The Single European Act (SEA) (1987)

The Europe of the late 1970’s and early to mid 1980’s was plagued by ‘Euro-sclerosis’. This was a term used to refer to the high unemployment and economic stagnation that Europe experienced at the time, particularly when compared with the United States and Japan.

The Single European Act, signed in 1986 and entered into force on 1 July 1987, was a turning point in the development of the European Union and was designed to remedy these problems.

Rather than thinking about the Single European Act as being like a treaty in the same right as the EEC treaty or the Treaty of Maastricht, it is key to remember that the SEA proposed and timetabled amendments to the EEC with the view to preparing the EEC member countries for further integration into the European Union as we now know it.

Click on the link to read about the SEA

  • What led to the development of the SEA?
  • What institutional changes did the SEA bring about?
  • What political changes did the SEA bring about?

The SEA . . . Key facts

The SEA was a fundamental stage in the EU’s development for several reasons. The SEA effectively sought to prepare Europe for a new round of integration to be completed by the early 1990s and, in doing so, revived European integration after a period of ‘Euro-sclerosis’ or ‘Euro-stagnation’ throughout the 1970’s and 80’s.

The idea of the SEA was to highlight and develop the means for Europe to complete its internal market. The SEA was designed so as to turn the EEC from a common market to a single market.

  • Common market means there are few or no barriers to trade and commerce between national markets.
  • Single market means there is one big EU-wide market with zero barriers of any kind.

It achieved this largely by creating the necessary decision making structures (such as increasing qualified majority voting and reducing voting under unanimity) that allowed progress towards complete market unification to be made and ensured that continuing management of the single market could be carried out once unification had been completed.

In a nutshell, the SEA paved the way and created the conditions for the creation of the European Union in 1993.