Treaty on European Union

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The signatories of the Lisbon Treaty on December 13, 2007

The Treaty on European Union ( EU Treaty , TEU) is the founding treaty of the European Union (EU). Together with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), it forms, expressly referred to as the Treaties (see The Treaties (EUV / TFEU) ), the primary legal basis of the political system of the EU . Sometimes these treaties are therefore also referred to as "European constitutional law ", but formally they are international treaties between the EU member states .

The EU Treaty was concluded in Maastricht on February 7, 1992 and is therefore also known in its original version as the Maastricht Treaty . He later experienced several changes, namely through

It consists of 55 articles, which in particular lay down the provisions on the democratic principles of the European Union, its organs and the common foreign and security policy . The other regulations on the functioning of the EU can be found in the much more extensive AEU Treaty . Both contracts have equal legal status and complement each other. Their planned amalgamation to the Treaty on a Constitution for Europe failed in 2005 because they were rejected in referendums in France and the Netherlands (see Treaty on a Constitution for Europe ).

The EU Treaty is drawn up in the 24 official languages ​​of the European Union and is legally binding in every language version.


The EU Treaty consists of a preamble and 55 articles, which are grouped under six titles. It is structured as follows:

- preamble
I. Common provisions (Articles 1-8)
II. Provisions on democratic principles (Articles 9-12)
III. Provisions on the institutions (Articles 13-19)
IV. Provisions on enhanced cooperation (Article 20)
V. General provisions on the Union's external action and specific provisions on the common foreign and security policy (Articles 21-46)
VI. Final provisions (Articles 47-55)

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (see Art. 6 TEU) as well as 37 protocols and 2 annexes (see Art. 51 TEU), which are also part of the primary law of the European Union, are attached to the contract .

No legal force or binding effect have the Notes to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the 50 joint statements that the IGC has made as part of the Treaty reform of Lisbon. Both serve as an aid to interpretation and can be used to support court decisions (see interpretation (law) ). The 15 unilateral declarations made by individual Member States clarify their positions on certain aspects; they also have no legal force of their own.



The preamble to the EU Treaty emphasizes, among other things, the decision of the member states to " raise the process of European integration that was initiated with the establishment of the European Communities " and "the process of creating an ever closer union of the peoples of Europe [...] continue ". This formulation, which goes back to the original version from 1992, was a compromise between the member states such as Germany and France, who wanted to refer to the goal of European federalism , and Great Britain, which saw it as a threat to national sovereignty . The preamble therefore leaves the question of the finality of the European Union open, but indicates the goal of further integration.

In the course of the debate on the Treaty on a Constitution for Europe in 2004, the inclusion of a reference to God in the preamble was discussed. This was demanded by states such as Italy and Poland as well as Christian democratic parties in various other countries, but failed in particular because of France's rejection. As a compromise solution, it was agreed on the formulation “drawing on the cultural, religious and humanist heritage of Europe”, which was inserted into the preamble of the EU Treaty by the Treaty of Lisbon .

Common provisions

Art. 1 TEU determines the establishment of the European Union, since the Treaty of Lisbon as the legal successor to the European Community . The EU valuesare then set out in Art. 2 TEU. These include, in particular, respect for human dignity , freedom , democracy , equality and the rule of law . Art. 3 TEU names the goals of the EU, which are to be compared with national state goals. Compared to national constitutions, however, the Union's goals are more important, as they form the basis of legitimation for theEU's supranational competences: The EU may only act in order to fulfill the stated goals. The catalog of objectives is therefore quite extensive and relates, among other things, to the promotion of peace , the formation of an area of ​​freedom, security and justice , the European internal market , environmental protection, the fight against social exclusion, the preservation of cultural diversity, etc. The formulation of objectives is rather general and is partly specified in more detail in the AEU Treaty.

Art. 4 f. TEU regulates the basic principles for exercising EU competences. It commits the Union and the Member States to mutual respect and sincere cooperation. Art. 5 TEU cites the principle of limited individual authorization, according to which the EU may only act in areas for which it has been expressly assigned responsibility in the text of the contract. It also lays down the principle of subsidiarity , according to which the Union can only act if the aims pursued could not just as easily be achieved at national or local level. The principle of proportionality finally determined that the EU measures must not extend further than is necessary to meet the Union's objectives.

Art. 6 TEU regulates the protection of fundamental rights in the EU and refers to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights , the European Convention on Human Rights and the “common constitutional traditions” of the member states. Art. 7 TEU specifies a procedure by which EU member states that violate human rights can withdraw certain rights that result from EU membership ( suspension of EU membership ). This applies in particular to the right to vote in the Council of the EU . Since no state can be excluded from the European Union andthere is no provision in the EU treaty corresponding tothe German federal obligation, the suspension of membership is the EU's toughest means of pressure against the member states. However, it has never been used. Finally, Art. 8 TEU obliges the EU to maintain good relations with its neighboring countries.

Provisions on democratic principles

The second title of the EU Treaty contains the provisions on Union citizenship ( Art. 9 TEU), emphasizes the role of representative democracy and the European political parties ( Art. 10 TEU). It underlines the importance of citizen participation and defines the principles of the European citizens' initiative ( Art. 11 TEU). Art. 12 regulates the role of the national parliaments, which in the political system of the EU in particular fulfill the function of a “subsidiarity watchdog”.

