This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website
Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)
Initially created to coordinate the Member States' research programmes for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the Euratom Treaty today helps to pool knowledge, infrastructure and funding of nuclear energy. It ensures the security of atomic energy supply within the framework of a centralised monitoring system.
The establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which came into being in July 1952, was the first great achievement of the supranational Europe. For the first time, the six Member States of this organisation surrendered part of their national sovereignty, albeit in a limited field, to the Community.
The limitations of this first attempt at integration were quickly revealed with the failure of the European Defence Community (EDC) in 1954.
While it might have been feared that the effort undertaken by the ECSC would not bear fruit, the Messina Conference of June 1955 attempted to relaunch the European process. The Conference was followed by a series of other meetings of ministers and experts. A preparatory committee was set up at the beginning of 1956 with the task of preparing a report on the creation of a European common market. This committee met in Brussels and was chaired by P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Foreign Minister at the time. In April 1956, the committee proposed a set of two projects which corresponded to the two options chosen by the States:
These famous "Treaties of Rome" were signed in Rome in March 1957.
The first treaty established a European Economic Community (EEC) and the second established a European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom.
Following unproblematic ratification in the various countries, the two treaties entered into force on 1 January 1958.
This summary sheet deals only with the Euratom Treaty.
To tackle the general shortage of "conventional" energy in the 1950s, the six founding States (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) looked to nuclear energy as a means of achieving energy independence. Since the costs of investing in nuclear energy could not be met by individual States, the founding States joined together to form Euratom.
The general objective of the Treaty is to contribute to the formation and development of Europe's nuclear industries, so that all the Member States can benefit from the development of atomic energy, and to ensure security of supply. At the same time, the Treaty guarantees high safety standards for the public and prevents nuclear materials intended principally for civilian use from being diverted to military use. It is important to note that Euratom's powers are limited to peaceful civil uses of nuclear energy.
Moreover, in the preamble, the signatories described themselves as:
" - recognizing that nuclear energy represents an essential resource for the development and invigoration of industry and will permit the advancement of the cause of peace …,
- resolved to create the conditions necessary for the development of a powerful nuclear industry which will provide extensive energy resources, lead to the modernization of technical processes and contribute, through its many other applications, to the prosperity of their peoples,
- anxious to create the conditions of safety necessary to eliminate hazards to the life and health of the public,
- desiring to associate other countries with their work and to cooperate with international organizations concerned with the peaceful development of atomic energy …".
The objective of the Euratom Treaty is to pool the nuclear industries of Member States. In this context, it applies only to certain entities (Member States, physical persons, and public or private undertakings or institutions) which carry out some or all of their activities in an area covered by the Treaty, i.e. special fissile materials, source materials and the ores from which source materials are extracted.
The Euratom Treaty comprises 234 articles which are set out under six titles and preceded by a preamble. The number of articles was reduced to 177 following the signature in December 2007 of the Treaty amending the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty) and the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty).
Furthermore, the Treaty also includes five annexes dealing with the fields of research concerning nuclear energy referred to in Article 4 of the Treaty, the industrial activities referred to in Article 41 of the Treaty, the advantages which may be conferred on joint undertakings under Article 48 of the Treaty, a list of goods and products subject to the provisions of Chapter 9 on the nuclear common market, and the initial research and training programme referred to in Article 215 of the Treaty.
Lastly, two protocols are also appended to the Treaty. These are the Protocol on the application of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community to the non-European parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Protocol on the Statute of the Court of Justice of the European Atomic Energy Community.
According to the Treaty, the specific tasks of Euratom are:
- prohibits all practices designed to secure a privileged position for certain users;
- establishes an Agency with a right of option on ores, source materials and special fissile materials produced in the territories of Member States and an exclusive right to conclude contracts relating to the supply of ores, source materials and special fissile materials coming from inside the Community or from outside.
The Euratom Supply Agency has legal personality and financial autonomy and is under the supervision of the Commission, which issues directives to it and possesses a right of veto over its decisions.
Member States are required to submit an annual report to the Commission on the development of prospecting and production, on probable reserves and on investment in mining which has been made or is planned in their territories.
