The European Union Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The European Union

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On 19 September, 1946, Winston Churchill called for a, 'kind of United States of Europe', in a speech he gave at the Zurich University. Today Europe is on the verge of seeing that dream come true.

The European Union is a major experiment, which started with a commitment to peace. In the first half of the 20th Century the European continent was thrown in to turmoil by two fairly important wars, the like of which had not been seen before. These wars showed a few of the problems that nationalism and the rise of nation states can bring, the politicians of the era (including the Americans who promoted the idea via the Marshall Plan) decided that working together was the way to stop this. One way to start working together was to organise the pooling of resources that could be used to produce weapons, such as coal and steel. Six countries started it - Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The European Union is far from perfect but it has great potential, giving its citizens a real possibility of balancing global markets, of social rights and a more effective system of environmental protection. It also provides for the continuation of peace and stability in Europe. The Euro is not the be all and end all, but nevertheless it can play a positive role and stop the waste caused by currency transactions.

The best thing about the European Union is that it has the potential to be what its citizens want it to be - and that doesn't have to mean one big nation state, but perhaps something new that's a step beyond.

The Purpose of the European Union

  • To promote economic and social progress.
  • To assert the identity of the European Union on the international scene.
  • To introduce European citizenship.
  • To develop an area of freedom, security and justice.
  • To maintain and build on established European Union law.

European Union History

May, 1948 - A meeting was chaired by Winston Churchill and attended by 800 delegates, participants proposed the adoption of a Human Rights Charter and, to ensure the respect of such charter, the creation of a Court of Justice. They also recommended the creation of a European Council and Assembly.

May, 1949 - The statute of the Council of Europe is signed in London, United Kingdom.

November, 1950 - The Human Rights and Fundamental Rights Conventions in Rome, Italy, is signed.

1951 - The European Union (EU) was founded as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) between Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands under the Treaty of Paris. In 1953 the ECSC levy, the first European tax, comes into force and the Common Market for coal and iron ore is set up.

1955 - At the end of 1955 the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted as it emblem the blue flag hosting golden stars.

March 25, 1957 - The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) is signed by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands in Rome (the so called 'Treaty of Rome'). In 1958, the treaty comes into force and the European Parliamentary Assembly is set up in Luxembourg. By the end of that year, EEC institutions have replaced most of the ECSC ones

1960 - The first regulations on the freedom of movement for workers in Europe comes into force.

1967 - The EEC Council of Ministers decides to harmonise indirect taxes in the Community and to adopt the Value Added Tax (VAT) system. On 1 July, 1967, ECSC is formally dissolved and its remaining functions and institutions are absorbed into the EEC.

December, 1969 - At a summit meeting held in The Hague, the Netherlands, the member government of the EEC confirm their willingness to maintain the gradual advance towards a genuine economic and monetary union.

1973 - Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Community, expanding it to 9 members.

March, 1979 - The European Monetary System (EMS) came into being and in June the first elections to the European Parliament by direct universal suffrage are held.

1981 - Greece becomes the 10th member of the European Community.

1986 - Spain and Portugal join the European Communities, expanding it to 12 members.

1990 - Two Intergovernmental Conferences, one on Economic and Monetary Union, the other on Political Union, start.

1991 - A European Council is held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, it reaches an agreement on the draft 'Treaty on the European Union' which is signed in February, 1992, and as a result of this in 1993 the single market was established.

1995 - Austria, Finland and Sweden become members of the European Union, expanding it to 15 members.

June, 1998 - The European Central Bank is established and in January, 1999, the Euro () is officially launched in Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

2000 - The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is issued.

2002 - In January, 2002, the Euro becomes the sole currency of Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

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