Learning Corner

EU Timeline Overview


The European Union through the years

Take a trip back in time and discover important moments in history, inventions, major events in sport and society and more, many of which made the EU what it is today. Become a part of it by adding your own dates and stories and printing out your personal timeline!

How to use the timeline

EU Timeline FAQs accordions


EU treaties: The European Union is based on the rule of law. This means that every action taken by the EU is founded on binding agreements that have been approved voluntarily and democratically by all EU member countries. Treaties are amended to make the EU more efficient and transparent, to prepare for new member countries and to introduce new areas of cooperation — such as the EU’s single currency — the euro.

European Commission: Responsible for ensuring that the EU treaties are respected. One of the Commission’s main jobs is to make sure that EU law is applied by all its member countries. It can take action against EU countries or businesses that fail to comply with EU law. The Commission also proposes new laws and programmes in the general interest of the EU. These are scrutinised in detail by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which take the final decision on all EU laws. They can change the proposals or reject them altogether. The Commission also manages the EU budget and represents the EU on the world stage.

European Council: Presidents and Prime Ministers. The European Council brings together the EU’s leaders at least four times a year. It sets the EU’s main priorities and overall policy directions but does not adopt laws. This is the job of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

European Parliament: The voice of the people. It represents the citizens of the EU countries and its members are directly elected by those citizens every 5 years.

Council of the European Union: Council of Ministers. In the Council, government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings. Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU.

Other EU institutions and bodies: A full list of EU institutions and bodies, as well as EU agencies and other bodies, is available on the Europa website.

About the timeline

Although the European Union is just over half a century old, the history leading to its inception goes back much further! Today we are united in diversity but our shared European project only became a reality thanks to those of our ancestors — women and men — who believed in it wholeheartedly. The European Union was created to bring an end to fighting once and for all, and to build a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe: a Europe where people can find new and better ways to support themselves and trade with each other. Over the last 60 years, many Europeans have worked tirelessly to help build a better future together. That work continues today.

Why not follow the fascinating story of the EU through this timeline! As well as tracing the history of the EU, you can find out about:

  • important discoveries and inventions;
  • major events in sport and society;
  • advances in communication technology;
  • developments with a significant impact on the environment;
  • key political and global events.

You can also add your own dates and stories and print out your personal timeline poster.