February 7th, 2012
03:52 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – In December 1991, I was a 27-year old journalist covering the creation of a European treaty in Maastricht. Negotiations took some weeks, but exactly twenty years ago on Tuesday the city, sandwiched between Belgium and Germany, witnessed the signing of "The Treaty on European Union." The European Union had been created.

I recall forgetting my pass (yes, that one pictured above) and having to get a taxi back to our hotel in Germany to get it. And I remember the story being a bit confusing. I had moved from the U.S. to Europe only a year earlier and was trying to figure how things differed across the Atlantic.

I wondered if the so-called Maastricht Treaty really was creating a "United States of Europe" as some called it? And why did Britain say it had an "opt in" to the treaty, when everyone else called it an "opt-out"? Would the French, Italians and Dutch really be happy to scrap their centuries-old currencies for a new one, yet unnamed?

Two decades on, it seems those questions are being asked not by a rookie reporter, but by the politicians trying to hold the union together.

Before the Maastricht Treaty, we had the European Economic Community or EEC (not to be confused with the other EC or European Commission which still exists). But from 7 February 1992 we started to call the 12 countries which had been bound together the "EU."

Jim Boulden compares Maastricht: Then and now

Maastricht refers to the three pillars created in that treaty: The union itself, the foreign policy of the union, and the judicial/police role of the union.

From this came the wonderful common currency – the euro. It was born 20 years ago and minted 11 years ago. Ten of the 12 countries that signed Maastricht that February day eventually adopted it.

And we had the Maastricht Criteria. These are the five rules, still firmly in place, that included no country could allow its public debt exceed 60% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and no annual budget deficit could rise above 3% of GDP.

Needless to say, most countries that signed then, and those which joined later, massively violated the rules.

Yes, some with good reason: Stimulus in 2008 and 2009 may very well have saved the world economy from imploding after a host of banks went under. But now austerity is the word of the day and countries are pledging to slash the debt and deficit.

Another of the five Maastricht criteria stated inflation was to remain firmly under control. Looking back, it’s debatable that Greek inflation came within the criteria. It was still able to join monetary union, albeit very late in the game, in 2001 and issued coins in January 2002 like other 11 euro countries.

What could go wrong?



soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Berlin50

    Another Trash Europe article by Jim Boulden. This guy is clearly not a reporter under any descent standard. His articles and interviews continually ridicule and/or criticize Europe like this.

    Just one tiny example in this article (among his endless critique of Europe). "From this came the wonderful common currency" Clearly a derogatory comment. This is not worthy for any good news report. In the real world the Euro has been above the Dollar for over 9 years now and it is rising in value once again. Don`t expect Jim to report on this. But at days when the Euro devalues a bit expect Jim to be the first to tell you how terrible Europe and the Euro is and to see it on CNN. What a joke CNN has become.

    February 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  2. B. Pingel

    You might want to mention that Maastricht is in the Netherlands, not just "sandwiched" between Germany and Belgium.

    February 8, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  3. kazan

    Big changes never go smoothly, no doubt the Euro and the Euro zone will prevail.

    February 8, 2012 at 7:28 am |
  4. BadMoody

    I understand some anglo saxons have an interest in a failing Euro – possibly out of self interest as their pensions will be payed in another currency. I would like to point out that any problem with Greece (5% EU GDP) is not any more dramatic than a hiccup of Florida (5% US GDP) so let's go on with real-world business as opposed to malicious speculation.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  5. Euroooo

    Agree with B.Pingel.

    February 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  6. Christian Louboutin Sale Clearance

    if he finally decided to come here, he must decide when to fly Christian Louboutin Sale Clearance http://www.batteriesinternational.com/pumps.php

    July 22, 2013 at 2:08 am |

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