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.
The Treaty on European Union is signed in Maastricht in the Netherlands. 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 ‘European Union’ is officially created.
The single market and its four freedoms are established: the free movement of goods, services, people and money is now a 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.
Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU. The 15 members now cover almost the whole of western Europe.
Member States: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece, Spain and Portugal.
New Member States: Austria, Finland and Sweden.
The Schengen Agreement takes effect in seven countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Travellers of any nationality can travel between all these countries with no passport control at the frontiers. Other countries have since joined the passport-free Schengen area.
The Treaty of Amsterdam is signed. It builds on the achievements of the Maastricht Treaty, laying down plans to reform the EU institutions, to give Europe a stronger voice in the world and to devote more resources to employment and the rights of citizens.
EU leaders agree to start the process of membership negotiations with 10 countries from 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 the year 2000, treaty changes agreed in Nice open the way for enlargement by reforming EU voting rules.
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 Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom decide to stay out for the time being.
Mobile phones and the Internet begin to change the way we communicate. The technology behind both is European. Young people travel more, and students often take a ‘gap’ year to see the world, using e-mail to keep in touch.