Book chapter

The Treaties of Rome (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Together with the Treaty of Paris (1951), which established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the two Treaties of Rome (1957) were the founding treaties of today's European Union. Of the two Rome treaties, the more influential proved to be that which created the European Economic Community (EEC), although many contemporaries expected the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to acquire that role. As during all major treaty negotiations in the history of European integration, there were divisions of opinion among the six ECSC member states (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) along and within national lines. In the end, however, their governments were able to agree on a complex package deal with various components. To reach this result, the work of two preparatory bodies, the so-called Spaak Committee and an intergovernmental conference set up by the foreign ministers of the six ECSC states, proved crucial. In addition, transnational actors and networks had a considerable impact on the Treaties.The ultimate treaty texts reflected this trajectory of negotiations and the wider political context of the time. The Treaties of Rome were less supranational than the Treaty of Paris, and the three resultant communities were characterized by their hybrid nature: until the Merger Treaty of 1967, they shared some common institutions, such as the Parliamentary Assembly and the Court of Justice, while they had three independent executive bodies. Euratom, which focused on cooperation in the sphere of nuclear power, soon experienced institutional crises, and the same holds true for the ECSC. The EEC, in contrast, possessed greater powers and unleashed more significant dynamics and thus became the core of European integration.On the basis of the Treaties of Rome, the European Communities incrementally turned into the foremost forum of international cooperation and integration in (Western) Europe. That, however, was quite unclear in 1957, as reflected in opinion polls at the time. Moreover, there were important contenders for this role. By the end of the Cold War, the EC had outpaced them all, for three main reasons: its focus on market integration, its greater legal integration in comparison to organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe and, finally, its financial resources. In sum, one needs to know about the Treaties of Rome and the integration dynamics they unleashed in order to understand the enormous importance that today's EU has acquired.