The EU: Development

The EU: Development

The beginnings

  • The EU was conceived after World War II as a means of fostering peace among European nations by economic integration. At the time, it was called the European Economic Community.
  • The founding members were Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands joined in 1957.

Gradual expansion

  • After the initial six members, the UK, Ireland, and Denmark joined in 1973.
  • With early expansion, scope of activity widened from economic matters to broader political issues, leading to the creation of the European Union in 1992 with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.

Monetary union

  • The 1990s also saw the creation of the euro, a shared currency, adopted by 19 of the current 27 member states.
  • This step towards further integration was the groundwork for the European Central Bank and eurozone.

Further expansion and consolidation

  • Numerous countries from Eastern Europe, notably including Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, joined in 2004. Romania and Bulgaria followed in 2007.
  • This brought membership to its current level of 27 after the UK’s departure in 2020.

Changes in decision-making

  • As the EU has grown, decision-making processes have changed. The introduction of the double majority voting system in 2014 requires the approval of 55% of member states (including at least 15 countries) and member states representing at least 65% of EU population.
  • These changes aim to make processes more democratic, efficient and transparent.

Recent challenges

  • The EU has also faced numerous challenges, with financial crises in some member states leading to debates over financial solidarity.
  • Other challenges include debates over freedom of movement, the rise of populist anti-EU sentiment in some countries, and the UK’s departure from the EU (Brexit).