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60 years ago the Treaty of Rome initiated integration in Europe

Saturday marks 60 years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which launched European integration. The gradual deepening of European economic cooperation led to the idea of political integration in the Old Continent.

On March 25 1957 in Rome, the leaders of six states – France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg - signed treaties establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community. The treaties entered into force on January 1, 1958.

It was not the first initiative to establish closer cooperation between Western European countries after the Second World War and in the face of Cold War confrontation. The proponents of integration argued that in the new international order, centred around the domination of the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, European countries would be stronger if they acted together. Another argument was that closer cooperation would control the development of Germany, which had started two world wars.

"We need to rebuild the European family, at least to the extent possible, and equip it with a structure in which it will be able to live in peace, security and freedom. There must be a partnership between France and Germany,” British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in Zurich in 1946. His speech is recognized by many as the first step towards European integration.

Servant of God, Robert

The French politicians Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet are regarded as the architects or founding fathers of the European Community. They developed a plan for the coordination of steel production and coal mining and the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was to link the key sectors of the French and German economies, former fierce enemies.

“The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims. The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible,” the Schuman Declaration proclaimed on May 9 1950.

In 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. Italy and the Benelux also joined it.

In the same year negotiations began between the same states on the establishment of the European Defence Community and later on the European Political Community. The plan presented by the French Prime Minister Rene Pleven envisaged the creation of a common army. The idea ended in failure because in 1954 the negotiated treaty was blocked by the French National Assembly.

The fall of Pleven's plan showed that political and defence union was a utopian concept, and that the only way to strengthen ties between European states was economic integration.

In June 1955, the Foreign Ministers of the "Six" agreed on a plan at the Messina Conference in Italy to establish an economic community and a community dealing with the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Signed less than two years later, the Treaties of Rome put this plan into practice.

Italian poster celebrating the signature of the Treaties of Rome, 1957 According to one anecdote, on March 25, 1957 in Rome, the leaders of the six founding countries of the European Union in fact signed thick volumes, containing... empty sheets, because the organizers did not have enough time to print large documents.

Even closer union

The preamble to the EEC Treaty states, inter alia, that the signatory countries are determined to lay the groundwork for an even closer union between the peoples of Europe, which confirms the pursuit of political integration.

The aim of the EEC was to create a customs union. Member States committed themselves to abolishing all duties within 12 years. In fact, the duty was eliminated faster, by July 1968. Common customs duties on products from third countries were also introduced. The single market was the free flow of goods, while the flow of people, capital and services was still subject to long restrictions. The 1987 Single European Act was the impetus for the full elimination of these restrictions.

An important provision of the Rome Treaties was also the introduction of the Common Agricultural Policy. Subsidizing agricultural production and subsidies for EEC farmers became a major part of the Community’s budget. The treaty also established common transport and trade policies and banned the creation of monopolies.

It also allowed for the establishment of further common policies. After 1972, the EEC established a framework for joint action in the field of environment, regional, social and industrial policy.

Institutions and decision-making mechanisms were also established. The Council, composed of ministers of the Member States, was created as was the European Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly (later transformed into the European Parliament) and the Court of Justice. One of the breakthrough moments in the institution's existence were the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979.

European Union

The Community evolved into the European Union under the new Treaty concluded on February 7, 1992 by 12 states belonging to the Community at the time. The EU was based on three pillars: the first was the Community (which did not cease to exist at the time of the Union's establishment), the second was the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy and the third was Justice and Home Affairs (currently Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters).

In the economic dimension of integration, the European Union reached another level in 1999 - in selected EU countries (meeting the relevant criteria), a common European currency unit, the ecu (currently the euro), was included in the non-cash circulation. On January 1, 2002, the euro became the sole national currency of several hundred million inhabitants of the Union.

However, attempts to deepen political integration and to enact a constitution for the EU have proved to be unsuccessful. In 2005, the negotiated Constitutional Treaty was rejected by referendums in France and the Netherlands, which, according to commentators, was a result of dissatisfaction with the enlargement of the EU in 2004 by ten countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, fear of immigration, but also fears of restrictions to national sovereignty.

