History of the EU

Ten Historic Steps

  • 1951: The European Coal and Steel Community is set up by the six founding members. GO
  • 1957: The same six countries sign the Treaties of Rome, setting up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). GO
  • 1973: The Communities expand to nine Member States and introduce more common policies. GO
  • 1979: The first direct elections to the European Parliament (EP). GO
  • 1981: The first Mediterranean enlargement. GO
  • 1992: The European single market becomes a reality. GO
  • 1993: The Treaty of Maastricht establishes the European Union (EU). GO
  • 2002: The euro comes into circulation. GO
  • 2007: The EU has 27 Member States. GO
  • 2009: The Lisbon Treaty comes into force, changing the way the EU work. GO

1. On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community, which became reality with the Treaty of Paris of 18 April 1951. This put in place a common market in coal and steel between the six founding countries (Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The aim, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was to secure peace between Europe’s victorious and vanquished nations and bring them together as equals, cooperating within shared institutions.


2. The ‘Six’ then decided, with the Treaties of Rome on 25 March 1957, to set up a European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and a European Economic Community (EEC). The latter would involve building a wider common market covering a whole range of goods and services. Customs duties between the six countries were abolished on 1 July 1968 and common policies, notably on trade and agriculture, were also put in place during the 1960s.


3. So successful was this venture that Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom decided to join. This first enlargement, from six to nine members, took place in 1973. At the same time, new social and environmental policies were introduced, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was set up in 1975.


4. June 1979 saw a decisive step forward, with the first elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. These elections are held every 5 years.


5. In 1981, Greece joined the Communities, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. This expansion of the Communities into southern Europe made it all the more necessary to implement regional aid programmes.


6. The worldwide economic recession in the early 1980s brought with it a wave of ‘euro-pessimism’. However, hope sprang anew in 1985 when the European Commission, under its President Jacques Delors, published a White Paper setting out a timetable for completing the European single market by 1 January 1993. This ambitious goal was enshrined in the Single European Act, which was signed in February 1986 and came into force on 1 July 1987.


7. The political shape of Europe was dramatically changed when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. This led to the unification of Germany in October 1990 and the coming of democracy to the countries of central and eastern Europe as they broke away from Soviet control. The Soviet Union itself ceased to exist in December 1991. At the same time, the EEC Member States were negotiating a new treaty, which was adopted by the European Council (the meeting of presidents and/or prime ministers) at Maastricht in December 1991. By adding intergovernmental cooperation (in areas such as foreign policy and internal security) to the existing Community system, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union (EU). It came into force on 1 November 1993.


8. Three more countries — Austria, Finland and Sweden — joined the European Union in 1995, bringing its membership to 15. By then, Europe was facing the growing challenges of globalisation. New technologies and the ever-increasing use of the Internet were modernising economies but also creating social and cultural tensions. Meanwhile, the EU was working on its most spectacular project to date — creating a single currency to make life easier for businesses, consumers and travellers. On 1 January 2002, the euro replaced the old currencies of 12 EU countries, which together made up the ‘euro area’. The euro is now a major world currency alongside the US dollar.


9. In the mid-1990s, preparations began for the biggestever EU enlargement. Membership applications were received from the six former Soviet bloc countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia), the three Baltic states that had been part of the Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one of the republics of former Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and two Mediterranean countries (Cyprus and Malta). The EU welcomed this chance to help stabilise the European continent and to extend the benefits of European integration to the young democracies. Negotiations opened in December 1997 and 10 of the candidate countries joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Bulgaria and Romania followed in 2007. Croatia joined in 2013, bringing the EU’s membership to 28.


10. To enable it to face the complex challenges of the 21st century, the enlarged EU needed a simpler and more efficient method for taking its joint decisions. New rules had been proposed in a draft EU Constitution, signed in October 2004, which would have replaced all the existing treaties. But this text was rejected by two national referendums in 2005. The Constitution was therefore replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed on 13 December 2007 and came into force on 1 December 2009. It amends but does not replace the previous treaties, and it introduces most of the changes that featured in the Constitution. For example, it gives the European Council a permanent President and creates the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. At the same time, a worldwide financial and economic crisis broke out. This led to the establishment of new EU mechanisms to ensure the stability of banks, to reduce public debt and to coordinate the economic policies of the Member States, particularly those using the euro. 



This information is taken from this link.


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