Thursday, February 28, 2008

EU History

The political climate after the end of World War II favoured Western European unity, seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism which had devastated the continent. One of the first successful proposals for European cooperation came in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community. This had the aim of bringing together control of the coal and steel industries of its member states, principally France and West Germany. This was with the aim that war between them would not then be possible, as coal and steel were the principle resources for waging war. The Community's founders declared it "a first step in the federation of Europe"", with the hope that this would enable Europe to pursue the development of Africa. The other founding members were Italy, and the three Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Two additional communities were created in 1957: the European Economic Community (EEC) establishing a customs union, and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for cooperation in developing nuclear energy. In 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities, although more commonly just as the European Community (EC).

In 1973 the European Communities enlarged to include Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Norway had negotiated to join at the same time but a referendum rejected membership and so it remained outside. The first direct, democratic elections of members of the European Parliament were held in 1979.

Greece, Spain and Portugal joined in the 1980s. The Schengen Agreement in 1985 created largely open borders without passport controls between most member states. In 1986 the European flag began to be used and leaders signed the Single European Act. This revised the way community decision making operated to take account of its greater membership, aimed to further reduce trade barriers and introduce greater European Political Cooperation.

In 1990 after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the former East Germany became part of the Community as part of a newly reunited Germany. With enlargement toward eastern Europe on the agenda, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the European Union were agreed.

The Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. Maastricht established a revised structure and the name 'European Community' officially replaced the earlier 'European Communities'. The European Community now formed one of three pillars of the new European Union, which included co-operation in matters of foreign policy and home affairs. The term European Union generally replaced the term European Community, which will be abolished by the Treaty of Lisbon along with the pillar system.

Austria, Sweden and Finland joined in 1995. The Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 amended the Maastricht treaty in areas such as democracy and foreign policy. Amsterdam was followed by the Treaty of Nice in 2001, which revised the Rome and Maastricht treaties to allow the EU to cope with further enlargement to the east. In 2002 euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. In 2004 ten new countries (eight of which had formerly been Eastern Bloc countries) joined the EU. At the start of 2007 Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU and the euro was adopted by Slovenia. On 1 January 2008, Malta and Cyprus joined the Eurozone.

A treaty establishing a constitution for the EU was signed in Rome in 2004, intended to replace all previous treaties with a new single document. However, it never completed ratification after rejection by French and Dutch voters in referenda. In 2007, it was agreed to replace that proposal with a new Reform Treaty, that would amend rather than replace the existing treaties. This treaty was signed on 13 December 2007 in Lisbon and is known as the Lisbon treaty. It will come in effect in January 2009 if ratified by that date.


Pamps said...

informative history about the way added this site me here also..thanks.

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