The history of European integration can be traced back to 1306, and the idea proposed by Pierre Dubois that European princes should form an assembly in order to attempt to secure a lasting European peace.
706 years later, much of the continent is tied, to some degree, to the European Union evidenced by Greece’s recent signing of the New Deal. How did this come to pass?
The foundations of the European Union lie in the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) following the basis for the rationalisation of Europe’s steel industry outlined by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman in 1950. For the first time, member states of the ECSC would be brought together under a supranational political authority. The ECSC was eventually ratified when France, Italy, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and West Germany signed the Treaty of Paris in 1951.
Further attempts by the French government to widen the political integration of Europe, however, were met with opposition as plans for a European Defence Community (EDC) and a European Political Community were shelved in 1954, with European collective security organised through NATO instead.
However, despite this defeat, 1957 saw the organisation of the Treaty of Rome between member states of the ECSC, which led to the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC) and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) following the recommendations of the Spaak Report.
The Treaty of Rome served for the basis of the widening of political integration. By 1967, the ECSC, EEC and Euratom were merged to create the European Communities – later named the European Community (EC) – after the Merger Treaty in Brussels. However there were also increasing intimations regarding the possibility of a European-wide monetary integration, which were influenced by fears over the stability of international finance and the need for Europe to secure its monetary future.
The 1970s and ‘80s saw the increasing influence of the EC and the common market in the European political and economic landscape, seeing its membership increase in 1973 with Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Following further enlargements to the ranks of the EC, the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1992, paving the way for the establishment of the European Union (EU) and led to the establishment of a single European currency – the Euro – presided over by the European Central Bank. Further amendments to the Maastricht Treaty came in the form the Amsterdam (1999), Nice (2003) and Lisbon Treaties (2009) in which adjustments were made to the functioning and democratic legitimacy of the EU, accommodating Eastward expansion and enhancing individual citizenship rights.
Contemporary debate concerning the European Union is concerned with the stability of the Eurozone’s monetary integrity, specifically the health of European banks and European budget deficits. It is increasingly widely acknowledged that in order to ensure the long-term health of the Eurozone and its banks, further European integration should take place in the form of a European banking union. The aim behind a banking union is to oversee a co-ordinated supervision and regulation of European banks and ensure that good financial practises are followed. The talks regarding this next stage of European integration are poised to begin in Brussels this December.