|Legal notice | New on EUROPA | Index | About EUROPA | FAQ | Search | Contact|
|EUROPA > The EU at a glance > abc > Europe in 12 lessons > Lesson 2|
Ten historic steps
1. On 9 May 1950, the Schuman Declaration proposed the establishment of a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), 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 World War Two, 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, on 25 March 1957 with the Treaty of Rome, to build a European Economic Community (EEC) based on a wider common market covering a whole range of goods and services. Customs duties between the six countries were completely 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 the Community. This first enlargement, from six to nine members, took place in 1973. At the same time, new social and environmental policies were implemented, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was established in 1975.
4. June 1979 saw a decisive step forward for the European Community, with the first elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage. These elections are held every five years.
5. In 1981, Greece joined the Community, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. This strengthened the Community’s presence in southern Europe and made it all the more urgent to expand its 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 member states were negotiating the new Treaty on European Union, which was adopted by the European Council, composed of presidents and/or prime ministers, at Maastricht in December 1991. The Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. By adding areas of intergovernmental cooperation to existing integrated Community structures, the Treaty created the European Union (EU).
8. This new European dynamism and the continent’s changing geopolitical situation led three more countries — Austria, Finland and Sweden — to join the EU on 1 January 1995.
9. By then, the EU was on course for its most spectacular achievement yet, creating a single currency. The euro was introduced for financial (non-cash) transactions in 1999, while notes and coins were issued three years later in the 12 countries of the euro area (also commonly referred to as the euro zone). The euro is now a major world currency for payments and reserves alongside the US dollar.
Europeans are facing globalisation. New technologies and ever increasing use of the Internet transform the economies, but also bring social and cultural challenges.
In March 2000, the EU adopted the ‘Lisbon strategy’ for modernising the European economy and enabling it to compete on the world market with other major players such as the United States and the newly industrialised countries. The Lisbon strategy involves encouraging innovation and business investment and adapting Europe’s education systems to meet the needs of the information society.
At the same time, unemployment and the rising cost of pensions are putting pressure on national economies, making reform all the more necessary. Voters are increasingly calling on their governments to find practical solutions to these problems.
10. Scarcely had the European Union grown to 15 members when preparations began for a new enlargement on an unprecedented scale . In the mid-1990s, the 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) began knocking at the EU’s door.
The EU welcomed this chance to help stabilise the European continent and to extend the benefits of European integration to these young democracies. Negotiations on future membership opened in December 1997. The EU enlargement to 25 countries took place on 1 May 2004 when 10 of the 12 candidates joined. Bulgaria and Romania followed on 1 January 2007.
|Legal notice | New on EUROPA | Index | About EUROPA | FAQ | Search | Contact | Top|