The European Economic Community (EEC) was founded on this date in 1957. The EEC was a regional organization which aimed to bring about economic integration among its six member states. It was created by the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Upon the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993, the EEC was incorporated and renamed the European Community (EC). In 2009 the EC’s institutions were absorbed into the EU’s wider framework and the community ceased to exist. Given the current state of affairs with the UK on the verge of leaving the EU, I thought it might be worthwhile to look back on how it all started.
The Community’s initial aim was to bring about economic integration, including a common market and customs union, among its six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. It gained a common set of institutions along with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) as one of the European Communities under the 1965 Merger Treaty (Treaty of Brussels). In 1993, a complete single market was achieved, known as the internal market, which allowed for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people within the EEC. In 1994, the internal market was formalized by the EEA agreement. This agreement also extended the internal market to include most of the member states of the European Free Trade Association, forming the European Economic Area covering 15 countries.
Upon the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the EEC was renamed the European Community to reflect that it covered a wider range than economic policy. This was also when the three European Communities, including the EC, were collectively made to constitute the first of the three pillars of the European Union, which the treaty also founded. The EC existed in this form until it was abolished by the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, which incorporated the EC’s institutions into the EU’s wider framework and provided that the EU would “replace and succeed the European Community”.
The EEC was also known as the Common Market in English-speaking countries and sometimes referred to as the European Community even before it was officially renamed as such in 1993. In 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed, creating the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). This was an international community based on supranationalism and international law, designed to help the economy of Europe and prevent future war by integrating its members. In the aim of creating a federal Europe two further communities were proposed: a European Defence Community and a European Political Community. While the treaty for the latter was being drawn up by the Common Assembly, the ECSC parliamentary chamber, the proposed defense community was rejected by the French Parliament. ECSC President Jean Monnet, a leading figure behind the communities, resigned from the High Authority in protest and began work on alternative communities, based on economic integration rather than political integration. After the Messina Conference in 1955, Paul Henri Spaak was given the task of preparing a report on the idea of a customs union. The so-called Spaak Report of the Spaak Committee formed the cornerstone of the intergovernmental negotiations at Val Duchesse conference centre in 1956. Together with the Ohlin Report the Spaak Report would provide the basis for the Treaty of Rome.
In 1956, Paul Henri Spaak led the Intergovernmental Conference on the Common Market and Euratom at the Val Duchesse conference centre, which prepared for the Treaty of Rome in 1957. The conference led to the signature, on 25th March 1957, of the Treaty of Rome establishing a European Economic Community. The resulting communities were the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM or sometimes EAEC). These were markedly less supranational than the previous communities, due to protests from some countries that their sovereignty was being infringed. The first formal meeting of the Hallstein Commission was held on 16th January 1958 at the Chateau de Val-Duchesse. The EEC was to create a customs union while Euratom would promote co-operation in the nuclear power sphere. The EEC rapidly became the most important of these and expanded its activities. One of the first accomplishments of the EEC was the establishment (1962) of common price levels for agricultural products. In 1968, internal tariffs (tariffs on trade between member nations) were removed on certain products.
The 1960s saw the first attempts at enlargement. In 1961, Denmark, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom applied to join the three Communities. However, President Charles de Gaulle saw British membership as a Trojan horse for U.S. influence and vetoed membership, and the applications of all four countries were suspended. Greece became the first country to join the EC in 1961 as an associate member, however its membership was suspended in 1967 after the coup d’état of the Colonels. A year later, in February 1962, Spain attempted to join the European Communities. However, because Francoist Spain was not a democracy, all members rejected the request in 1964.
The four countries resubmitted their applications on 11th May 1967 and with Georges Pompidou succeeding Charles de Gaulle as French president in 1969, the veto was lifted. Negotiations began in 1970 under the pro-European government of Edward Heath, who had to deal with disagreements relating to the Common Agricultural Policy and the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. Nevertheless, two years later the accession treaties were signed so that Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined the Community effective 1st January 1973. The Norwegian people had finally rejected membership in a referendum on 25th September 1972.
Finding a recipe to represent even the first 6 member states of the EEC, let alone the current membership of the EU, is an absolute impossibility. However, both the EEC and EU regulate foods in a number of ways including labeling. For a product to be labeled “chocolate” for example, there are certain ingredients it must contain (in certain quantities, and certain that are forbidden. At one stage there was considerable alarm in England because of an effort by the European community to create standards for the “Euro-Sausage” with the possibility that many of the products labeled as sausages in England would have to use a different name. I see no problem actually; we have called them “bangers” for decades, and bangers and mash is one of my favorite meals. Here’s a clip from “Yes, Minister” on the subject of sausages (after which you might celebrate the day with the sausage of your choice):