EU Milestones

More than six decades of European cooperation

Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity.

Robert Schuman, French Minister of Foreign Affairs

Building Union among people not cooperation between states

Jean Monnet, French diplomat
  • The historical roots of the European Union lie in the aftermath of the Second World War. European leaders were determined to prevent such killing and destruction from ever happening again. Soon after the war they decided to foster economic cooperation in order to avert conflicts between neighbours, based on the rationale that countries trading with one another become economically interdependent and thus conflicts and wars will be avoided.

    Indeed, the first milestone of European integration was put forward on 9 May 1950 by the French foreign minister Robert Schuman. Speaking in Paris, he proposed a new plan, known as the “Schuman plan”, for deeper political cooperation throughout Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations not only unthinkable, but materially impossible and thus secure lasting peace.

    On May 9, every year on the anniversary of the “Schuman declaration”, “Europe Day” is celebrated.

  • Based on the “Schuman plan”, six European countries began a leading cooperation and signed a treaty to run their heavy industries – coal and steel – under a common management. Its purpose was to create interdependence in coal and steel, the “war industries” so that no country could mobilise its armed forces against another, as in the past. The “Treaty of Paris” was signed on 18 April 1951 and established the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between six founding Member States: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

  • Building on the success of the Coal and Steel Treaty the six founding countries decided to expand their cooperation in other fields, namely economy and energy. On 25 March, 1957, they signed in Rome two new treaties:

    • the European Economic Community (EEC) or “common market” Treaty to allow free movement of people, goods and services across borders and,
    • the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) Treaty to coordinate research programmes for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    As of now, these will be referred to as the “Treaties of Rome”. Upon an initiative of the Dutch government advocating the fusion of the different executives’ institutions, the Member States agreed to merge the institutions of the three European Communities. As of July 1, 1967 the “Merger Treaty” enters into force and all three European Communities (ECSC, EEC, Euratom) will have a single European Commission and a single Council.

  • The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) provided for the creation of a common market, eliminating all barriers to trade in goods, such as quotas and tariffs within the Community.

    The Single European Act signed in Luxembourg on 17 February 1986 is the first major amendment of the Treaty establishing the EEC. It revises the Treaties of Rome in order to create new momentum for European integration and to complete the internal market. It amends the governing proceedings (including the unanimity rule) and expands Community powers in many fields (foreign policy, environment, research and development).

  • Ιn 7 February 1992, the Treaty on the European Union (EU) is signed in Maastricht, Netherlands also known as the “Treaty of Maastricht”. It is a major milestone towards European integration, since it expands European cooperation beyond the economic field. Apart from the future single currency, clear rules are also set for foreign and security policy, as well as for justice and home affairs. Under this treaty, the name of “European Union” officially replaces “European Community”.

  • In a series of reform, culminating in 1993, the EU Member States managed to abolish hundreds of technical, legal and bureaucratic barriers that stifled free trade and free movement across Europe. Indeed, the single market is all about bringing down barriers and simplifying existing rules to enable everyone in the EU – individuals, consumers and businesses – benefit from direct access to 27 European countries and 480 million people.

    The cornerstones of the single market are the “four freedoms” established: the free movement of goods, services, people and money. More than 200 laws have been agreed on tax policy, business and professional qualifications to open frontiers. However the free movement of some services is delayed.

  • In 26 March 1995, the Schengen Agreement takes effect in seven EU Member States (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal). Travelers of any nationality can travel between these signatory states without any passport control at their frontiers. The aim is to abolish all internal borders and create an area of a single external border. This area became known as the “Schengen area”, after the town in Luxembourg where the first agreement was signed.

    At the external border of the Schengen area passport control and immigration checks are carried out following identical procedures. Common rules regarding visas and short stays and asylum request are applied. Simultaneously, to guarantee security within the Schengen area, cooperation and coordination between police services and judicial authorities have been stepped up. Schengen cooperation has been incorporated into the European Union legal framework by the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997.

  • In 17 June 1997, the signature of the Treaty of Amsterdam takes place. It builds on the achievements of the Treaty of the European Union (“Treaty of 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.

  • On 1 January 2002, Euro notes and coins arrive to replace national currencies. The Euro is the Europe’s single currency and it is initially introduced in 12 EU Member States. Printing, minting and distributing them across 12 countries is a major logistical operation. Euro notes are the same for all countries. Euro coins have one common face, giving the value, while the other carries a national emblem. All circulate free across the “Euro area” or “Eurozone” formed by the EU Member States that have adopted the Euro as their common currency. Currently the Euro area consists of 17 EU Member States.

    The circulation of the Euro is managed by the European Central Bank. Its main purpose is to ensure price stability (keep inflation under control) within the «Eurozone” by conducting the appropriate monetary policy.

    1999: Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland
    2001: Greece
    2002: Introduction of euro banknotes and coins
    2007: Slovenia
    2008: Cyprus, Malta
    2009: Slovakia
    2011: Estonia

  • The six founding Member States gradually became 27.

    1973: Denmark, Ireland and the UK
    1981: Greece
    1986: Portugal and Spain
    1995: Finland, Sweden and Austria
    2004: Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia
    2007: Bulgaria and Romania

    Cyprus became a Member State of the EU in 2004, along with 9 other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The 2004 enlargement was the biggest in the history of the EU and was of symbolic importance as it was considered a unification of Europe. Croatia is set to become the 28th member state of the European Union on 1 July 2013.

    Iceland, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are candidate countries. Accession negotiations with Montenegro, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have not started. Three more countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244) – are potential candidates.

    Before a candidate country can join the EU, it must implement existing EU legislation and meet standards for democracy, justice and human rights. In addition, the candidate country must also have a well-functioning market economy. The requirements are high and enlargement negotiations may therefore extend over several years.

  • The Lisbon Treaty, which was signed on 13 December 2007 by all 27 EU Member States, amends and consolidates the previous Treaties. It is designed to make the EU more democratic, efficient and transparent so as to successfully tackle global challenges of the 21st century such as climate change, security and sustainable development. Before entering into force, on December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon was ratified by all EU Member States.

    The Lisbon Treaty has resulted in a number of changes and innovations regarding how the EU functions:

    • The EU has become more democratic: The European Parliament has been reinforced and is a co-legislator with the Council when it comes to the adoption of the European legislation (co-decision procedure). This process, known as the Ordinary Legislative Procedure now covers more than 85% of the legislative issues. Additionally, national parliaments have obtained ‘better methods to defend the subsidiarity principle by checking whether the Commission’s legislative proposals are in line with the subsidiarity principle.
    • The EU is closer to its citizens: The Treaty of Lisbon introduces the European Citizens’ Initiative. The new participatory democracy provision indicates that one million citizens coming from a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the Commission to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaty of Lisbon.
    • The EU has become more efficient: It has become easier and swifter for the EU to make decisions because procedures and voting rules have been streamlined and made more efficient (more majority voting in the Council). Moreover, the European Council, where Heads of State and Government meet, now has a permanent president, which ensures more continuity in the work of the Council. The Belgian Herman Van Rompuy is elected the first president of the European Council.
    • The EU can better tackle global challenges: The EU's foreign policy has been strengthened, making it easier to promote European interests in the world. The enhancement has mainly been achieved through the creation of the European External Action Service headed by the "High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy", who can speak and act on behalf of the EU on these issues. British Catherine Ashton is the first appointed High Representative of the EU.
    • The Charter of Fundamental Rights is incorporated into European Primary Law, thus reinforcing the European Union as a Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security, providing for new solidarity mechanisms and ensuring better protection of European citizens.