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The history of the European Union: 1990 - 1999

1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999

A Europe without frontiers

With the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, Europeans become closer neighbours. In 1993 the Single Market is completed with the 'four freedoms' of: movement of goods, services, people and money. The 1990s is also the decade of two treaties, the ‘Maastricht’ Treaty on European Union in 1993 and the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. People are concerned about how to protect the environment and also how Europeans can act together when it comes to security and defence matters. In 1995 the EU gains three more new members, Austria, Finland and Sweden. A small village in Luxembourg gives its name to the ‘Schengen’ agreements that gradually allow people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. Millions of young people study in other countries with EU support. Communication is made easier as more and more people start using mobile phones and the internet.

In the Balkans, Yugoslavia begins to break apart in 1991. Fighting erupts first in Croatia, then in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Serbs, Croats and Muslims fight in a bloody civil war.

7 February 1992

The Treaty on European Union is signed in Maastricht. It is a major EU milestone, setting clear rules for the future single currency as well as for foreign and security policy and closer cooperation in justice and home affairs. Under the treaty, the name ‘European Union’ officially replaces ‘European Community’.

1 January 1993

The single market and its four freedoms are established: the free movement of goods, services, people and money is now reality. More than 200 laws have been agreed since 1986 covering tax policy, business regulations, professional qualifications and other barriers to open frontiers. The free movement of some services is delayed.

1 January 1995

Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU. The 15 members now cover almost the whole of western Europe. In October 1990, Germany was unified and therefore former East Germany became part of the EU.

Member States Member States: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

New Member StatesNew Member States: Austria, Finland and Sweden.

Map – member states of the EU 1995 © Stefan Chabluk 

List of all EU member states and when they joined

26 March 1995

The Schengen Agreement takes effect in seven countries — Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal. Travellers of any nationality can travel between all these countries without any passport control at the frontiers. Other countries have since joined the passport-free Schengen area.

17 June 1997

Signature of the Treaty of Amsterdam. It builds on the achievements of the treaty from Maastricht, laying down plans to reform EU institutions, to give Europe a stronger voice in the world, and to concentrate more resources on employment and the rights of citizens.


13 December 1997

EU leaders agree to start the process of membership negotiations with 10 countries of central and eastern Europe: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta are also included. In 2000, Treaty changes agreed in Nice open the way for enlargement by reforming EU voting rules.

In 1996, scientists in Scotland succeed in cloning a sheep from a single cell of a six-year-old ewe, a breakthrough in genetic engineering. ‘Dolly’ is an identical copy of her ‘parent’.

1 January 1999

The euro is introduced in 11 countries (joined by Greece in 2001) for commercial and financial transactions only. Notes and coins will come later. The euro countries are Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland. Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom decide to stay out for the time being.

1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999