English Legal System - The Evolution of the EU and Principal Institutions (Part 1)

The European Communities

At the end of the Second World War much of Europe was devastated by the effects of war, and shocked at the horrors revealed by it. The costs in terms of human life and the depletion of natural resources were enormous. The overwhelming consensus was that a war like that should never be experienced again.

Winston Churchill in 1946 wanted to ‘build a kind of United States of Europe’.
A plan was proposed by the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman that would place Europe’s coal and steel industries, ‘the armourers of nations’ under the control of a high authority.

Thus the seed of countries within Europe working together was founded. In 1951 the Treaty creating the European Coal and Steel Communities (ECSC), known at the Treaty of Paris, and came into force the following year once ratified by the founding states.

In 1957 further developments lead to the creation of two new communities, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) through the Treaty of Rome. There were six original member states and this number has increased over the years, and more countries are set to join in the future.

The three communities continued to grow and exist separately in accordance with each of their founding treaties. Eventually the three communities became known collectively as the European Community. This was eventually achieved through the Treaty of the European Union (the Maastricht treaty). This Treaty also renamed the EEC Treaty, (Treaty of Rome) the EC Treaty.

Purpose of the European Community

Art. 2 of the EC Treaty states ‘by establishing a common market and monetary union…to promote throughout the Community a harmonious and well balanced development of economic activities, sustainable and non-inflationary growth…. a high degree of convergence of economic performance, a high level of employment and social protection, the raising of the standard of living and the quality of life, and economic and social cohesion and solidarity among members’

Art. 3 shows how the ambit of the EC has widened considerably since its conception and includes ‘a policy in the social sphere..a policy in the sphere of the environment…a contribution to the attainment of health protection…a contribution to education and training of quality and to the flowering of cultures of Member States’.

The Maastricht Treaty

The Maastricht Treaty created the European Union, which consists of three pillars,

Pillar One - The European Communities

Pillar Two - Common, Foreign and Security Policies
Pillar Three - Co- Operation in the Fields of Justice and Home Affairs

The Institutions

Originally each community comprised of its own institutions, but a series of mergers lead to the creation of what are is now recognised as the institutional framework of the EC.

Institutions of the European Communities

The Council of Ministers

The Council is the most powerful body in Europe representing the interest of individual Member States.
It plays an important role in passing of legislation. It consists of political representatives of each Member State. Each minister is authorised to commit the Government of the Member State to which she/he belongs to a particular policy or decision. 

 There are no permanent representatives as their identity is determined according to the subject matter under discussion – different subject matters have different representatives. Presidency of the Council rotates among the Member States every six (6) months. The national governments have the main control over their representative ministers attending the Council, but the European Council may also question the Council.
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