The current attempt by the United Kingdom, Eire, Norway and Denmark to negotiate suitable entry terms into the European Common Market is the third in ten years.
The current attempt by the United Kingdom, Eire, Norway and Denmark to negotiate suitable entry terms into the European Common Market is the third in ten years. The Common Market is only older by another three years, but at the time of its founding the present candidate countries remained aloof.
This feature, the fifth in our series on the Common Market, traces the development of the two abortive attempts to join the Market, and shows the reasons for their failure.
The United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark did not sign the Treaty of Rome, which set up the Common Market in 1957, because they felt unable to accept the degree of supra-nationality implicit in the Treaty. They were nevertheless very conscious of the economic disadvantage they now found themselves at, being excluded from a large tariff group on their doorstep. With Switzerland, Austria, Portugal and Sweden they formed a rival economic group -the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). They gave themselves trading preferences and agreed on a programme of reduced tariffs, yet making no claims on their political sovereignty.
But the advantages of EFTA proved of minimal importance compared to the booming trade within the Common Market. In 1961 the United Kingdom, Eire and Denmark overcame their political fears and applied for membership of the Common Market. Norway followed suit in 1962. The negotiations dragged on for months, but France's President de Gaulle said "no" And the second application in 1967 also foundered on the President's veto.
This feature on the previous abortive attempts to enlarge the Common Market is the fifth in the VISNEWS series on the Common Market entry negotiations. The series began on May 17 with Prod.No 5514/71, dealing with the problems of New Zealand's economic dependence on the British market. The second feature was Prod.No.5576/71, on the Caribbean sugar growers dependence on Britain; the third was Prod. No.5702, on the formation of the Common Market; and the fourth described the controversial Common Agricultural Policy. The last of the series will deal with the opposition in the candidate countries to membership of the Common Market, and will follow in the next few days.
SYNOPSIS: In Rome in 1957, the treaty was signed that set up the European Common Market. West Germany, France Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg agreed to create a vast trading block in Europe, free of tariffs. Only six countries signed because the ideal implicit in the Treaty of Rome...to unite Europe... scared off other countries wishing to keep all their sovereign powers.
But the economic advantages of such a trading block were clear to all. The next year the United Kingdom, Portugal,m Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria and Switzerland set up EFTA, a rival economic group which laid no claims to political union of any sort. Its aim was purely economic. But EFTA proved of little value compared to the booming trade in the Common Market.
In 1961, Mr. Macmillan applied for Britain, along with Eire and Denmark, to join the Common Market. Norway applied soon after.
But the decision to accept new members must be unanimous...and in 1963 the President of France, General de Gaulle, said "no." He feared Britain would make the community "a colossal Atlantic community under America domination." And he questioned the political aims of all the candidate countries.
The Council of Europe. In 1967 the new British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, confirmed that his country would reapply for membership of the Common Market. Again, Eire and Denmark also applied, and a few months later, Norway reapplied.
The official application was made at the Congress Palace in Brussels in May, 1967. The applicant countries had decided to accept all the political implications of the Treaty of Rome.
In an attempt to out across Britain's case for joining the market, and to win support, Harold Wilson and his second command, Mr. George Brown toured Europe's capitals. The most crucial visit was this one to Paris. The British leaders spent two days in discussions with General de Gaulle and his top ministers. But it didn't do much good.
In November of 1967, the French leader again put an end to the hopes of Britain. And the applications of the other three candidate countries, which relied on the success of the British one, also foundered. General de Gaulle considered the British economy to be too weak. And as always, he doubted the European will of Britain. Without saying so directly, he again vetoed an enlargement of the Common Market.
The young idealists who saw the enlargement of the Common Market as the next step to the unification of Europe were disheartened. Many of them demonstrated outside the ancient hall of Knights in the Hague in Holland in 1969, when the Heads of State of the Common Market countries met to decide on the future or their Community. Georges Pompidou had succeeded General de Gaulle as the President of France, and he proved more encouraging. The summit decided to try to enlarge the Common Market again, the third attempt in ten years.