The first Treaty signed in 1951 set up the Parliamentary Assembly, which was later renamed the European Parliament. The purpose of the original Treaty was for six countries that were previously at war to work together to achieve common aims. Subsequent Treaties have agreed new areas in which to work together or have been designed to improve the working of the EU institutions as membership has grown from six to 28. For example, agriculture policy was introduced in the EEC Treaty and the Nice Treaty reformed the institutional structure of the EU.
The European Parliament, Council, Commission, Court of Justice and Court of Auditors exercise their powers in accordance with the Treaties. The Commission is considered "the Guardian of the Treaties". When a new Treaty is to be created, or an existing Treaty amended, an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) is set up in which the governments of the member states meet. Parliament is consulted and gives its opinion on the Treaty as it is shaped and developed.
Parliament has acquired ever more democratic, supervisory and legislative powers with each new Treaty. With the Treaty of Brussels (signed in 1975), the Parliament acquired the right to scrutinise the EU accounts at the end of each year, and assess whether the Commission has wisely and correctly spent the EU budget. New additions with the Single European Act (Treaty signed in 1986) ensured that Parliament's assent is mandatory before a new country can join the EU. The Amsterdam Treaty (signed in 1997) gave a much stronger position to the Parliament in co-legislating with the Council on a whole range of areas that are subject to EU law (consumer protection, ability to work legally in another country and environmental issues, to name a few).
The latest Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, entered into force on 1 December 2009.
It strengthens the European Parliament, gives national parliaments more responsibility in determining the course of European policy, as well as allowing EU citizens the power of initiative. The Lisbon Treaty enhances European Parliament's powers as a fully recognised co-legislator with increased budgetary powers. It also gives Parliament a key role in the election of the European Commission President.
The IGC responsible for drawing up a European Reform Treaty opened in Lisbon on 23 July 2007(European Parliament representatives: Elmar Brok, Enrique Barón Crespoand Andrew Duff). The text of the Treaty was approved at a meeting of Heads of State and Government in Lisbon on 18-19 October 2007. The Treaty of Lisbon was signed in the presence of EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering on 13 December 2007, following a proclamation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in Parliament by the presidents of the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council.
By 19 February 2008, the Treaty of Lisbon was adopted by the European Parliament (Corbett/Méndezde Vigo report). According to the Treaty of Lisbon, Parliament has the right to appoint the President of the Commission, on the basis of a proposal from the European Council that takes into account the results of European Parliamentary elections. Co-decision is further extended to new areas, and is to be known as the "ordinary legislative procedure".
With a few exceptions, the Treaty puts the European Parliament on an equal footing as law maker with the Council in areas where this was not previously the case, notably in setting the EU budget (Parliament enjoys full parity), agriculture policy and justice and home affairs.
The Treaty entered into force on 1 December 2009, after being ratified by all 27 member states.
The Treaty of Nice amending the EU Treaty, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts was signed in the presence of the European Parliament President, Nicole Fontaine. The aim of the Treaty of Nice was to reform the institutional structure of the European Union to with stand the challenges of the new enlargement. With the Treaty of Nice, Parliament's legislative and supervisory powers are increased and qualified-majority voting is extended to more areas within the Council.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
The Charter of fundamental rights was signed by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council at the Nice European Council.
An IGC was opened inTurin (Italy) in March 1996 for the purpose of revising the Treaty on European Union. The subsequent Treaty of Amsterdam amending the EU Treaty, the Treaties establishing the European Communities and certain related acts was signed in the presence of the President of the European Parliament, José María Gil-Robles.
With its entry into force in May 1999, the codecision procedure was simplified and broadened in scope. Parliament now had the right to approve the Commission President.
The Treaty on European Union was signed in Maastricht in the presence of the President of the European Parliament, Egon Klepsch. In accordance with that Treaty the Union is founded on the European Communities (first pillar), with two additional areas of cooperation (second and third pillars): the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CSFP) and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA).
Upon entry into force of the Treaty on European Union, the EEC becomes the European Community(EC).The EP's legislative and supervisory powers increase with the introduction of the codecision procedure and extension of the cooperation procedure.
Under the new Treaty the European Parliament has the right to invite the Commission to present a legislative proposal on matters which, in its view, call for a Community act to be drawn up. The entire Commission must also now be approved by the EP, which also appoints the European Ombudsman.
The first Intergovernmental Conference opened under Italy's chairmanship on 9 September 1985, culminating in the adoption of the Single European Acton 28 February 1986 in Brussels.
The Single European Act brought amendments to the Treaties establishing the European Communities and established European political cooperation. Once the Single European Act (SEA) entered into force, the title 'European Parliament'(which the Assembly had used since 1962) was made official. The SEA also increased the EP's legislative powers with the introduction of the cooperation and assent procedures.
The 1975 Treaty of Brussels again amended certain financial provisions laid down in the Treaties. It strengthened the Assembly's budgetary powers (the EP secures the right to reject the Community budget and to grant discharge to the Commission in respect of implementation of the budget) and provided for the establishment of a Court of Auditors.
With the signing of the Treaty of Luxembourg, amending certain budget provisions laid down in the Treaties, the budgetary powers of the Assembly increased as Member States' financial contributions were replaced by "own resources".
Treaty establishing a Single Council and a Single Commission of the European Communities
Treaty establishing the European Community / Merger Treaty
The Merger Treaty of 1965 merged the executives. The European Communities was established as are sult of the merger of the institutions set up by the ECSC, the EEC and the Euratom.
Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community
Two treaties were signed on 25 March 1957 - the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom). Among the main aims of the Euratom Treaty are:
The value of Euratom can be seen clearly in the context of enlargement. Nuclear power is an important energy source for many Eastern European countries, but safety standards in their nuclear power plants and the level of protection of the public and workers are not always sufficient. Euratom has provided the context for EU support.
Treaty establishing the European Economic Community
Two treaties were signed on 25 March 1957 - the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom). For both new Communities, decisions were taken by the Council on a proposal from the Commission. The Parliamentary Assembly is to be consulted, and give its opinions to the Council. The Assembly increases in size to 142 members. The European Parliamentary Assembly held its first session the following year, on 19 March 1958. With the Treaties of Rome, a specific provision is made for members to be directly elected (this was implemented in 1979).
Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)
The Treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was signed in Paris by Belgium, France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It entered into force for a 50-year period. Members of the European Parliamentary Assembly were selected by their national parliaments. The Assembly had the right to dismiss the High Authority (precursor to today's Commission).
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe was adopted by the European Council on 18 June 2004, and signed in Rome later that year in the presence of the EP President, Josep Borrell Fontelles. Approved by the EP (Méndez de Vigo-Leinen report), the Treaty was then rejected by France (29 May 2005) and the Netherlands (1 June 2005) in their national referenda.
Following the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty Member States began work on the Lisbon Treaty.
What role did the European Parliament play in some of the most important moments of EU history? Voyage back in time and see how events unfolded from the Parliament's vantage point: the birth of the euro (1998), the first time Parliament's investigations led to the fall of the European Commission (1999), the signing of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000) and the enlargement of the EU to embrace the former communist bloc countries (2004 and 2007). Watch the unedited truth in the language and the documents of the era.