THE HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
It was the devastation caused by World War II across Europe which drove the ambition of European leaders to unite and move towards greater integration and co-operation between the various countries.
The first step towards achieving this aim was the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952.
THE TREATY OF PARIS AND THE TREATY OF ROME
Germany, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy signed the Treaty of Paris agreeing to regulate their production of steel and coal in a collaborative, centrally regulated, manner and became known as the Inner Six.
Subsequently these countries went on to sign the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957 which brought about the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC).
The concept of the EEC was to create a single market for labour, goods, services and capital, which would generate prosperity and security for a post-war continent.
It was also proposed that a Common Agricultural Policy, a Common Transport Policy, a European Social Fund and the establishment of a European Commission would further integrate the participating countries to prevent conflict and build a powerful global economic player.
The UK joined the European Community in 1973, with membership confirmed as the result of a national referendum. 64.2 percent of the electorate turned out, with a majority of 67.3 percent electing to become a part of Europe.
THE MAASTRICHT TREATY
On February 7 1992, The Maastricht Treaty was signed by twelve member states which marked greater co-operation in fiscal and judicial matters. The creation of a single currency, the euro, (to which the UK abstained) and establishment of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Co-operation in the Fields of Justice and Home Affairs, moved the EU away from a simple free trade agreement and introduced the concept of European Citizenship.
Those countries who signed up to Maastricht were - Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain,United Kingdom. (The UK chose not to sign up to the single currency).
TREATY OF LISBON
Amendments to The Maastricht Treaty were achieved with the Treaty of Lisbon which came into force on 1 December 2009. Notably extending the powers and authority of the European Parliament, it established the role of EU President and made The Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding for all EU members.
However, it was in this Treaty that member states were first given the option of legally exiting the community and the procedure by which they could achieve this.
There are currently 28 members of the EU, although after the UK Referendum on 23 June 2016, that number is set to change to 27.
Current members of the European Union:
In 2012 the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize for contributing to “ the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights to Europe”, bringing the hopes and dreams of the original Inner Six full circle.
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