"Return to the Attack": the Emergence of the Single European Act

Rickus, Audrius Justinas, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hitchcock, William, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia

This master’s essay explores how in 1985 the member states of the European Community negotiated and agreed upon the Single European Act. It argues that the newly appointed European Commission president Jacques Delors used the widespread sense of crisis, real and perceived, to yield European reform as a remedy to the economic and social slowdown that ravaged Western Europe in the 1970s and the early 1980s. He benefited from the fact that the major leaders of the time, such as Margaret Thatcher, Francois Mitterrand, and Helmut Kohl, all wanted to remake Europe and overcome what they saw as decline and stagnation of their continent. Many different visions of European future were sketched out throughout the early 1980s, including during the negotiations of the Single European Act, but agreement was often elusive. It was Delors and his Commission that consciously framed the idea of the single market as an economic panacea, which then helped break various impasses, as all leaders sought to end the cycle of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth. In the end, the treaty enshrined a commitment to a borderless European market, an arrangement that defined the nature of the European Community and, later on, of the European Union.

MA (Master of Arts)
European Community, European Union, Cold War, International History, Single Market, European Integration
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