The European Coal and Steel Community (ESCS) and the European Economic Community (EEC)
The beginnings of the EU are traditionally dated to 1951 and 1958 when the ESCS and EEC were established, respectively. The ECSC was created by the so-called Inner Six countries – France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and West Germany and formed the basis for the EEC that was established with the Treaty of Rome. The latter was signed by the ESCS founding members in 1957 and entered into force in 1958.
The European Communities (EC)
The 1960s were marked by tensions between the EEC members, most notably France that sought to limit the power of the union. An agreement was reached in 1965 and two years later, the Merger Treaty was signed. The treaty created a single set of institutions to govern the three communities (the ESCS, the ECC and the European Atomic Energy Community that was created in 1958), collectively called the European Communities (EC).
The Enlargement until 1990
In 1973, the EC was joined by Denmark with Greenland (the later left the EC in the mid-1980s), the United Kingdom and Ireland. Norway was supposed to become a member at the same time but the Norwegians rejected membership in the EC. The country therefore remained outside the EC and remains outside the EU to this day. In 1981, the EC was joined by Greece and five years later by Spain and Portugal.
The First Elections and Formation of the Modern EU
The first elections to the European Parliament were held in 1979. In the same year, the EC members also signed the Single European Act that revised the Treaty of Rome from 1958 and provided the basis for the formation of a future single market and the European Political Cooperation. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed and led to the formation of the EU under its current name and form as well as the creation of the European currency – the euro.
EU from 1990 to the Present Day
In 1995, the newly created EU was joined by Austria, Sweden and Finland. In 2002, the euro replaced national currencies in the 12 member states (today, it is the official currency in 17 states). Two years later, the EU saw the biggest enlargement in history. The Union was joined by as many as 10 new states – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus. The last enlargement took place in 2007 when the EU was joined by Romania and Bulgaria. In 2011, the EU accession treaty was also signed by Croatia that is expected to become the 28th EU member state on 1 July 2013.