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definition - Single_European_Act

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Single European Act (n.)


Single European Act

Single European Act
Type Amending treaty
Signed 17 February 1986/
28 February 1986
Location Luxembourg/
The Hague
Effective 1 July 1987
Parties 12 EEC members
Depository Government of Italy
Single European Act at Wikisource

The Single European Act (SEA) was the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The Act set the European Community an objective of establishing a Single Market by 31 December 1992, and codified European Political Cooperation, the forerunner of the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy. It was signed at Luxembourg on 17 February 1986, and at The Hague on 28 February 1986. It came into effect on 1 July 1987, under the Delors Commission.



The SEA's signing grew from the discontent among European Community members in the 1980s about the de facto lack of free trade among them. Leaders from business and politics wanted to harmonise laws among countries and resolve policy discrepancies.

The Treaty was drafted with the aim of implementing parts of the Dooge report on institutional reform of the Community and the European Commission's white paper on reforming the Common Market. The resultant treaty aimed to create a "Single Market" in the Community by 1992, and as a means of achieving this adopted a more collaborative legislative process, later known as the cooperation procedure, which gave the European Parliament a real say in legislating for the first time and introduced more majority voting in the Council of Ministers.[1] Under the procedure the Council could, with the support of Parliament and acting on a proposal by the Commission, adopt a legislative proposal by a qualified majority, but the Council could also overrule a rejection of a proposed law by the Parliament by adopting a proposal unanimously.[2]

The SEA was signed on the basis of a political agreement reached at the European Council held in Luxembourg on 3 December 1985.


A core element of the SEA was to create a Single Market within the European Community by 1992, a date by which, it was hoped, the legislative reforms seen necessary would have been completed. In order to make this objective possible the SEA reformed the legislative process by introducing the Cooperation procedure and by extending Qualified Majority Voting to new areas. Measures were taken to shorten the legislative process. The SEA intended to remove barriers and to increase harmonisation and competitiveness among its countries.

  Signing and ratification

The signing and ratification of the Single European Act were not without incident. Two member states, Denmark and Ireland, submitted the treaty to a popular vote.

The Danish parliament rejected the Single Act in January 1986 after an opposition motion calling for the then unsigned document to be renegotiated was passed by 80 votes to 75.[3] The Danish government, who supported the treaty, decided to hold a national, non-binding referendum on the issue in order to overcome the treaty's rejection by the Danish parliament. This referendum was duly held on 27 February 1986 and approved by the Danish people by 56.2% voting in favour to 43.8% against on a turnout of 75.4%. Denmark signed the Single Act the following day in the Hague along with Italy and Greece who had also delayed in signing. Whilst the Danish opposition opposed the treaty because they said it would increase the powers of the European Parliament,[3] the Italian government delayed in signing for the opposite concern: that, in their opinion, it would not give the European Parliament enough power.[4]

The other nine member states signed the Single Act eleven days earlier in Luxembourg;[5] the earlier date having been originally intended as display of unity within the Community regarding the SEA.[4]

It had been originally intended to have the SEA ratified by the end of 1986 so that it would come into force on 1 January 1987 and 11 of the then 12 member states of the EEC had ratified the treaty by that date.[6] The deadline failed to be achieved when the Irish government were restrained from ratifying the SEA pending court proceedings.[7]

In the court case, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that the Irish Constitution would have to be amended before the state could ratify the treaty, something that can only be done by referendum. Such a referendum was ultimately held on 26 May 1987 when the proposal was approved by Irish voters by 69.9% in favour to 30.1% against on a turnout of 44.1%. Ireland formally ratified the Single European Act in June 1987, allowing the treaty to come into force on 1 July.

  Treaty time line

In force
Brussels Treaty
Paris Treaty
Modified Brussels Treaty
Rome treaties
Merger Treaty
European Council conclusion
Schengen Treaty
Single European Act
Maastricht Treaty
Amsterdam Treaty
Nice Treaty
Lisbon Treaty
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities:  
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)
        Schengen Rules   European Community (EC)
    TREVI Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)  
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
          European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    
Treaty terminated in 2011  

  See also


  1. ^ Craig, Paul; de Burca, Grainne (2003). EU Law: Text, Cases and Materials (3rd Edition ed.). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 143. ISBN 0-19-925608-X. 
  2. ^ Article 7 of the Single European Act amending Article 7 of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community.
  3. ^ a b "Danish Parliament votes to reject EEC reforms". The Irish Times: p. 5. 22 January 1986. 
  4. ^ a b Boland, Colm (17 February 1986). "Ireland to sign EEC foreign policy treaty today". The Irish Times. 
  5. ^ "The signing of the Single European Act". European Navigator. http://www.ena.lu/signing_single_european_act-020102148.html. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Carroll, Joe (31 December 1986). "Single Act ratified by 11 states". The Irish Times: p. 13. 
  7. ^ Carroll, Joe (25 December 1986). "Court delays ratification of European Act". The Irish Times: p. 1. 

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