The creation of the European Union evolved from circumstances that covered years of crises. Over the years, Europe was involved in numerous wars. From the years 1870 to 1945, France and Germany fought each other numerous times, which resulted in a great loss of life during these battles. These countries suffered tremendously during and after each war. The European leaders knew something needed to be done in order to save what was left of Europe before it was destroyed beyond repair. The leaders of Europe were frustrated and unsure which direction to turn to save their countries. It was imperative that they pull together and join forces to rebuild and secure peace between their countries. To survive they would have to unite economically and politically.
It was in 1950 when the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the integration of the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. The European Coal and Steel Community resulted from this integration in 1951. Its membership consisted of six members from Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. The power to make decisions about the coal and steel industry, in these countries, were placed in the hands of an independent, supranational body called the “High Authority”.
The European Coal and Steel Community became very successful and within a few years it was decided to further integrate other sectors of their economies. The “Treaties of Rome” was issued and signed in 1957, which created the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Economic Community. The member states involved focused on the removal of trade barriers and the formation of a “common market”. The institutions of the three European communities were merged in 1967. From that point on, they were a single Commission and a single Council of Ministers, as well as the European Parliament.
In the beginning, members of the European Parliament were chosen by the national parliaments. This changed in 1979 when the first direct elections were held, which allowed the citizens of the member states to vote for the candidate of their choice. Since its implementation direct elections have been held every five years.
The economic and political integration between the member states of the European Union meant that the member countries would have to make joint decisions on issues. It was at this time that they developed common policies in various fields to cover specific areas. Listed below are some of the areas that policies were developed for:
In the early development of the European Union the focus was on a common commercial policy for coal and steel and a common agricultural policy. As time passed other policies were added as the need arose. Some key policy purposes have changed due to circumstances changing. For example, the purpose of the agricultural policy is no longer to produce as much food as cheaply as possible, but to support farming processes that produce healthy, high-quality food, and protect the environment. Changes in common policies taught the European Union that environmental protection polices were needed across the board. The relationship of the European Union with the rest of the world has also become an important issue. Mutual negotiations with other countries concerning major trade and aid agreements helped to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy.
It took time for the member states to remove all the barriers of trade between themselves and to turn their “common market” into a genuine single market in which goods, services, people, and capital could move about freely. At the end of 1922 the single market had formally been completed. However, still today there is work to be done in some areas. For example, there is the need to create a genuine single market in financial services.
In the 1990’s it became easier for people to move about in Europe. Passports and customs checks were abolished at most of the European Unions internal borders, which made travel much easier. This created a greater mobility for European Union citizens. Since 1987, more than a million young Europeans have taken study courses abroad, with support from the European Union. This would not have been possible in the past years without the development of the European Union.
The European Union has grown in size in successive waves. Other countries that have joined the