European Communities: Wikis


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European Union
Enlargement of the European Union 77.gif

This article is part of the series:
History of the
European Union

See also
History of Europe
Enlargement - Treaties
Timeline - Presidents

The European Communities (also referred to as the European Community[1] or EC) were three international organisations that were governed by the same set of institutions. These were the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom).

They shared the same governing institutions (those of the EEC) from 1967 until those institutions became those of the European Union (EU). The EEC became part of the EU as the European Community and the ECSC was absorbed into the Community in 2002. The term is still in use in some areas but with the advent of the European Union, and the low profile of EAEC, the term sees little usage.


Three Communities

The ECSC's aim was to combine the coal and steel industries of its members to create a single market in those resources. It was intended that this would increase prosperity and decrease the risk of these countries going to war through the process of European integration. The EAEC was working on nuclear energy co-operation between the members. The EEC was to create a customs union and general economic co-operation. It later led to the creation of a European single market.[2]

The EEC became the European Community pillar of the EU, with the ECSC and EAEC continuing in a similar subordinate position, existing separately in a legal sense but governed by the institutions of the EU as if they were its own. The ECSC's treaty had a 50 year limit and thus expired in 2002, all its activities are now absorbed into the European Community.[3] The EAEC had no such limit and thus continues to exist. Due to the sensitive nature of nuclear power with the European electorate, the treaty has gone without amendment since its signing and was not even to be changed with the European Constitution intended to repeal all other treaties (the Constitution's replacement, the Treaty of Lisbon, likewise makes no attempt at amendment).[4][5]

As the EAEC has a low profile, and the profile of the European Community is dwarfed by that of the EU, the term "European Communities" sees little usage. However, when the EU was established the institutions that dealt solely or mainly with the European Community (as opposed to all three pillars) retained their original names, for example the formal name of the European Court of Justice is the "Court of Justice of the European Communities".[6]


The ECSC was created first. Following its proposal in 1950 in the Schuman Declaration, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands came together to sign the Treaty of Paris in 1951 which established the Community. The success of this Community led to the desire to create more, but attempts at creating a European Defence Community and a European Political Community failed leading to a return to economic matters. In 1957, the EAEC and EEC were created by the Treaties of Rome. They were to share some of the institutions of the ECSC but have separate executive structures.[2]

In 1967, the Merger Treaty combined these separate executives. The Commission and Council of the EEC were to take over the responsibilities of its counterparts in the other organisations. From then on they became known collectively as the "European Communities", for example the Commission was known as the "Commission of the European Communities", although the communities themselves remained separate in legal terms.[2]

In force
Paris Agr.
Single Act
Maastricht (EU est.)
Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif
      European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty of Paris expired in 2002    European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)

European Community (EC)
  European Communities Justice & Home Affairs (JHA)
    Police & Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign & Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    


By virtue of the Merger Treaty, all three Communities were governed by the same institutional framework. Prior to 1967, the Common Assembly/European Parliamentary Assembly and the Court of Justice, established by the ECSC, were already shared with the EEC and EAEC, but they had different executives. The 1967 treaty gave the Council and Commission of the EEC responsibility over ECSC and EAEC affairs, abolishing the Councils of the ECSC and EAEC, the Commission of the EAEC and the High Authority of the ECSC. These governed the three Communities till the establishment of the European Union in 1993.


The three Communities shared the same membership, the six states that signed the Treaty of Paris and subsequent treaties were known as the "inner six" (the "outer seven" were those countries who formed the European Free Trade Association). The six founding countries were France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The first enlargement was in 1973, with the accession of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Greece, Spain and Portugal joined throughout in the 1980s. Following the creation of the EU in 1993, it has enlarged to include a further fifteen countries by 2007.

Founding members in green, later members in blue
State Accession State Accession
 Belgium 25 March 1957  Italy 25 March 1957
 Denmark 1 January 1973  Luxembourg 25 March 1957
 France 25 March 1957  Netherlands 25 March 1957
 West Germany 25 March 1957  Portugal 1 January 1986
 Greece 1 January 1981  Spain 1 January 1986
 Ireland 1 January 1973  United Kingdom 1 January 1973

Member states are represented in some form in each institution. The Council is also composed of one national minister who represents their national government. Each state also has a right to one European Commissioner each, although in the European Commission they are not supposed to represent their national interest but that of the Community. Prior to 2004, the larger members (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom) have had two Commissioners. In the European Parliament, members are allocated a set number seats related to their population, however these (since 1979) have been directly elected and they sit according to political allegiance, not national origin. Most other institutions, including the European Court of Justice, have some form of national division of its members.

See also


  1. ^ "European Community". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 30 January 2009. "The term also commonly refers to the “European Communities,” which comprise..."  ; "Introduction to EU Publications". Guide to European Union Publications at the EDC. The University of Exeter. Retrieved 30 January 2009. "The European Community originally consisted of three separate Communities founded by treaty..."  ; Derek Urwin, University of Aberdeen. "Glossary of The European Union and European Communities". Retrieved 30 January 2009. "European Community (EC). The often used singular of the European Communities."  
  2. ^ a b c The European Communities, European NAvigator
  3. ^ Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, ECSC Treaty, Europa
  4. ^ Euratom reform
  5. ^ Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), Europa
  6. ^ The Court of Justice of the European Communities

Further reading

  • Jean Monnet, Prospect for a New Europe (1959)
  • Bela Balassa, The Theory of Economic Integration (1962)
  • Walter Hallstein, A New Path to Peaceful Union (1962)
  • Paul-Henri Spaak, The Continuing Battle: Memories of a European (1971)

External links



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