Concrete celebrates its 25th birthday this year, achieving a wonderful milestone. By coincidence, another body is also welcoming in its 25th year: the European Union. Created by the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in February of 1992 which replaced the European Community (EC), the EU officially formed when the treaty came into effect one year later.
The general theme of the Maastricht Treaty was the development of the European community from a predominantly trade-focused bloc into a politically oriented project.
This move was not without opposition at the time. Voters in Denmark initially rejected the treaty at a referendum, and French voters passed the motion in a similar plebiscite with a majority of less than 1 percent. The so called ‘Maastricht rebels’ in the UK, Tory MPs opposed the signing of the treaty by Prime Minister John Major, nearly bringing down his government by rebelling against the ratification.
Many of those rebels would go on to be key players in the 2016 Brexit campaign. Despite considerable opposition, however, the treaty passed and the EU was created.
The implications of the treaty can most keenly be observed in the creation of the Euro, the single currency that is used by 19 states across the continent. The global ramifications of this currency, controversial since 1992, have been huge. Several anti-EU politicians in various European nations lay the blame for economic woes firmly at the door of the single currency, notably forming the key message of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen and eurosceptic forces in Greece.
The Maastricht Treaty also created the ‘pillar system’, the political format used by the European Union to outline the control it wielded in various areas of policy. This system gave the Union further influence on foreign policy, asylum law, defence and security, with the goal of a more manageable, effective union. This policy has also been controversial; accused of being overtly supranational, attacking the sovereignty of member states and moving beyond the limits of the European Union’s original purpose. Britain was an early objector to the pillar system, arguing that the issues were often too complex to be solved by the Union’s internal bodies. However the increased cooperation on defence and foreign policy has been seen as a key development for the bloc to act as a united entity on the international stage. After the surprising result of the EU referendum in the UK last June, the development of the EU since the signatories dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on the controversial Maastricht treaty is more relevant than ever.
As the signing of the Maastricht treaty celebrates it’s 25th year, the EU fights for its survival. The Brexit vote is just one of many threats that loom over the EU’s silver anniversary.