The European Union (EU) is a unique, treaty-based institutional framework that defines and manages economic and political cooperation among its fifteen European member countries. The Union is the latest stage in a process of integration begun in the 1950s by six countries-Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands-whose leaders signed the original treaties establishing various forms of European integration .These treaties gave life to the novel concept that, by creating communities of shared sovereignty in matters of coal and steel production, trade, and nuclear energy, another war in Europe would be unthinkable. While common EU policies have evolved in a number of other sectors since then, the fundamental goal of the union remains the same: to create an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.
Economic Integration was launched in the wake of Second World War, as a devastated Western Europe Sought to rebuild its Economy. On 9 may 1950.French businessman-turned-advisor, Jean Monnet that called pooling European coal and steel production under a common authority. The Schuman declaration was regarded as the first step toward achieving a united Europe-an ideal that in the past had been pursued only by force. Belgium, the federal Republic of Germany, Italy. Luxembourg, and the Netherlands accepted the French proposal and signed the European Coal and steel Community (ECSC) treaty in Paris on April 1951.The Six set up the ECSC High Authority, to which member governments transferred portions of their sovereign powers. Coal and steel trade among the Six increased by 129 per ce3nt over the next five years.
Encouraged by the success, the six pursued integration in the military and political fields. When these efforts were derailed, European leaders decided to continue the unification of Europe on the economic front alone. A historic meeting in Messina, Italy, in June 1955, launched the negotiation of two treaties to establish:
- A European Economic Community (EEC) to merge separate national markets into a single market that would ensure the free movement of goods, people, capital, and services with a wide range of common economic policies: and
- A European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or EURATOM) to further the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Membership to the Union was open to any European country with a stable democratic government, a good human rights record, a properly functioning market economy, and sound macroeconomic policies. Membership seeking countries must also have the capacity to fulfill and implement existing EU laws and policies (known as the acquis communautaire). Four enlargements have already taken place: Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom joined the original Six European Community Members (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands) in 1973.Greece joined in 1981, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986.Austria, Finland, and Sweden acceded to the European Union on January 1, 1995.Norway had also negotiated and signed an accession treaty in 1994, but Norwegian voters narrowly rejected membership in a referndrum. The European Union is currently preparing for a fifth enlargement to more than twenty-five member states.