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The European Community (EC) was between 1992 and 2009 the first of the three pillars of the European Union (EU). Created by the Maastricht Treaty (1992), it was based upon the principle of supranationalism and had its origins in the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union. The Treaty of Lisbon abolished the entire pillar system when it came into effect in December 2009.


Creation and evolution

The Maastricht Treaty built upon the Single European Act and the Solemn Declaration on European Union in the creation of the European Union. The treaty was signed on 7 February 1992 and came into force on 1 November 1993. The Union superseded the European Communities, absorbing the European Economic Community as one of its three pillars and renaming it the European Community. The first Commission President following the creation of the EU was Jacques Delors, who briefly continued his previous EEC tenure before handing over to Jacques Santer in 1994. Only the European Communities, the Economic Community, the European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom however had legal personality.

The Treaty of Amsterdam transferred responsibility for free movement of persons (e.g. visas, illegal immigration, asylum) from the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) pillar to the European Community (JHA was renamed Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC) as a result). Both Amsterdam and the Treaty of Nice also extended codecision procedure to nearly all policy areas, giving Parliament equal power to the Council in the Community.

In 2002, the Treaty of Paris which established the European Coal and Steel Community (one of the three communities which comprised the European Communities) expired, having reached its 50 year limit (as the first treaty, it was the only one with a limit). No attempt was made to renew its mandate; instead, the Treaty of Nice transferred certain of its elements to the Treaty of Rome and hence its work continued as part of the EEC area of the Community's remit.


After the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the pillar structure ceased to exist, and the legal personality of the European Community pillar was transferred to the newly consolidated European Union. This was originally proposed under the European Constitution but that treaty failed ratification in 2005.

Policy areas

The Community pillar covers the following areas;


Image:Pillars of the European Union.svg||thumb||The three pillars constituting the European Union (clickable)rect 3 41 54 170 European Communityrect 65 42 115 170 Common Foreign and Security Policyrect 126 42 176 170 Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal MattersOnly the first pillar with the European Communities follow the principles of supranationalism, and then still underdeveloped as far as their democratic potential is concerned.

The pillar structure of the EU allowed the areas of European co-operation to be increased, without leaders handing a large amount of power to supranational institutions. The pillar system segregated the EU, what was formally the competencies of the EEC fell within the European Community pillar. Justice and Home Affairs was introduced as a new pillar while European Political Cooperation became the second pillar (the Common Foreign and Security Policy).

The EEC institutions became the institutions of the EU but the roles of the institutions between the pillars are different. The Commission, Parliament and Court of Justice are largely cut out of activities in the second and third pillars, with the Council dominating proceedings. This is reflected in the names of the institutions, the Council is formally the "Council of the European Union" while the Commission is formally the "Commission of the European Communities". This allowed the new areas to be based on intergovernmentalism (unanimous agreement between governments) rather than majority voting and independent institutions according to supranational democracy.

However, after the Treaty of Maastricht, Parliament gained a much bigger role. Maastricht brought in the codecision procedure, which gave it equal legislative power with the Council on Community matters. Hence, with the greater powers of the supranational institutions and the operation of Qualified Majority Voting in the Council, the Community pillar could be described as a far more federal method of decision making.

See also


  1. What are the three pillars of the EU?, Folketingets EU-Oplysning
  2. Is Europe a federal or a supranational union?

Further reading

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