Hence, governments play a key role in determining inter-state relations and common agreements on economic and political developments. The British isolationist approach contributed to the creation of the pillar system within the EU, whereby instead of renaming the European Economic Community as the European Union, the treaty had to establish a legally separate European Union comprising the renamed European Economic Community and the inter-governmental policy areas of foreign policy, military, criminal justice and judicial cooperation.
The first pillar was the European Communities, while the second and third pillars were related to foreign policy and military matters the CFSP pillar and criminal justice and cooperation in home affairs the JHA pillar. To an assessment of the significance of these pillars we will turn next, but not before having a concluding remark at this stage.
Hence, the EMU, one may conclude, made the Maastricht Treaty significant in the fact that it created an entirely new interstate economy, opened up new opportunities for economic development and therefore represented a major step forward for the European integration process. Moreover, it created the premises for the introduction of the singular currency with all its benefits. The most important significance of the TEU is that it created the foundation of modern day European Union.
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Despite its legislative complexity, we will take a broad overview of the main composing parts. The TEU, as mentioned above, was divided into three main pillars. The first pillar is known as the European Communities pillar the EMU was also included in this pillar. Briefly, this pillar was primarily concerned with giving EU institutions more legitimacy and to some extent more power.
However, the European Parliament is widely regarded as a victorious institution within this particular pillar, while the Commission and the European Court of Justice seem to have lost some of their prerogatives. The reason for this is that the Treaty.
In fact, this ended up in giving more powers to EU institutions over the national parliaments of member states. Yet another significant aspect of the first pillar is the introduction of the notion of EU citizenship. All the above certainly attributed more significance to the Treaty, particularly seen within the context of EU enlargement and with the need for integrating the poorer, former communist economies.
If the first pillar primarily deals with the domestic structural character of the EU and its member states, the second pillar deals with the need for a more unified voice of the EU in external affairs and security matters. Liberal Intergovernmentalism tells us that states behave rationally in achieving their goals — a complete common foreign and security policy was not amongst them.
Perhaps one reason behind such weak result was that historically different states had different foreign goals and were therefore, not willing to refute them over night just in the name of achieving a common European goal, which was not even in the broadest forms defined. The third and last pillar is known as Justice and Home Affairs the Schengen agreement was a major catalyser in these developments.
It dealt with just about anything that could be associated with the title. From issues such as immigration, political asylum, control of external borders and customs cooperation to police cooperation in combating drugs and fraud, and judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters — all were debated in the third pillar Dinan. In all that has been presented above we merely skimmed the surface of the complex Maastricht Treaty. However, dwelling into details goes beyond the purpose of this paper.
Interestingly enough, these vital criteria are surprisingly broad and vague as compared to most of the content that comprises the Maastricht Treaty,. Bearing in mind the content that has been discussed above, one can see the vast changes the Maastricht Treaty has brought into the scene of European affairs: it implemented the EMU, created the EU and further developed on a wide range of internal and external policies. Although Maastricht is only one event in a larger chain of European events, the immense changes that took place make it one of the most significant milestones in post European history.
In the last section of this paper we will take a brief look at two further developments that amended and elaborated upon the Treaty of Maastricht which in turn are proof of its ongoing significance. The first treaty to make substantial changes and updates on Maastricht more precisely the TEU was the Treaty of Amsterdam. The second amending treaty, directly related to the first, is the Treaty of Nice in As a result, the treaty enabled European Union expansion, especially eastward expansion. Therefore The Treaty of Nice completed the Treaty of Amsterdam and, to some extent, amended the TEU, while still following in its ethos and therefore re-emphasizing its significance.
Considering all that has been argued in this paper, we can conclude with certainty that the Maastricht Treaty marks an important milestone in the process of European integration and development. It is consequentially considered to be so significant due to a number of reasons. From a theoretical and conceptual perspective, it firstly elaborated and implemented concepts discussed in the previous Single European Act of Lastly, it paved the way for further developments such as the Treaty of Amsterdam, the Treaty of Nice, and others that were to follow.
