The most important documents of the European Union

The European Union is - in spite of the difficulties and problems - one of the biggest successes in the history of Europe, in terms of collaborating with each other in the name of peace and living together successfully. However, in "today's Europe" it doesn't occur to most of the European citizens that the European Union, as the old English saying goes "wasn't built in a day", but was rather a long progress, which started about 50 years ago in Rome and unlike today's European Union with its 27, soon to be 28, member states only comprised 6. The leaders of the six founding states of the European Economics Community (EEC) might never have thought that their work will be the heart of Europe half a century later. The fact that, back in 1957, only six countries were labelled "European" whereas today 27 are shows how fast the idea, which today we call European thinking, spread.

In order to understand the most important documents of the European Union, and what and why they contain, we have to go back in history (Or to put it better "into the past, which becomes history itself").

As the title of the treaty of the EEC suggests: "Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community" (ESCS) the original idea differed in many ways from the social, cultural and economical community which today we call the European Union. The original idea was nothing more than to create collaboration between six countries which were all struggling after the Second World War. The first treaties only focused on basic needs which had to be controlled such as coal, steel, nuclear energy, a monetary union and maybe most importantly agriculture. There has never before been a treaty which agreed on common agriculture policy and, I dare say, the European Union would have never got that far, if the collaboration in this sphere wouldn't have been so well synchronised.

The collaboration of the member states would have been understandable by "we love and respect each other" until a certain level. But the advantages of this treaty were clearly that it not only carried a certain careful individualism after the war, but it also carried the necessary force to urge the member states to collaborate in agricultural spheres after the war. The treaty also established the European Union's institutions and bodies, and created the Court of Justice of the European Communities, The Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament. These institutions embody self development, synchronisation and consultation.

With this basic knowledge about the Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community we can underline that the treaty had a double effect on the member states, calling the European Institutions into life and deciding on common policies in certain political debates. That the system worked very well can be shown, as for a long time it was left without any changes, even when the number of the member states was almost doubled. But soon after the number of the member states doubled itself, everyone knew that the old system has been worn out, and it had to be totally renewed. This happened with the Treaty of Maastricht, which had one of the biggest transformational effects on the European Union and which was continued by the Treaty of Amsterdam and completed by the Treaty of Nizza. Most European citizens of today don't even know about this progress, and live with their advantages and disadvantages without even realizing it.

The European Union was established, and with it a system called "three pillars" which provided space for the new art of decision making and the so-called democratic deficit. Also the common policies changed to allow the bodies to work more closely with a common policy in such spheres as the environment and nature protection and consumer protection, which were not strictly agricultural, but necessary to the fast-growing and developing Union.

Here we have to mention the Treaty of Schengen, which is within the context of the European Union but clearly with another goal, that of easing of the borders. This project shows a certain openness, as not only the member states, but also Switzerland signed this treaty.

However, this new "unstoppable expanding power" of the European Union seemed to fade away in 2006 with the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty. Today, around the end of October 2009, another colossal document of the European Union is getting ready to be signed. The Treaty of Lisbon has already been signed by 26 out of 27 member states and we hope that the European integration will soon reach a new level and the European Union get the new "operating system" which is required in order to function well in the XXI century. The treaty of Lisbon not only hones and improves but also changes the charges of the bodies. Legislation will be changed dramatically as the European Union will be equal with the Council of Europe and they will get interest in specific spheres of politics, such as agriculture and fishing. From 2014 on, the calculation of a qualified majority will be based on the double majority of Member States and people, thus representing the dual legitimacy of the Union. A double majority will be achieved when a decision is taken by 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the Union's population. The Treaty of Lisbon improves the EU's ability to act in several policy areas of major priority for today's Union and its citizens. This is the case in particular for the policy areas of freedom, security and justice, such as combating terrorism or tackling crime. It also concerns to some extent other areas including energy policy, public health, civil protection, climate change, services of general interest, research, space, territorial cohesion, commercial policy, humanitarian aid, sport, tourism and administrative co-operation to promote Europe's economic, humanitarian, political and diplomatic strengths. Also, there will be a high representative called "Minister of Foreign affairs". There will also be the possibility for member states to leave the European Union.

Péter Dévényi