In summer 1980, shipyard workers in the Polish city of Gdansk, led by Lech Walesa, strike for more rights. Other strikes follow across the country. In August, the government capitulates and Solidarność is created as an independent trade union. The government gradually reasserts its power and imposes martial law in December 1981, ending Poland’s brief encounter with people power. But the seeds have been sown for later.
1 January 1981
Membership of the EU reaches double figures when Greece joins. It has been eligible to join since its military regime was overthrown and democracy restored in 1974.
Member States: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
New Member State: Greece.
28 February 1984
Computers and automation are changing the way we live and work. To stay in the forefront of innovation, the EU adopts the ‘Esprit’ programme in 1984 as the first of many research and development programmes it has since funded.
A new thrill is bungee jumping. Parents gasp, but youngsters enjoy the sensation of jumping from a high place, attached to an elastic rope which breaks their fall and pulls them back before they hit the ground.
1 January 1986
Spain and Portugal enter the EU, bringing membership to 12.
Member States: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom and Greece.
New Member States: Spain and Portugal.
17 February 1986
Although customs duties disappeared in 1968, trade is not flowing freely across EU borders. The main obstacles are differences in national regulations. The Single European Act of 1986 launches a vast six-year programme to sort these out. The Act also gives the European Parliament more say and strengthens EU powers in environmental protection.
15 June 1987
The EU launches the ‘Erasmus’ programme to fund university students wishing to study for up to a year in another European country. More than 2 million young people have benefited from this and similar EU schemes.
The collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, which began in Poland and Hungary, is symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Faced by a mass exodus of its citizens to West, the East German government throws open the gates. Germany is united after more than 40 years, and its eastern part joins the EU (October 1990).