The Treaty that created the European Union turned 30 this week

On 7th February 1992, representatives of the twelve Member States of the then-called European Communities gathered in Maastricht, the Netherlands, to sign the Treaty that created the European Union as we know it today. The Berlin Wall had fallen only a few years before and leaders felt there was a need to adapt Europe to the changing world.

The agreement laid the foundations for the economic and monetary union, starting the process which culminated in the creation of the common currency, the euro, in 2002. It also extended the competences of the European Union in areas including environment, industry, cohesion, justice, and foreign affairs. Additionally, it reinforced the powers of the Parliament. From then on, its approval would be needed for the adoption of laws, in addition to that of the Council. Crucially, Maastricht created EU citizenship, which gave citizens the right to live, work and study in any Member State.

Since its entry into force three decades ago, the EU has gone through major changes. To begin with, sixteen Member States have joined the Union. This extended the EU to Central and Eastern Europe, making it the largest trading bloc in the world. Moreover, the creation of the euro in 2002 completely changed the political landscape in the Old Continent, strengthening the link between countries. Nowadays, the euro is used by more than 340 million people and is the second most widely traded currency.

A new major reform of the EU’s constitutional structure came in 2009, with the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, that amended previous treaties. It again strengthened the role of the Parliament, changed the decision-making process in the Council by moving from unanimity to qualified majority in several policy areas. Soon after, the EU lived through a difficult financial crisis that threw the integrity of the eurozone into doubt at times. While Europe managed to navigate through the crisis, in 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the Union, becoming in 2020 the first Member to withdraw from the EU.

Finally, the past two years have been challenging for everyone in Europe and around the world due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, the EU has taken once unthinkable steps to address the emergency, including passing the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery package, aimed at supporting the revival of European economies in the post-pandemic world. It granted the Commission the power to borrow on the capital markets for the first time.

At Instinctif, we celebrate the achievements of the past 30 years which the Maastricht Treaty set in motion, and we will continue to work supporting clients as they navigate change and to support them in building a more inclusive and stronger European Union.

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