The Treaty of Maastricht: issues of asylum and migration become ‘matters of common interest’

Nadia Petroni |

The Treaty of Maastricht (1993), which established the EU and introduced a three-pillar system of policymaking, formalised intergovernmental cooperation in the field of asylum and migration between the 12 EC states.

The first pillar, also known as the European Community, was the only pillar with a legal personality and covered the vast majority of EU legislation. The second and third intergovernmental pillars were termed ‘common foreign and security policy’ (CFSP) and ‘justice and home affairs’ (JHA), respectively.

The 3-pillar structure introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht, 1993 (Source: ADST, 2016).

In other words, the twelve member states committed to collaborate in issues related to asylum and migration, however, only on an intergovernmental basis reflecting their unwillingness to surrender sovereignty to the supranational level (Van Oudenaren, 2004).

Therefore, despite the indispensable step provided by Maastricht in the process leading to the development of EU asylum and migration policies, the third pillar did not produce the desired results. Consequently, the deficiencies of the third pillar led to the Treaty of Amsterdam, agreed by European political leaders in 1997.  This will be discussed in the following post.


ADST, Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training (2016) How Did We Get Here? A Look Back at the Creation of the European Union, 22 June. Available from:

Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty), 7 February 1992 [OJ C 191, 29.7.1992]

Van Oudenaren, J. (2004) The European Union: From Community to Constitution. In: Tiersky, R., (ed.) Europe Today: National politics, European integration, and European security, 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 21-58.