Treaty of Maastricht
The Treaty on European Union (TEU), also known as the Treaty of Maastricht for having been signed in that Dutch town in December 1991, constitutes a turning point in the European integration process. By modifying the previous treaties – Treaty of Paris, Treaties of Rome and the Single European Act – the initial economic objective of the Community, building a common market, was outstripped and, for the first time, a distinctive vocation of political union was claimed. The Treaty of Maastricht changed the official denomination of the EEC, which thereafter was called the EC and became one of the three pillars of the European Union (EU): EC, Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs.
The two big advances of the Treaty of Maastricht were the commitment of the EC to full Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), including a timetable and provision for a European Central Bank, and the establishment of the ‘three-pillar’ structure outlined above.
The aims of the Community, as defined in Article 2 EC, were amended to include reference to EMU, as well as convergence of economic policies, social protection and economic and social cohesion. The provisions on economic and monetary policy provided for much closer coordination of economic policies, set strict ‘convergence criteria’, and fixed a timetable for monetary union, aiming eventually at a single currency. The major institutional reform was the increase in the legislative power of the European Parliament with the introduction of the co-decision procedure.
In the area of employment and industrial relations, the European social partner agreement of 31 October 1991 became the Agreement on Social Policy and was incorporated into a Protocol on Social Policy annexed to the EC Treaty, with an opt-out for the United Kingdom. This Agreement (as amended, now the Social Chapter of the EC Treaty) provided the first substantial legal basis for EC legislation in the fields of employment and industrial relations, and established the participation of the European social partners in the EU legislative process by ‘constitutionalising’ the European social dialogue. The Treaty of Maastricht came into effect on 1 November 1993.
See also: competences of the European Union; Economic and Monetary Union; EU law; opt-out; social competences; Social Policy Protocol; subsidiarity; Treaty of Amsterdam; Treaty of Nice; treaty provisions; working conditions.