The 1st July 2009 marks the 440th anniversary of what was perhaps one of the first (in retrospect) ‘EU’-style unions on the European continent. The Union of Lublin (1st July, 1569) is often seen as a natural predecessor to the Maastricht Treaty (7th February, 1992). The Union of Lublin was a union of two states – the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The actual signing of the Union of Lublin may have been a defining point in history but it was only one moment in a whole series of acts of union and treaties that saw the eventual creation of a federal state.
Not only is the Union of Lublin seen as a precursor to the Maastricht Treaty, but the state that the Union of Lublin created is often seen as analogous to the modern European Union. Does this mean that the member states of the European Union will follow the same path as Poland and Lithuania prior to and after the Union of Lublin? Can the respective histories of Poland and Lithuania give us valuable insights into what might become of the European Union? In order to answer these questions or even attempt to answer these questions, it is useful to look at what happened before and after the Union of Lublin with the help of a simple timeline…
1385 – Union of Krewo (Grand Lithuanian Duke marries Polish Queen);
1401 – Union of Vilnius-Radom (relating to issues of royal authority);
1413 – Union of Horodło (uniting the nobilities of both states);
1432 – Union of Grodno (saw increased ties between the two states);
1499 – Union of Kraków-Vilnius (was a political-military alliance);
1501 – Union of Mielnik (renewed the personal dynastic union);
1569 – Union of Lublin (created a ‘Commonwealth’ – two states with one ruler, government and foreign policy);
1791 – Creation of a unitary state (and abolition of the two states);
1795 – The ‘Commonwealth’ disappears off the map (with the Partitions of Poland).
Will the European Union follow a similar path? We may argue that the deterioration of the Polish-Lithuanian state prior to the Partitions could well happen to the EU. The social collapse of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth opened the gates for the Partitions. Perhaps this is already happening in the EU? Rising bureaucracy, a growing feeling of dissatisfaction, a general feeling of apathy. Are we witnessing the start of the collapse of the European Union or does Maastricht still have another 200 years left? Could the EU also end up on the rubbish heap of history?
A History of Unions
If we count the start of the development of Europe’s first ‘Union’ to have been 1385 and the end 1795 then 410 years is not a bad result, although in reality we should count the Union of Lublin as the Union’s inception date. In any case 1569 to 1795 still gives us 226 years. The Scandinavian Kalmar Union lasted from 1397 to 1523 (a ‘mere’ 126 years). The British Acts of Union began in 1707 and still exist (which gives 302 years and counting). In any case, these three examples – the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the United Kingdom and the Kalmar Union – demonstrate that the European continent has a history of unions and this is, by no means, something foreign to us. Why did the Commonwealth and Kalmar Union fail? Why is the United Kingdom still going? Two questions that may prove to be important for the future of the European Union.