The signatories of the Maastricht Treaty, which came into effect 25 years ago, did not intend to create a European democracy.
Their ambition was mainly to complete the internal market. They hoped to achieve that goal by introducing two major innovations: the single currency and citizenship of the EU. The currency was seen as the jewel in the crown, while citizenship was meant to improve the position of citizens of a Member State who lived and worked in another Member State.
A quarter of a century later, it has become clear that the most significant understanding of “Maastricht” is that it has laid the seed for European democracy. This apparent contradiction can be explained by the change of perspective that has taken place over the past 25 years. The political leaders of the generation Kohl, Delors and Lubbers were used to assess European co-operation from the perspective of their own Member States. First and foremost, European co-operation had ensured that no new wars broke out between the Member States and was aimed at strengthening the position of European countries in the 1990s. The decline of influence of individual countries on the world markets was halted by working together in the EU. The strength of the euro on the financial markets by 2018 shows that this effort has not been in vain.
However, the then leaders did not suspect or foresee that the introduction of citizenship would give the EU a different dimension. The distinguishing characteristic of the EU, in their view, was that the Member States each met strict requirements of democracy and the rule of law. For them, the EU formed an organization of democratic states. They differed on the final goal of the collaboration. Some leaders felt that the EU should become a federal state, but others wanted a Europe of Fatherlands. In both approaches, democracy and the enforcement of human rights had to be paramount.