Politicians like to commemorate their role in the signing of treaties, but nothing changes in the everyday life of citizens until the treaty actually comes into effect. In the case of the Maastricht treaty, that date was 25 years ago, on 1 November 1993.
The treaty’s acronym TEU stands for Treaty on European Union. In fact, Maastricht created a Triple European Union: Europe 1 - a union of nation states, designed for peace; Europe 2 - a union of markets and money, designed for prosperity, and Europe 3 - a union of citizens.
So what is the legacy of the Maastricht Treaty, 25 years on?
Europe 1 stands firm on its foundations. Yet it’s easy to forget that between the signing of the treaty and its coming into force saw the outbreak of war in Bosnia – the first European war since 1945.
The newly-created Common Defence and Security Policy did not prevent the siege of Sarajevo, the massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica or the outbreak of war in Kosovo. It has reminded Europeans that our existence depends on being able to continue to live together in peace.
What about Europe 2? What has been the fate of the union of markets and money, the more supranational construction that has been superimposed on the Europe 1 model of a union of nation states? Few would doubt that there are deep structural issues and that the cracks are starting to show.
In 2016, Italy’s GDP in real terms was the same as it had been in 1996. This is a staggering statistic. It is understandable that many Italians ask if things would have been better without the Euro? Would things have been better or worse without the Growth and Stability Pact?
“Turnout in European elections is at an all-time low. In cosmopolitan cities like Brussels, the majority of transnational citizens fail to even register to vote in local elections”
To put it another way, is Europe 2 a neoliberal conspiracy designed to undermine the European social model through deregulation and austerity? Or is it instead the means of reforming and safeguarding that model in the face of globalisation?
The answer to these questions is shaking the political battleground of today in ways that threaten the foundations laid by the Maastricht Treaty. Marine Le Pen knows all too well that France must continue to embrace its German neighbour for the sake of peace. She clearly does not believe that embrace should extend to the Euro.
Europe 3 turned Europeans with the nationality of an EU member state into EU citizens. It gave Europeans political rights as well as the right to free movement. It created the idea of a more democratic Europe, a Europe made stronger through inclusion and through the participation of citizens in the democratic life of the union. Where are we with Europe 3 today?
Turnout in European elections is at an all-time low. In cosmopolitan cities like Brussels, the majority of transnational citizens fail to even register to vote in local elections. The European Citizens Initiative campaigns are failing to make a dent in a relentlessly top-down form of policy-making.
Many believe EU decision-making is determined too often by powerful interest groups and shaped too little by common values. Five million EU27 citizens in the UK and Britons in Europe may lose rights due to Brexit.
On 1 November, New Europeans, a pro-European civil rights organisation, Maastricht University and the provincial governor of Limburg are bringing 150 young Europeans together to sign a “Maastricht Manifesto.”
The aim is to unlock the unfulfilled promise of the Maastricht treaty, namely to create a Europe of citizens. Only a powerful, democratic movement can reform the single currency and the single market so that they exist in the future. Europe 2 rescued by Europe 3 for the sake of our common future.