The European Young Dream
Last Sunday, all over Europe, the 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome was celebrated. The Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC) and was signed by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The purpose of this Treaty was to establish a customs union among the six founding members, based on the “four freedoms”: freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people. At the same time, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) was also created, to poll the non-military nuclear resources of the states. In that day, the cornerstone of today’s European Union was launched. And nothing remained the same in this old continent. But the road was long and winding, and many episodes are worth to be told.
In January 1960, Britain and other OEEC members who didn't belong to the EEC formed an alternative association, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). But Britain soon realised that the EEC was more successful than the EFTA and decided to apply for membership. Ireland and Denmark, both of whom being heavily reliant on British trade, decided they would go wherever Britain went, and hence also applied to join the Community. Norway also applied at this time. The first application occurred in August 1961. Negotiations started in November 1961 and a provisional agreement was reached in July 1962. However, Britain's membership was vetoed by French president Charles De Gaulle in January 1963. The second application occurred in January 1966. Negotiations started on May 1967 with the four countries but De Gaulle once again used his veto in September 1967. The third and last application occurred after De Gaulle resigned in 1969 and was replaced by Georges Pompidou. In October 1969, the European Commission asked for new negotiations concerning the applications of the four countries. In November 1969, during a meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Community, French minister Maurice Schumann declared that France would agree to Britain's membership if questions of agricultural finance were settled first. Negotiations started in June 1970. Britain agreed to the conditions of the EC: Britain had to accept the Merger Treaty and all decisions taken since the second application, and resolve its problem of adaptation, i.e. conflicts between the EC and the Commonwealth. Finally, Britain joined successfully on January 1, 1973. In 1972, Ireland, Denmark and Norway held referenda on whether to join. Following the rejection by the Norwegian electorate, Norway did not join. Greece submitted its membership application in June 1975 and joined on January 1, 1981. In 1985, Denmark's territory Greenland left the union following home rule and a referendum. Portugal submitted its application in March 1977 and Spain in July 1977. On 1 January 1986, Spain and Portugal joined the union together. In February 1986, the Single European Act, the first major revision of the Treaty of Rome, was signed in Luxembourg. Its goal was to remove remaining barriers between countries, increase harmonization, thus increasing the competitiveness of European countries. It reformed/refined the operating procedures of the institutions and Qualified Majority Voting was extended to new areas. An aim of a single market by 1992 was set. The act also formally introduced the concept of the European Political Cooperation which was the forerunner of the European Union's later Common Foreign and Security Policy. In 1992, the Maastricht treaty was signed, which at the same time modified the Treaty of Rome. It established the European Union, turning the European Communities into the EU's so-called "first-pillar", and adding two further pillars of cooperation, on Common Foreign and Security Policy and on Justice and Home Affairs. At the same time it established Economic and Monetary Union as a formal objective. The Maastricht treaty came into force in 1993. In June 1993, the Copenhagen criteria were drawn and established. They are the rules that define whether a nation is eligible to join the European Union. The Criteria require that an applicant state have the institutions to forward and preserve democratic governance, human rights, a functioning coordinated market economy, and accept the obligations and intent of the EU. The European Economic Area was founded in 1994 in order to allow EFTA countries to participate in the Single Market without having to join the EU. Austria, Sweden and Finland were admitted on January 1, 1995. As the referendum in Norway was 52.2% against joining, the proposal by the Norwegian government to join was rejected for the second time. With the departure of Austria, Sweden and Finland to the EU, only Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein remain members of the EFTA. In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam was signed, which updated the Maastricht treaty and aimed to make the EU more democratic. In January 1999, eleven countries (Austria, the Benelux countries, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain) agreed to join the euro and abandon their existing currencies. Greece joined two years later, in January 2001, bringing the members of the eurozone to twelve. On January 1, 2002, Euro notes and coins entered circulation. The European Commission's Strategic Report of October 9, 2002 recommended 10 candidate members for inclusion in the EU in 2004: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. Their combined population is roughly 75 million. While the EU has enlarged several times in the past, never before had an enlargement round included so many countries and with such strikingly different levels of economic and domestic political development, not to mention different historical and cultural backgrounds. Many of the candidates had only just begun building democracies and had not finalised their transition to a market economy. Culturally and linguistically, this enlargement greatly increased the number of languages spoken within the EU, reflecting the increased cultural heterogeneity and level of diversity in the EU. This could therefore be called one of the most ambitious enlargements of the European Union yet. On the side of the European Union it was partly motivated by a desire to reunite Europe after the end of the Cold War, and an effort to tie Eastern Europe firmly to the West in order to prevent it falling again into communism or dictatorship. After negotiations between the candidates and the member states, the final decision to invite these nations to join was announced on December 13, 2002 in Copenhagen, with the European Parliament voting in favour of this on April 9, 2003. On April 16, 2003 the Treaty of Accession was signed by the 10 new members and the 15 old ones in Athens. Finally, Bulgaria and Romania completed negotiation talks on December 14, 2004 and joined the Union on January 1, 2007.
50 years after, I was part of the group of young people who gathered in Rome, at the very same building where once the Treaty was signed, “to pay tribute and continue the vision of those who made it possible for us to grow up in an environment of peace and prosperity, democracy and rule of law” (Rome Youth Declaration). Young people from 27 different countries, speaking 23 different languages, coming from diverse cultural, economic, political and religious backgrounds, who share a simple dream: a more democratic and inclusive Europe, for a better World.