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SHORT HYSTORY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

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SHORT Hystory of the European Union

The first concrete move for regional integration in Europe was made in 1947 with the establishment of Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). Also, in 1948 the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OECC) was formed and was followed a year later by the Council of Europe. These marked the beginning of the splitting of Western Europe into two camps, with, on the one hand, the UK and some of the countries that later formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and, on the other, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, usually referred to as the Original Six that subsequently established the European Economic Community (EEC).



The next step in the economic and political unification of  Western Europe was taken in 1951, when the European Coal and Steel Community was created by the Six and marked the parting of ways in post-war Western Europe. In June 1955, at Messina, Italy, at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the Six was considered the memorandum proposed by Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg regarding the establishment of a general common market and specific measures in the fields of energy and transport. The governments of the Six established that a general common market and an atomic energy pool should appear. In the end, after three years of negotiations, the Six agreed that the drafting of two treaties, one to create a general common market and another to establish an atomic energy community, should begin. Treaties were subsequently signed in Rome on 25 March 1957. The EEC and [1]Euratom came into being on 1 January 1958. Thus, in 1958 the Six belonged to three separate entities: the ECSC[2], EEC[3] and Euratom. Later became convenient to consider the three entities as branches of the same whole, with EEC becoming the dominant partner. The whole structure was named European Communities, or European Community (EC), whose main constitutional base was the Treaty of Rome, creating the EEC. The need of institutional strengthening of EC become more clear by introduction of summit meetings which try to bring national political leaders more closely into the EC affaires. In 1974 these were formalized under the name of European Council. The 1969-1972 periods can be described as one of great activity. In 1970 the Six reached a common position on the development of a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). At a Paris summit in 1973 an agreement was reached on the development of new policies in relation to industry and science and research. The summit envisaged a more active role for the EC in the area of regional policy and decided that a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) should be created to channel EC resources into the development of the backward EC regions.

 New members, like Greece (1981), Spain (1986) and Portugal (1986) entered the EC. On 1 July 1987 the Single European Act (SEA) became operative. The SEA contained policy development which was based upon the intention of creating a true single market by the end of 1992 with free movements of goods, services, capital and labour. Even more European countries applied between 1989-1992. Among them we can name Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland and Norway shortly followed them. Cyprus and Malta applied in 1990. Formal negotiations were opened in 1998 with those states most likely to succeed: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. However the instability in Balkans and the war in Kosovo showed the need to hasten the process and, at [4]Helsinki, in December 1999, it was agreed to open accession talks with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia.

Certainly, an organization with such a large and varied membership would be very different from the original EEC of the Six. This is one reason why pursuing the questions of enlargement was made consequent upon the finalizing of the [5]Maastricht Treaty and agreement upon new financial and budgetary arrangements for the existing member states.

The enlargement facing the EU today poses a unique challenge, since it is without precedent in terms of scope and diversity: the number of candidates, the area (increase of 34%) and population (increase of 105 million), the wealth of different histories and cultures. A single set of trade rules, a single tariff, and a single set of administrative procedures will apply not only just across the existing Member States but across the Single Market of the enlarged Union.

In order to assist the countries that have applied to become members of the European Union to carry out the reforms required for membership and to equip themselves to benefit from EU funds on accession, the Union provides financial assistance as part of its Pre-Accession Strategy.




A new meeting of the European Council took place in December 1991, at Maastricht and produced a new blueprint for the future. It tried to integrate the EC further through setting  out a time table for full economic and monetary unit (EMU), introducing institutional changes and developing  political competences, the whole being brought together in the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty) of which the EC should form a part of a wider European Union. The Amsterdam[6] conference, which followed in 1997, updated aims and policies, tried to clarify the position regarding foreign and defense policies and justice and home affaires, and strengthened the social side. The treaty itself modified the existing treaties, notably those on the EEC and on the Union, which can be considered together with the acquis communitaire (legislation deriving from the treaties), as the constitution of the EU.

The Amsterdam treaty gives EU a more coherent structure, a modern statement of its aims and policies, and brings some necessary improvements in the working of the institutions. The EU after the Amsterdam treaty has broad objectives but these naturally interfere with those in the Maastricht treaty. The classic aim is to develop an even closer union. It promotes economic and social progress, meaning the abolition of internal frontiers, better economic and social cohesion to assist the less-developed members to catch up with the EU average (creation of the Cohesion Fund in 1993) and an economic and monetary unit, complete with a single currency. It wants to create an international identity through a common security and defense policy. It has introduced a formal citizenship and has also taken steps to strengthen the commitment to democracy, to individual rights, to promote equality and to combat discrimination. The treaty has also established the EU, as an area of free movement, security and justice. Internally, the EU has general economic objectives relating to the single market, agriculture and transport, the aim of economic and social cohesion and a new emphasis on policy making in employment, social and environmental matters.

Another important step in the EU development was the Nice Treaty[7], which took place on 11 December 2000. The treaty’s main concern was with EU enlargement, especially with the institutional changes that would be needed to accommodate 12- 15 new members.



[1] European Atomic Energy Commission

[2] European Coal and Steel Community

[3] European Economic Community

[4] Helsinki European Council; 10, 11 December 1999

[5] Treaty on European Union, 7 February 1992

[6] The Amsterdam Treaty, 2 October 1997

[7] The Nice Treaty, 26 February 2001








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