The Maastricht Treaty Explained

With all the promotion for events like YO!Fest 2017, you will likely see the words “Maastricht treaty” being casually mentioned in emails, posts on social media, promotional texts and others. But what exactly is the Maastricht treaty and why is it significant now? These and more questions will be answered in the article below.


mt1What is the Maastricht treaty?

In a nutshell, the Maastricht treaty is what created the European Union, and drafted what it meant to be a member state. There would later be amendments to this treaty in Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon, but, simply put, the Maastricht treaty can be seen as the ‘mother treaty’. It created the concept of European citizenship for the citizens of its twelve member states at that time, and it laid out the plans for what would be the economic and monetary union with a single currency- the Euro.


Why is it significant now?

The laws in the Maastricht treaty have had an impact on the life of all citizens of the member countries of the European Union, because this very document largely defines what it means to be part of the European Union; to this day it still serves as the anchor point for the European Union as a whole and for the national governments of the member states. It becomes especially significant now, since we are approaching the 25th anniversary of the signing of the treaty (signed in Maastricht on 7 Feb. 1992) that has influenced the legislation for almost an entire generation.


mt3What were the objectives of the Maastricht treaty?

According to Article B of the Maastricht treaty, the EU shall set the objectives of promoting balanced and sustainable economic and social progress, most notably by:

  • creating an area without internal frontiers, with a single currency;
  • implementing a common foreign and security policy, with the option of leading to a common defence of the union;
  • creating a European citizenship;
  • analysing and eventually revising policies and forms of cooperation, if necessary, for the assurance of the effectiveness of the mechanisms and institutions of the European Community.


Did the Maastricht treaty have immediate acceptance?

No. Three countries in Europe: Denmark, France and Ireland, held referendums on the signing of the Maastricht treaty in 1992.

The Danish rejected the Maastricht treaty with 50.7 voting against and 49. 3 per cent voting in favour with a turnout of 83.1 per cent. This led to the “National Compromise”, which called for four exceptions for Denmark: the country would not participate in a common defence action, it would not take part in the single currency or other economic policy obligations linked to the third stage of the EMU, it would not be committed in relation to union citizenship, and it refused to accept the transfer of sovereignty in the area of justice and police affairs.

mt4Ireland and France voted in favour of the Maastricht treaty, but in France this was only done by a relatively slim margin: in the end, with a turnout of 69,8%, the difference was decided by slightly more than half a million votes.

John Major, the then prime minister of the UK, signed the treaty, but also negotiated for a special opt-out of the Social Chapter provisions on employment law for the United Kingdom. This, however, still needed to be ratified by the British parliament in 1993. Opposition to the opt-out was fierce, and the debate on dismissing the opt-out escalated to a point where parliament almost lost confidence in Major’s leadership.

Decades later, issues surrounding the transfer of sovereignty and the allowance of opt-outs would still play an important role in European politics, such as the EU-UK negotiations on the very eve of the Brexit.


mt2Had Jean-Claude Junker have anything to do with the treaty?

Yes, the current President of the European Commission was deeply involved with the creation of the EU, even back in 1992. There is a lot of information you can find about Junker and the Maastricht treaty (and we encourage you to do so), but perhaps one of the most outstanding things he did was that he literally left his mark on the treaty, signing it in 1992 in his capacity as Minister for Finance of Luxembourg.


Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen


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