Some of the provisions of the rejected Constitution were later adopted in the current Lisbon Treaty of 2007. It formulated, among other things, the institution of the European Council, the summits of the heads of state and government, and created the position of president, enlarged the EU's competences in foreign and security policy, and strengthened the role of the European Parliament.

60 years after the conclusion of the Treaty of Rome, the European Union has 28 members and faces a test that threatens its disintegration. Two days after the jubilee celebrations scheduled for Saturday, March 25, the UK is due to announce its intention to leave the EU, which will take place in two years at the latest. In the declaration to be adopted at the Rome summit, 27 EU countries are to emphasize that a united Europe is a "common future". At the same time, there is no consensus among EU members about how this common future is supposed to look like. The countries that founded the Community 60 years ago openly favour a so-called multi-speed EU, in which groups of states will cooperate more deeply in some areas. Young EU members, including Poland, fear divisions that will lead to the marginalization of some states.

Source: Polish Press Agency (PAP)

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For more than a decade, Poland’s membership of the European Union has been a matter of utmost importance for the further development of our country – regardless of the various and not always positive opinions on the effects of Poland’s accession to this constantly expanding old world community. Thus, after a long wait, at the beginning of the 21st century the dreams of a sizeable group of Polish intellectuals and politicians – past and present – regarding Poland’s participation in a European union transgressing nations and states, have come true. Poland brought considerable human and cultural potential, as well as a certain economic potential, to the European Union, in the hope of increasing and enriching it. But it has also brought more: a broad heritage of ideas, from the recent and more distant past, on building our continent’s community. The contribution of Poland’s political and often legal doctrine (not just in the 20th century) to how modern history shaped the concept of creating that community – whether it is called a federation, a confederation, a union or the United States of Europe – has been undeniable and often original. One might even risk stating that some Polish ideas on European unity have been comparable to many important Western European views, without being intellectually inferior or vague as to the principles upon which a future old world community would function. When it comes to laying the conceptual groundwork for European unity, Poles have had reasons to be proud since even before 18th century Enlightenment, even though Poles are not present among the “founding fathers” of the European community in the 20th and especially in the late 20th century – nor could they have been, for various reasons. It should come as no surprise that the founding fathers were statesmen from the West (Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Charles de Gaulle, Winston Churchill and others), as the West was democratic and free from foreign hegemony after World War Two – unlike Poland, which at the time was not a sovereign country. […]

The idea of uniting the European continent is well rooted in the history of Polish political thought. Certain precursors – albeit in an embryonic form – can be found in the writings of the founders of the Polish school of international law; that is, in the works of Paweł Włodkowic, Stanisław of Skarbimierz and Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, whose pronouncements on the value of peaceful international relations, human rights and dignity, the rights of peoples, the equality of states, and international law etc. have intellectually inspired successive generations of proponents of continental unification. The blossoming of unification concepts came in the 18th century, with works by Stanisław Leszczyński and Kajetan Skrzetuski, among others. The real pearls of wisdom, however, appeared in the 19th century with such thinkers as Adam Czartoryski, Wojciech Bogumił Jastrzębowski and Stefan Buszczyński. Their proposals were often surprisingly mature: suffice it to mention the concurrence of Buszczyński’s ideas with the integration projects that came into force in the 20th century, along with his ideas on the free flow of people, goods, capital, services and information. It seems, therefore, that at least some of the 19th century suppositions worked out by the country’s political thinkers have remained relevant unto this day. Nor should we forget the relatively active pan-European movement of the inter-war Second Republic. The dynamic development of Polish political thought on unification during a period of highly unfavourable geopolitical circumstances after the Second World War bears testimony to the strength of that thought. We must also remember the concepts formulated in émigré circles, as well as the ideas presented by the anti-communist opposition in Poland itself.

Marek Maciejewski, Maciej Marszał

[in: Towards a United Europe. An Anthology of Twentieth Century Polish Thought on Europe, ed. S. Łukasiewicz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland]

24.03.2017