In practical terms, the Treaty created the notion of European Citizenship with all its benefits and responsibilities, including the freedom to travel and work, the notion of solidarity, the question of social cohesion, etc. It also created the framework for unprecedented possibilities of economic exchange and development, the single currency market, again with all its privileges and responsibilities.
All these matters put together make the Maastricht Treaty one of the most if not the most significant intergovernmental treaties in post European history. It is now the duty of citizens and future generations to continue the chain of events.
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Many thanks! Donations are voluntary and not required to download the e-book - your link to download is below. From the mids onwards, the Commission targeted different forms of direct and indirect state aid.
By further specifying the conditions for state aid, the Commission narrowed the leeway for protectionist industrial policies at member state level. Moreover, the Commission endorsed the hitherto unused privatization directives under Article 3.
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Privatization became a particularly high priority when the Commission took over the role of guiding the previously centrally planned Central and Eastern European countries through the transition to free market capitalism in the s. Former state-owned enterprises ended up in a clearance sale, which created new opportunities for corporate expansion.
Furthermore, the Commission prosecuted cartels with previously unseen rigour. Particularly from onwards, the magnitude of fines imposed on cartelists rose sharply see Table 1. Cartels were newly considered to be the enemy of free competition.
The Commission has also recently imposed large fines on companies for having abused their dominant market positions. To recapitulate: since the mids, the Commission has stepped up its efforts to promote competition in the common market by targeting cartels and abuses of dominant market positions, whilst prohibiting state aid and pushing for privatization.
At the time, European companies were facing harsh competition from much larger and technologically more advanced US companies. Political opposition to supranational merger rules that could potentially block economic concentration was therefore fierce. Companies meeting a certain combined turnover threshold were required to notify their envisaged merger at EU level. The Commission could then either prohibit the merger, subject it to certain conditions or allow it without further ado.
The EU merger rules were adopted in the context of the broader neoliberal regulatory restructuring that started in the mids with the Single European Act SEA. The SEA aimed to complete the Single Market by 31 December by introducing a range of substantial and legislative procedural changes to the Treaty of Rome.
As several industries had sought to overcome the limited domestic growth opportunities by relocating or subcontracting their production to areas in the world where labour was cheap, docile and unregulated and corporate taxes and environmental standards were low, they sought to overcome different national regulations by overriding EU level solutions. Only 25 of the 6, notified mergers — a mere 0. Between and , the Commission prohibited only seven mergers.
Figure 1. Mergers notified to the European Commission, Source: Calculated from European Commission merger statistics , up until 28 February The Commission interpreted this merger wave as a positive signal, indicating an economic upturn. In the neoliberal era, economic concentration has increased massively in Europe and beyond. Between and , the total number of mergers grew worldwide at 42 per cent per year. Alongside the deregulation of financial markets and the growing importance of stock market capitalisation as a means for corporate finance, corporations were bought and sold as if they were random commodities.
Hostile takeovers through the acquisition of a majority of shares without the mutual consent of executive directors became more frequent. Only a third of transactions were full mergers. This was facilitated through the availability of a whole range of new financial products for lending, leasing, hedging and stripping facilitated leveraged buyouts, asset stripping, equity swaps and predatory bidding for shares. As hostile takeovers generally provided the bidder with a free hand in the company reorganisation, hostile takeovers boosted share prices more than friendly ones.
In the run-up to the financial crisis, new records were set for both the number and the size of corporate aggregate turnover. In , eight of the ten largest global mergers in history were concluded, if measured in terms of the aggregated volume of the companies involved, while the sheer number of mergers also set new records. In the three years between and , financial investment companies were responsible for up to 20 per cent of the transactions that were notified to the Commission. The global corporate restructuring processes of the past decades resulted in massive economic concentration, which can be seen from the fact that in many sectors only a small number of companies have high global market shares see Table 2.
Economic concentration through mergers are however only the tip of the iceberg. Commercial inter-company agreements in the form of strategic alliances, partnerships, joint ventures and business consortia have also proliferated. Although boundaries are often blurred, such forms of corporate enmeshment are much more common practice than mergers.
