Five things you need to know about the Maastricht Treaty
15 February 2017 (updated on 1 February 2020)
The Treaty laid the foundations for the European Union as we know it today
The Maastricht Treaty, officially known as the Treaty on European Union, laid the foundations for the European Union as we know it today.
It was the result of several years of discussions between governments and was signed in the Dutch city of Maastricht, which lies close to the borders with Belgium and Germany. Here are five things you need to know about the Treaty.
It established the European Union
The Maastricht Treaty significantly increased cooperation between European countries in a number of new areas:
It was signed by 12 countries
It laid the foundations for the euro
A single currency for Europeans
The Maastricht Treaty paved the way for the creation of a single European currency: the euro. It also established the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European System of Central Banks and describes their objectives. The main objective for the ECB is to maintain price stability, i.e. to safeguard the value of the euro.
The Treaty was the culmination of several decades of debate on increasing economic cooperation in Europe. European leaders reopened the discussion about introducing a single currency in 1986 and committed to a three-stage transition process in 1989.
The Maastricht Treaty formally established these stages:
It introduced the criteria that countries must meet to join the euro
The Treaty also established rules on how the euro would work in practice. This included specifying what a country needs to do to join the euro area.
The purpose of these particular rules, sometimes referred to as the Maastricht criteria or the convergence criteria, is to ensure price stability is maintained in the euro area even when new countries join the currency.
The rules work to ensure that countries joining are stable in the following areas:
It was a giant leap forward for European integration
Europe has moved closer together
Since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, European countries have grown closer together, while some policy areas such as economic and fiscal policies remain at national level. European leaders have agreed on additional steps to promote further integration between European states such as:
Today, more than 440 million citizens from 27 Member States enjoy the benefits of European cooperation
In the years since the roadmap towards the euro was agreed, the euro has become the world’s second most traded currency and is part of the daily life of 340 million citizens in 19 countries.