The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 on European Union: Summary & Purpose

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You've probably heard of the European Union, but how much do you know about how it was created? This lesson discusses the summary and purpose of the Maastricht Treaty.

After World War II

In the years after World War II, Europe worked very hard to recover. Not only were many European countries in physical ruin, they were also in economic and financial ruin. In 1952, six countries in Europe joined together to establish a formal organization to help one another. This was called the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

European Coal and Steel Community

Established by the Treaty of Paris, ECSC became the first step towards forming the European Union that we know today. Six countries signed the treaty:

  • France
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • West Germany
  • The Netherlands

The ECSC was a way for member countries to open up trade and create economic stability. As you can probably guess, the main resources traded by these countries were coal and steel! To oversee the ECSC, the organization created four governing bodies:

  • High Authority to administrate
  • Council of Ministers to legislate
  • Common Assembly to form polices
  • Court of Justice to interpret laws

Euratom and the European Economic Community

In 1957, the member nations of the ECSC signed the Treaties of Rome that created two more European communities. The first was the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which encouraged members to research and share their findings on atomic energy. The second was the European Economic Community (EEC), which reduced trade barriers between member countries. Like the ECSC, these two new communities were made up of four different governing bodies.

By 1965, it was evident to the member countries that they had created something very beneficial. The three organizations merged their governing bodies and became known collectively as the European Communities (EC). The governing bodies are as follows:

  • The High Authority of the ECSC became the European Commission
  • The Council of Ministers became the Common Council of Ministers
  • The Common Assembly became the European Parliament
  • The European Court of Justice interpreted the laws and treaties of the EC

Between 1973 and 1986, six more countries joined the EEC.

Maastricht Treaty

On February 7, 1992, the members of the European Communities signed the Maastricht Treaty (also called the Treaty on European Union). The treaty created the European Union (EU), an organization of European countries that's responsible for creating collective economic, foreign, military, and domestic policy. The goal of the EU is simple: to create policies that benefit all member countries, especially in terms of economic stability. Not all members of the European Communities joined the EU in 1992; for example, neither Great Britain and Denmark joined - both countries worried that the EU would limit the power of individual countries.

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