Provisions on the organs

Title III of the EU Treaty defines the institutional framework of the EU. This includes the European Parliament ( Art. 14 TEU), the European Council ( Art. 15 TEU), the Council of the European Union (referred to in the contract as “Council”, Art. 16 TEU), the European Commission ( Art. 17 TEU ), the Court of Justice of the European Union ( Art. 19 TEU) as well as the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors (only called “Court of Auditors” in the contract, Art. 13 TEU). The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions are named as advisory institutions . The AEU Treaty contains further regulations for all of these institutions.

A separate article ( Art. 18 TEU) also explains the role of the EU High Representative for foreign and security policy .

Enhanced cooperation provisions

Title IV of the EU Treaty, which consists of only one article, contains the provisions for enhanced cooperation ( Art. 20 TEU). This special procedure enables a group of EU member states to take deeper steps towards integration, even if other member states do not yet want to participate.

Provisions on the EU's external action

Foreign policy is the only policy area of ​​the European Union that is not regulated in the AEU Treaty, but in the EU Treaty. This has its historical cause in the three-pillar model of the EU , which the Maastricht Treaty originally established: while supranational decision-making procedures applied to economic policy that were laid down in the EC Treaty (later the AEU Treaty), the internal and foreign policy was purely intergovernmental and regulated in the EU treaty. The three-pillar structure was dissolved by the Treaty of Lisbon ; the now also supranational EU domestic policy was incorporated into the AEU Treaty. Only foreign policy, for which intergovernmental procedures still apply, remained in the EU treaty.

Title V, which contains the provisions on the EU's foreign policy, is the largest of the Treaty. First of all, it lays down general principles on which the EU's external action must be oriented, in particular principles such as democracy and respect for human rights as well as the principles of the Charter of the United Nations . Due to the requirement of coherence , the various foreign policy actors of the EU are obliged to coordinate with one another ( Art. 21 TEU). The European Council is defined as the decisive decision-making body for strategic interests and goals ( Art. 22 TEU).

The procedures of the common foreign and security policy ( Art. 22 ff. TEU) including the common security and defense policy ( Art. 42 ff. TEU) are then explained in detail.

Final provisions

The final title of the EU Treaty includes provisions of various kinds: Art. 47 TEU defines the legal personality of the EU and thus enables it to act as an independent subject of international law . Art. 48 TEU explains the amendment procedures for the contract ( see below ). In Art. 49 TEU the procedure for the accession of new member states is explained, in Art. 50 TEU the right of the member states to withdraw from the Union is specified. The remaining articles add the protocols and annexes to contract law ( Art. 51 TEU) and determine the territorial scope of application of the EU member states ( Art. 52 TEU) as well as the unlimited duration ( Art. 53 TEU) of the contract Ratification procedure ( Art. 54 TEU) and the 24 official language versions of the Treaty ( Art. 55 TEU).

Contract amendment procedure

As international treaties, the wording of the EU treaty and the AEU treaty can in principle be changed by amending treaties, which also have the status of international treaties. So far this has been done through the Treaty of Amsterdam 1997, the Treaty of Nice 2001 and the Treaty of Lisbon 2007. These treaty reforms were each worked out by an intergovernmental conference and then ratified individually by all member states . Even if the modalities of these treaty amendments had been laid down in primary law since the foundation of the ECSC , they essentially followed the standard procedures laid down in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties . Since the Lisbon Treaty came into force, however, the EU Treaty itself has determined special amendment procedures for how treaty reforms should take place in the future ( Art. 48 ). A distinction is made between an ordinary amendment procedure and a simplified amendment procedure , the latter not necessarily requiring ratification by the national parliaments in special cases. However, a unanimous decision by the national governments is necessary in any case. A change in the EU treaty is therefore normally much more difficult to achieve than a change in national constitutions .

The ordinary amendment procedure can be initiated by the government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the European Commission , which submit draft reforms to the Council , which forwards the drafts to the European Council and informs the national parliaments. The latter then decides on the establishment of a European Convention made up of representatives of the national parliaments, the national governments, the European Parliament and the Commission. This Convention then developed recommendations it adopts by consensus and an IGC submitted to the Member States. This then works out an amending treaty, which must then be ratified by all member states. In the case of only minor changes, the European Council can dispense with the establishment of a convention and determine the mandate for the Intergovernmental Conference itself. This would correspond to the usual procedure for previous changes to the contract.

The simplified amendment procedure is only possible for the third part of the FEU Treaty , which regulates the internal policy areas of the EU. Here the European Council itself can adopt a decision amending the treaty. It decides unanimously after hearing the European Parliament and the Commission and, if necessary, the European Central Bank , if currency issues are concerned. The decision must not include an extension of the EU's competences and will only come into force once it has been approved by all member states in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. In many Member States, including Germany, such a decision is only possible with the consent of the national parliament.

Another simplified amendment procedure concerns the policy areas in which the Council of the European Union decides unanimously according to the text of the treaty. With a unanimous decision of the European Council, a majority procedure can be adopted (so-called passerelle clause ). This does not apply to resolutions in the military or defense policy area, wherever the principle of unanimity applies. Furthermore, in areas for which a special legislative procedure applies, the ordinary legislative procedure can be introduced by a unanimous decision of the European Council . In both cases, the European Parliament must approve the decision of the European Council. In addition, each national parliament has a six-month period to veto such a decision. In some member states, including Germany, the national parliament even has to expressly support the decision so that the government can vote in favor of it in the European Council.

Timeline of the European Treaties

in force
European Act
  Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif Pix.gif
European Communities Three pillars of the European Union
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Contract expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC) European Community (EC)
      Justice and Home Affairs (JI)
  Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (PJZS)
European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Western Union (WU) Western European Union (WEU)    
dissolved on July 1, 2011


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