The Commission must ensure that, in the territories of the Member States:
- ores, source materials and special fissile materials are not diverted from the intended uses declared by users;
- the provisions relating to supply are complied with, together with any particular commitments to ensure access to the best available techniques by means of a common market in materials, equipment, etc.
The Commission may send inspectors into the territories of Member States. These inspectors have access at all times to all places and data and to all persons who, by reason of their occupation, deal with materials, equipment or installations subject to the safeguards.
The Euratom safeguards are applied in conjunction with those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under tripartite agreements concluded between the Member States, the Community and the IAEA.
In the event of infringement of these obligations, the Commission may impose sanctions on the persons or undertakings responsible. These sanctions can range from a simple warning to the total or partial withdrawal of source materials or special fissile materials, and also include the withdrawal of special benefits (such as financial or technical assistance) or the placing of the undertaking under the administration of a person or a board.
The Commission negotiates and concludes agreements governing nuclear cooperation with third countries. However, conclusion of such agreements is subject to approval by the Council. The Member States are required, for their part, to notify the Commission of any draft agreements or contracts with a third State, an international organisation or a national of a third State. Currently, there are Euratom agreements with many countries, including the USA, Australia and Canada.
INSTITUTIONS AND MEMBER STATES
The institutional structure of the Euratom Treaty is broadly similar to that of the EEC Treaty and is built around the same "institutional triangle" (Council, Commission and European Parliament). Thus, the fulfilment of the tasks entrusted to the Community is ensured not only by the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, but also by the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. Each institution acts within the limits of the powers conferred on it by the Treaty. The Council and the Commission are assisted by an Economic and Social Committee acting in an advisory capacity.
The Community institutions are responsible for implementing the Treaty and for the two specific Euratom bodies: the Supply Agency and the Safeguards Office (which carries out physical and accounting checks in all nuclear installations in the Community).
Although the Euratom Treaty gives the Community no strict, exclusive powers in certain fields, it retains real added value for its members: on the basis of this Treaty, the Commission has adopted recommendations and decisions which, although not binding, set European standards. In addition, it must be stressed that other Community policies, for example the environment and research policies, also have a marked impact on the nuclear industry.
The value added by Euratom and the EU can be seen particularly clearly in the context of enlargement. As a result of Euratom, the EU pursues a harmonised Community approach to nuclear energy with which candidate countries must comply. The enlargements of the EU to the East put the spotlight on the nuclear sector, particularly nuclear safety issues. Nuclear power is an important energy source for many eastern European countries (candidates or new members of the EU). However, the safety standards in their nuclear power plants and the level of protection of the public and workers are not always sufficient. In this context, the Commission has provided them with support to improve the situation via the PHARE programme. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the newly independent States (NIS) are facing the same problems, and they too receive aid from the Commission.
Over the years, other nuclear energy issues have grown in importance, too, notably operational safety of nuclear facilities, storage of radioactive waste, and nuclear non-proliferation (nuclear safeguards). Although the Member States retain most powers in these fields, a degree of uniformity has been achieved at international level with the aid of a series of treaties, conventions and initiatives which, one by one, have pieced together an international regulatory framework governing activities in the nuclear sector (the Convention on Nuclear Safety).
THE FUTURE OF THE EURATOM TREATY
Unlike the EC Treaty, no major changes have ever been made to the Euratom Treaty, which remains in force. The European Atomic Energy Community has not merged with the European Union and therefore retains a separate legal personality, while sharing the same institutions. The Treaty amending the EU and EC Treaties, which was signed in December 2007, changed certain provisions of the Euratom Treaty via its "Protocol No 12 amending the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community". These changes are limited to adaptations to take account of the new rules established by the amending Treaty, particularly in the institutional and financial fields.
In March 2007 the Commission reviewed and assessed the outlook for the Euratom Treaty. The result was generally positive, particularly in the areas of research, health protection, monitoring of the peaceful use of nuclear material, and international relations. Interest in nuclear power is being boosted by the need to ensure a secure supply of energy and by concern over climate change. In future, the application of the Euratom Treaty will need to continue focusing on the security and safety of nuclear materials. The Euratom Community will need to continue helping to guide the development of the nuclear industry and ensure the observance of high standards of radiation protection, safety and security.
Entry into force
Deadline for transposition in the Member States
Last updated: 19.10.2007