The same dynamic of corporate concentration can be observed in the European seed market. The vitally important EU maize seed sector is dominated by five companies with collective market shares amounting to over half of the total of maize varieties registered in the European Common Catalogue. To further break it down: the maize varieties of DuPont Pioneer encompass The graph below gives an overview of the global concentration in the seeds and pesticide sectors.
This vast global economic concentration has been made possible by the merger-friendly approach of the European Commission, as well as other competition authorities. There is a paradox at the heart of contemporary competition rule enforcement: whereas cartels are fiercely prosecuted, mergers and acquisitions are considered unproblematic and even desirable.
As correctly pointed out by one scholar, a cartel between two companies temporarily reduces competition between them in specifically agreed areas, whereas a merger between two companies permanently eliminates all competition between them. This does not however imply that there is no competition as a result of economic concentration. Oligopolistic markets can be characterized by fierce price competition. At the same time, economic concentration can also lead to tacit collusion whereby companies abstain from competing with one another without explicitly forming a cartel agreement. Transnational corporations seeking to further strengthen their global market positions and gain market access through mergers have been the main beneficiaries of the economic concentration facilitated by the Commission.
It is thus not surprising that transnational and thus large businesses overall strongly support EU competition policy and that less competitive and smaller companies have been losing out. Attempts to form a counterweight through inter-company agreements come with the risk of cartel prosecution, and state subsidies are by and large considered as competition distorting and thus prohibited in the current climate of competition rule enforcement.
EU competition rules function as a fictitious equaliser: they standardize corporations irrespective of their size and economic power into something they are not, namely equal market players. These include organised labour and governments concerned about the economic survival of less competitive domestic companies and industries. These demands have however consistently been ignored by the Commission. The European Project has been and continues to be heavily influenced by corporate interests. The influence of business however must be differentiated, as not all businesses have corresponding interests.
Moreover, the Commission is not a neutral transmission belt that is equally accessible to all groups in society. After all, the Commission enforces EU competition rules relatively autonomously, removed not only from parliaments and governments, but also from interest groups.
Rather, business interests are much more intimately and structurally intertwined with the project of European integration.
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The EU and its complex setup of institutions with the Commission at its core has an built-in structural bias that serves to advance or obstruct particular business interests. With the rise of neoliberalism in Europe and elsewhere, the balance of power has shifted in favour of transnational business and particularly the financial sector, at the expense of smaller and nationally-oriented businesses and labour. So, what about consumers? The Commission claims to act on behalf of consumers who will supposedly directly benefit from competition in the form of lower prices and better quality products.
The effects of EU competition policy on consumers are however far from unambiguous. While intensified competition may indeed lead to lower prices, it should not be forgotten that consumers need employment before they can consume. The consolidation of economic power into ever-fewer transnational corporations is thus not in the interest of consumers or society at large.
Capitalism can contain but is distinct from a free market. We're protected from cartels, but almost never mergers. Capitalists don't get in the way of capital, but mergers do get in the way of a free market. But sometimes this tactic also breaks their neck. But the CEO and banks etc allways get their share We are a small team that works fully independently of funding from the EU, governments, political parties and corporations.
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Search this site. Facebook Twitter Mail Print. Too Big to Control? The politics of mega-mergers and why the EU is not stopping them Introduction The recently proposed mega-mergers between the agro-chemical giants Bayer and Monsanto yet to be officially submitted , Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta will lead to unseen economic concentration in the markets for seeds and pesticides and other chemical inputs. EU competition policy: a bastion of unchecked Commission power The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union includes provisions on anti-competitive agreements Article , the abuse of dominant positions Article , public undertakings Article and state aid Article The enforcement paradox: promoting competition whilst facilitating economic concentration Promoting competition Two phases in the enforcement of EU competition rules can be distinguished throughout the history of European integration.
Table 1. EU competition policy: in whose interest? Kroes, N. For the sake of simplicity, we use the label EU competition policy also for the pre-EU period. All article numbers refer to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Vestager, M. Brussels and Luxembourg: Commission of the European Communities. Brussels: Archives of the European Commission 5. See Buch-Hansen, H. A Critical Political Economy Perspective. New York: Routledge. Monti, M.