On this day in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed in the Netherlands by 12 member states, signalling the creation of the EU (European Union). Today, the EU is a historically unprecedented community that shares a common currency (the euro), open borders and a common passport – all in the name of maintaining peace and cooperation throughout the historically-violent continent. Although a number of other treaties paved the way for Maastricht, the meeting on February 7th resulted in the creation of the euro and the “pillar structure” of the EU. The three pillars refer to:
- Economic cooperation
- Coordinated foreign policy and security agreements
- Police and Judicial cooperation (INTERPOL)
Six states founded the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 in an effort to further economic integration and strengthen the “free” parts of the continent in anti-Soviet solidarity: the Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands), Italy, West Germany and France. Today, these can generally be considered the most committed members of the EU. In the early 2000s, a number of Eastern European countries gained membership to the community; some observers viewed the move as an effort to maintain solidarity and autonomy in the face of increasingly aggressive Russian foreign policy. Although the EU remains relatively strong, opponents complain of unfettered immigration (due to the EU’s open borders), a need for the stronger states to provide “welfare” for the weaker ones (like Greece), and a gradual erosion of national identity. A recent manifestation of this sentiment was Brexit, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, which took place on January 31st, 2020. As nationalist sentiment is apparently on the rise around the world, the future of the EU is uncertain.