INTRODUCTION: The European Economic Community -- often popularly known as "The Common Market" -- is just 20 years old.
INTRODUCTION: The European Economic Community -- often popularly known as "The Common Market" -- is just 20 years old. The Treaty of Rome. Which brought it into existence, was signed by statesmen from the six original members on 25th March, 1957.
SYNOPSIS: The "six" were France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. When their Foreign Minister put their signatures to the Treaty of Rome, it was the culmination of two years' detailed planning. The Treaty was the biggest, though not the first, step towards uniting western Europe. The concept owed much to four post-war European leader:
Signor Gasperi of Italy, Dr. Adenauer of West Germany French economist Jean Monnet and Foreign Minister Robert Schuman.
The objects were to get rid of customs barriers, make the Community one economic unit and take advantage of a larger market to develop new technologies. In this, it had substantial success. Trade between the member countries had doubled in volume in five years, and nearly doubled again in the next five.
Four more countries applied to join: Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway -- though the Norwegian people finally decided against, by referendum. An earlier British application in 1962 had been rejected by President de Gaulle of France. So it was particularly satisfying to prime minister Edward Heath when he was able to put his Signature to the Treaty ten years later. "The six" had become "the nine".
Freedom of movement is another Community aim. No discrimination is allowed against a citizen of another Community member in getting a job.
The Community has always denied accusations of being a "rich man's club". In 1963, 18 African stats, mostly former French and Belgian colonies, became associated through the Yaounde Convention. This association was extended by the Lome Convention of 1975 to 46 countries. The newcomers included Commonwealth countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Community gives them development aid, and duty-free access to Community markets.
The common agricultural policy is one of the most controversial of the community's activities. It is designed to ensure steady prices for the farmers. But its critics say it encourages over - production, high prices to the producer, and expensive food for the consumer.
A year or so ago, vine-growers in the south of France became so incensed about the import of cheaper Italian wines under Community regulations that they blocked the roads to keep out the tankers bringing in the wine.
And Britain, in particular, has objected to surplus butter being sold cheaply in Eastern Europe, rather than bring down the price to Community consumers.
The Community is still hoping, eventually, to have a common currency. The imbalance between its strongest and weakest currencies causes great difficulties at present.
The next major development is likely to be the improvement of democratic control. Direct elections for the European Parliament (instead of selection of members from national parliaments) are due to be held next year.