Tuesday, January 11, 2005

European Union Law - Background I

Article 3 of the European Union's Constitution states, as an objective, the creaton of a "single market where competition is free and undistorted."

A single and undistorted market is a fundamental pillar in the European Union. The Court of Justice has played a major role through case law striking down many barriers to trade in order to achieve a single market.

As a background to Artice 3, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution, the European Community, after the vast destruction of life and property brought about by World War II, and the threat of the Soviet Union, took important steps to achieve European unity. The process of integration which started in 1948 by the exiled leaders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg whose efforts yielded the Benelux Customs Convention and led ten years later to the creation of a common trading area.(the Treaty Instituting the Benelux Union, February 3, 1958.)

In the post war period, US foreign policy encouraged political cooperation in western Europe. The United States created the Marshall Plan and helped the reconstruction of sixteen European nations. As a result, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was set up in 1948. In 1960, Canada ad the US joined the OEEC, which was then renamed the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Although the OECD had no formal lawmaking powers, its recommendations, however, made a great impact on European eonomic policies.

In 1949, Canada, the US and a majority of western European states set up NATO as a military defensive oganization to face the Soviet Union. That was followed by a number of agreements among the Europan states, including among them, the European Coal and Steal Community (ECSC), for regulating coal and steel. This was established in April 18, 1951.

Economic union among western European states proceeded with a Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC), signed in Rome on March 25, 1957. A separate treaty, the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or EURATOM) was established, it was signed in Rome on that same date. Six signatory states: France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg ratified the two treaties, which took effect on January 1, 1958.

The United Kingdom along with Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland agreed on January 4, 1960 to establish a loose form of economic cooperation called the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Both the EEC and the EFTA enjoyed close and harmonious trade relations which culminated in 1992, in an agreement to create a European Economic Area (EEA).

The European Economic Community Treaty (EEC) calls for "common action to eliminate bariers which divide Europe." Article 2 calls for the creation of a "common market". To do so, the European Community started a process to harmonize its economic activities by adopting rules to balance a stable and expanded economy, lift the standard of living of its people and advance closer relations among its members. Article 3 of the EEC Treaty prescribes the establishment of a common external tariff and commercial policy, the elimination of bariers to "the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital", the creation of a common policy in agriculture, transport and competition, the coordination of economic and monetary policy, and harmonization of member state laws to attain a common market.

Furthermore, the Community established Associate, Commercial and Mixed agreements with non-member states(see EEC Treaty art.310.) In July 1, 1968, the Community agreed on the removal of internal tariffs and the creation of a common external tariff. The Community also began representing the Member States in GATT, and enacted programs in the field of employment, equal rights for women, minimum standard of water and air quality, limiting pollution, protecting wild life, consumer protection in labeling and advertising, and elimination of unfair business practices in various fields.

The EEC Treaty was amended by the Single European Act (SEA) which introduced important changes in the political as well as the structure of the Community. In the next chapter, I will turn to these developments.

Gariel Sawma Esq.

Copyright 2005 by Gabriel Sawma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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