The European Union
The basic principle, that lies behind the European integration is the conviction, that national
and regional authorities need to be matched by independent, democratic European institutions
with responsibility for those areas in which jo int action is more effective than action by
individual states: the single market, monetary policy, economic and social cohesion, foreign
and security policy, employment policy, environmental protection, foreign and defense
policy, the creation of an area of freedom and justice.
The first step towards a united Europe was taken in 1950, when the foreign minister of
France Schuman presented the so-called Schuman Plan. This plan provided a basis for the
Treaty of Paris in 1951, which led to the creation of the European Steel and Coal Community.
It created a common market in coal and steel between the six founding members – Belgium,
France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg and the Netherlands.
In 1957 the Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community a community
built around the free movement of workers, goods and services. The success of the Six led
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom to join the EEC in 1973.
The need for economic convergence and monetary union became apparent in the early
1970s when the United States of America suspended dollar convertibility. This marked the
beginning of a period of worldwide monetary instability, which had been stabilized with the
creation of a European Monetary System in 1979. The community expanded southwards with
the accession of Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986.
The collapse of communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union transformed the
political structure of Europe. The Member States, determined to strengthen their ties,
negotiated a new Treaty, the main features of which were agreed at the Maastricht European
Council in December 1991.
The Treaty on European Union or the Maastricht Treaty, which entered into force on 1st of
November 1993, set the Member States an ambitious program: monetary union by 1999,
creation of euro, new common policies, European citizenship, a common foreign and security
policy and internal security, enlargement of the Union. Inn 1993 also a single market was
In 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union.
Enlargement is one of the most important opportunities for the European Union this time. It
is a unique historic task to further the integration of the continent by the peaceful means,
extending a zone of stability and prosperity to new members.
Cooperation with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe started soon after the fall of
the Berlin Wall in 1989. In the same year the Phare Program was created, that provides
financial support for the countries´ efforts to rebuilt and reform their economies.
During the 1990s the European Union concluded the so-called Europe Agreements, with ten
countries of central Europe. They provide a basis for bilateral relations. These agreements
were signed also with the Slovak Republic in 1993 and came into force in 1995.
In 1993 at the Copenhagen Council, it was decided, that associated countries of central and
Eastern Europe can become members of the EU and designed the membership criteria which
are often referred to as the Copenhagen Criteria.
In order to join the EU each candidate country has to achieve the following:
- stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect
for and protection of minorities
- existence of a functioning market economy, as well as the capacity to cope with
competitive pressure and market forces within the Union
In July 1997 the European Commission presented Agenda 2000, in which the Commission
outlines the perspective for the development of the European Union beyond the turn of the
It also included the Commission’s Opinions on the candidate countries´ applications for
membership, which evaluated the situation of each country in relation to the accession
criteria. In its 1997 Opinions the EC recommended that accession negotiations start with the
Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
Besides the Opinions the Commission submits also Regular Reports to the Council on
further progress achieved by each candidate country. On the basis of the 1999 Regular
Reports the Commission recommended, that accession negotiations be opened also with
Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovak Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.
The negotiations with the candidate countries are conducted individually and the pace of
each negotiation depends on the degree of preparation by each candidate country. Each
candidate is thus judged on its own merits.
The Essen European Council at the end of 1994 defined a pre-accession strategy to prepare
the countries of the central Europe for EU membership. This strategy was based on three main
elements: implementation of the Europe Agreements, the Phare Program financial assistance,
and a structured dialogue bringing all Member States and candidate countries together to
discuss issues of common interest.
Key instruments of strengthening the pre-accession strategy are Accession Partnerships.
Each country’s Accession Partnerships sets out clear priorities and also highlights the main
instruments and financial resources available.
The economic criteria for Slovak Republic from the 1999 Accession Partnerships are the
following: to promote competitiveness, supported by transparent financial sector reform,
privatization of financial institutions and bad debt recovery mechanisms.
Another part of the pre-accession strategy is twinning. It was launched in May 1998 to help
the candidate countries in their development to reach the level of Member States. The
twinning project for Slovakia is police training with UK being the lead partner.