States. The process will continue following the accession. It is expected to get into a situation on joining in adopting its acquis Communautaire, which is the body of general obligations in EU law. Every Member State has to accept it until arrangements for a transitional time are created.


European Union Timeline

THE LISBON TREATY


The arrangement of the EU seems a bit complicated and cumbersome; this could be because of it. As we've seen, what makes up the EU currently is the result of a series of intricate international agreements among its Member States, which sometimes abruptly, but sometimes slowly and incrementally, add to, change, and remove different aspects of the framework that currently exists within the framework that is the EU.


One of the Lisbon Treaty's goals was to unite the three components that comprise the EU into a single entity with more straightforward and more transparent decision-making processes. The Treaty did not intend to change how the EU functions, its institutional structure, or the jurisdictions in which the EU can act.


Euratom is a distinct entity. However, in other respects, the past treaties have been replaced by the Lisbon Treaty. The Charter of Fundamental Rights is an important part of this. It lists the rights and fundamental principles that the EU and its members should follow when making or enforcing European law. Under Lisbon, the EU has been able to share power, or competencies, as they are referred to, is divided between members of the Member States and the EU. The fundamental principles, like proportionality and subsidiarity, that determine the power exercised by the EU and the kinds of actions that it can exercise power are clarified, consolidated and simplified. Similar rationalisations are carried out concerning the institution's framework. The European Council is constituted as a full entity with a permanent President, and the job of the European Foreign Minister is created explicitly under the Treaty. The EP's membership is capped at 750 members, and the Commission (currently made up of one Commissioner from each Member State) will be lowered to two-thirds of that number.


The provision is made to increase the influence of national parliaments when creating EU law. Other modifications include redefinition and expansion of the current qualifying majority system of voting used in the Council and the general use of the co-decision method used between EP and the Council. When it comes to creating EU legislation, this is known as the "ordinary legislative procedure in the Treaty (qualified majority voting and co-decision procedures are explained in greater detail in a different article). In more controversial areas, such as defence, greater cooperation is encouraged. However, the cooperation processes remain fundamentally in the control of the Member States.


AN EVER-CLOSER UNION


The main goal of European cooperation has been to reach specific economic goals that are getting harder and harder to reach. This is evident in the very first European Treaty, the ECSC Treaty. But the line that begins this article from the preamble to the Treaty implies that there was always an expectation. In the case of those involved in that European project, the goal was to achieve more than an "integrated" European economy. Economic cooperation is a way to build an even larger and more encompassing community.


The commitment to this is evident repeatedly in subsequent treaties. The EC Treaty starts with "determined to establish the foundations of a more unified Europe...". The TEU is described as "marking a new stage in European integration." Recently, it was revealed that the Constitution of Europe referred to the citizens of Europe as being "united ever more closely" in pursuing "a common destiny".


Of course, what "ever closer union" means depends on the viewer's eyes, and the idea is in the primary contest. Certain people favour more and more cooperation in defence, foreign affairs, and social policy, creating a federal Europe with solid supranational institutions. On the other hand, there is a debate between those who would rather keep working together to achieve clearly defined economic goals and those who worry that the EU is becoming too powerful on its own... This is one of the most significant flaws in the history of the EU. We can see how it changed things by looking at what happened after the Treaty that set up a Constitution for Europe and before the Lisbon Treaty took its place.


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