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The Maastricht Treaty is the main treaty of the European Union. It was originally known as the TEU Treaty on European Union. This agreement was signed in Maastricht, the Netherlands on February 7, 1992. Members of the European Community debated it in their individual countries and then signed it. The treaty came about as an effort to fully integrate Europe into a closer political and economic union.
The treaty established the European Union. It also set the groundwork for creating the euro, the single currency of the EU. The Maastricht Treaty was subsequently amended by several other agreements. These included the Amsterdam, Nice, and Lisbon treaties.
This treaty represented a significant milestone in the process of integrating Europe. It modified other previously signed agreements like the treaties of Paris and Rome, as well as the Single European Act. These earlier arrangements had economic goals for the community. The original stated objective had been to create a common market for trading and investment.
With the Maastricht Treaty, the Europeans signed on to a spelled out vision of political union for the first time. After the treaty came into effect, the European project no longer went under the name of European Economic Community or EEC. Instead, it became known as the EU or European Union. Article 2 in this treaty called for “the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.”
This Maastricht Treaty had a structural base of three pillars. The central pillar referred to the community dimension. It set out arrangements that pertained to common community policies, citizenship in the EU, and economic and monetary union. These were laid out in the Euratom, the ECSC, and the EC treaties. This pillar led to the eventual creation of the European Central Bank and the euro.
The second pillar concerned the CFSP Common foreign and security policy. Under this idea, the countries of the European Union would create a foreign minister for the EU to represent their single voice and policy objectives overseas. They also began working to come up with a common defensive policy with the intention of eventually creating an EU military force. This pillar also pertains to immigration and border control issues. It has suffered a serious challenge since the European refugee crisis has brought more than a million mostly Syrian and Iraqi refugees across the external borders of the E.U.
The third pillar of the Maastricht Treaty is the idea that there would be police and judicial cooperation. This pertained to criminal issues and concerns. It established a European Court of Justice whose decisions supersede those of the national country high courts.
The Maastricht Treaty also laid the grounds for the creation of the European Commission and the European Parliament. These bodies govern many budgetary and even political affairs within the block.
The Maastricht Treaty set in motion the discontent that led to the Brexit vote and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU. The pillars on common security and judicial cooperation turned out to major sore points with the British people. On the one hand, they despised the loss of control over their immigration policy and borders.
On the other they did not like the fact that they had also lost judicial control. A number of high profile court cases decided in the highest British court were subsequently overturned by the European Court of Justice. This all helped to explain why the majority of the British voted against the ever further political union which article two of the treaty established.