The European Union (EU) has proven to be one of the more successful political unions of the last century.

European Union History

( — December 27, 2017) — Despite its prominent role in global affairs, and the massive economy that it represents in the form of the European Single Market, the union is often misunderstood, by nations within and outside the EU. In this article, we aim to provide an accessible and brief rundown of the history of the EU.

European Coal and Steel Community

The project has taken a while to get to where it is today. Since being founded in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the EU has grown tremendously to the point where it now includes most of mainland Europe amongst its members and is a dominant force in global political affairs. Following two disastrous world wars, which all but decimated the economies, and indeed many cities, of European countries, it became clear that something had to change.

The push towards European integration was firmly rooted in the desire for a lasting peace and stability on the continent. The founding members of the ECSC were Belgium, France, Western Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. It was hoped that by integrating the coal and steel industries of the participating states, a major incentive for sustained peace would exist.

European Economic Community

The next step in the integration process came with the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, this treaty established by the European Economic Community, and a customs union. Alongside the EEC and the customs union, is Euratom, a body for encouraging co-operation between member states in developing their nuclear energy programs. The creation of these bodies necessitated the simultaneous introduction of a supranational court in the form of the Common Assembly.

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1960 – 1980

During the 60’s, the first hints of tension amongst member states, France sought to place more stringent limits on the powers wielded by the common assembly, favoring leaving national governments with more power over their own affairs. This resulted in the signing of the Merger Treaty.

Over the course of the 1970’s Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom also joined the project, Norway rejected membership in a national referendum.

1980s – Today

Over the next couple of decades, membership of the bloc grew, and new institutions were added. After the signing of the Maastricht treaty, which took effect on 1 November 1993, the European Union was officially created. The treaty also renamed the EEC as the ‘European Community’.

In 2002, 12 of the EU member states adopted the Euro as their official currency, since then a further 7 countries have adopted it and the Euro has become the second largest reserve currency in the world.

The Lisbon Treaty came into force towards the end of 2009, it was a significant piece of legislation which encompassed several major reforms of EU institutions. Most significantly, it created the position of President of the European Council and changed the legal structure of the EU’s central institutions. This is another fascinating subject which is covered in online political science masters degrees.

The European Union has proven to be an important force for maintaining peace across the European continent, as well as bringing economic prosperity to member states.