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The History of the EU and the Common Market

December 4, 2018

The following notes were taken by NYU Florence student Sydney Orr during NYU Florence faculty member Davide Lombardo's Introductory talk on the History of the EU and the Common Market. 


The European Union currently has 28 Member States (nation states). In March 2019, the UK will leave the EU, bringing the total number of members to  27.


European economic integration began in 1952, with the ghost of World War II still hovering above the continent, through the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. The initial 6 founding countries were France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. If these countries pooled their coal and steel resources, resources needed to make weapons of war, they would be forced to make common decisions, and conflict among them would be less likely. The Coal and Steel Treaty opened the door for the Treaty of Rome to be signed in 1957 by these 6 nations, creating the European Economic Community (Common Market).


In the beginning, the EEC’s main focus was agriculture.  It advocated for free trade among the member states. To further the objective of free trade, signatories  began to consider coordinating their currency. The EEC moved form a common market to the single market by removing physical and fiscal barriers and reducing  tax discrepancies throughout union. This would eventually lead to the formation of the European Union.


Integration is not easy to accomplish because there are times when the national law does not comply with the law of the overarching law of the EU. One of the many facets of the EU is the Court of Justice. Even though the EU can create law and have a judicial branch, each member state still remains independent. The EU offers an interesting article in their constitution. Article 50 allows member states the right to leave the EU. This was the legal basis for Brexit. This type of article is not commonly found in the constitutions of countries- usually succession would initiate war or have other serious ramifications. However, since the EU is not a country, they allow for this. While there is a procedure to leave the EU there is no procedure to leave the Euro. 1999-2002 was the launch of the Euro. The money is faceless to help promote unity. Not every country in the EU has adopted the euro. Only 19 of the 28 member states use the Euro.


Q&A with Davide Lombardo


Q: The Labor Union in Britain has been questioning whether or not they should have another vote to leave the UK. Do you think this will happen?

A: There is history of voting for a referendum 2x, and there is a possibility that the UK can do this, but it is unlikely and would be quite problematic. It is problematic in terms of the constitution because a referendum is supposed to be taken seriously and not viewed as a poll. A referendum is not there to see how people are feeling on a certain topic but to make (or not) policy change. Referendums on the same topic can be held but it would make more sense for them to be spaced out because it allows for new voices and ideas to influence the population. If the UK is to vote again they would have to find a legitimate reason to do so.


Q: How do countries within the EU manage their sovereignty?

A: Strong debates have taken place among member states, who wins: the EU or the constitution of the nation state? Overall, the EU law is above national law in terms of competence. But, each member is free to go to court and vote on each problem that arises.  Problem arise when EU law does not fully coincide with the member state’s constitution.


Q: Do all countries have equal representation?

A: The EU has a degressive proportionality system. No country can have fewer than 6 or more than 96 members in parliament. This is important for the smaller countries because having 6 members for your small nation will increase the voice for your people- because you will have a larger representation than what your population calls for- but that doesn’t make it a stronger voice than the nation with 96 members.


Q: How does the EU work in relation to the G7? Countries that are a part of the G7 are also a part of the EU... does this mean that there is double the voice?  

A: There is a representative of each nation state in the G7, but there is also a representative for the EU overall. Policy for the EU is created in Brussels, and that representative is very important to have at the G7.



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