The History of the European Union

The History of the European Union

by: Carly Ristuccia

Professor Marco Spiezia

March 6, 2017





  1. Introduction

What is the point of studying the European Union? At home in Boston, Massachusetts, I woke up early one morning and switched on the news. On most every station, news casters were quoting “Brexit”: Britain’s exit from the European Union. Britain was leaving the European Union (E.U.), I had barely paid much attention to it. It was mentioned how it would affect the economy everywhere greatly. I let the thought enter and leave my mind.

As the days went by, I began to think about it more. What is the point of studying the European Union? As it turns out, the European Union has a significant impact on all other countries and their economies, all small and large businesses, all classes of family incomes and types of work, and that is why it is so important to study its successes and failures. According to recent statistics, the European Union’s trade with the rest of the world, “accounts for around 20% of global exports and imports (European Union, 2017)1”. That means that although I live 3,000 miles from Great Britain, whatever happens in Britain has an effect on America because of the contentedness of the world we live in today. This idea is relative to globalization, which is a term describing the interconnections of businesses or services that operate on an international scale. As the core textbook of this course, The European Union: How Does It Work? (Bomberg, Peterson, Stubb) refers to it, it mentions the different types of impacts it can have on the future, such as, globalization being “positive or negative, inevitable or controllable (Bomberg, pg.10) 1”. When a business goes global like many of the current day, we come to realize how small the world really is. We take little things for granted and do not always realize that if we were to lose any connection to Britain or Europe as a whole, we would be losing quite a lot of what we have become accustomed to in our everyday life.

Moreover, studying the European Union can give a person great insights on politics, economics, and business. The union started off as a way to control and benefit the economy, but evolved into its own type of government controlling not just economy, but national policy, security, health, environment, migration, etc. You can also study the union in terms of power. As more and more countries join the union, it becomes more and more powerful. Then it must custom a way of dealing with that power that will please many countries of Europe. Many countries of different backgrounds, morals, and cultures. Countries of different landscapes, resources, and businesses. Finally, studying the union can be a realization in how power is granted, and how it can easily be taken away.

  1. The History of the European Union

The first step to understanding the concept of such an incredible socio-political experiment, is to first know its history. We as humans, study the past in order to learn and predict for the future we live in. Perhaps the most appropriate year to begin is 1945: World War II had left the entirety of Europe as well as the world in shambles economically, socially, and politically. Europe was especially torn because of how closely it was involved in the war. In WWII Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan and the allied nations of Britain, Russia, and the USA took to war against one another. Many disagreements and unresolved conflicts from WWI ultimately led to what is known as the most destructive war of all time. Adolf Hitler who rose to power in Germany along with his Nazi nation, had plans of world domination and slowly began invading smaller countries. The power he was able to obtain was extremely corrupt and destructive, especially because he wanted to destroy the Jewish population. According to statistics, “6 million Jewish lives were murdered in Nazi concentration camps ( staff, 2009)”2. Against German Hitler and the Nazi’s, the USA and USSR were the two superpowers discussing a way to end the ongoing war. The decision was made to invade Germany and split it into 4 zones under the control of: the Soviet Union, the U.S. and France. Concerning the U.S, there was also a spread of communism during this war. This governmental ideology of communism spread from the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe, and eventually China. The United States being democratic were proud to rise to power and stand in support of democracy and their opposing ideology being power to the people. Although the USSR and U.S. were allies in WWII they still had disagreements on government. The U.S. did not support the idea of communism. President Harry Truman, the president of the U.S.A at the time, stated to Congress his idea to, “support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation…by outside pressures (Truman, 1947)3. A long lasting series of those pressures were tossed between the two superpowers for a period of time known as the Cold War. Stuck in the Cold War, the U.S. wanted to have as much influence on other countries as they could, in order to spread America’s idea of democracy. Meanwhile, those suffering countries in Europe after WWII, were looking for any type of security, stability, or peace that they could.


As a start to America’s influence on Europe, it decided to assist Europe forming an agreement called the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan put into effect in 1948, 3 years after WWII had ended, aided Europe with around $12 billion to help the country rebuild itself and its economy. America did this to support the broken down countries in Europe and form better relationships with them. By providing so much aid, in return, America was working to prevent the spread of communism which at the time was one of the country’s greatest fears and threats to the nation’s peace. It also allowed America to have more control and influence over Europe because it provided America with a direct market for their export goods and the reliance of Europe on that. America also kept a close watch on Germany and France that were having their disagreements on trade and politics. That is until we have the Schumann Declaration that sought out a way to resolve that before America had to get involved.


1950 was the year of the Schumann Declaration. This declaration was presented by the French foreign minister that goes by the name of Robert Schuman, but the declaration was originally drafted by Jean Monnet. Schuman wanted to prevent war or conflict between countries especially Germany and France. France had more power over Germany and wanted many of their resources. France wanted to use Germany’s economy to their own advantage regarding the countries abundance of coal and steel resources. Schuman instead, decided to put coal and steel under one common high authority and even encourage participation from other European countries. He believed that collaboration was the only way to prevent one country from overpowering another, and possibly starting another war. Schuman declares confidently in his speech stating, “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity (Schuman, 1950) “4. Shortly after Schuman’s word became the solidarity truth he was hoping it would become. He sought to combine national as well as European interests with forming this peace, so that of course was in support of many other countries as well.



In 1951, just one year after Schuman’s speech, the Treaty of Paris was signed by 6 founding members that supported Schuman’s idea. Those 6 members were: Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. This treaty officially formed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) – an alliance between the countries with a common market. This is the first action made toward the hope of bettering countries as a whole, together. This idea was a direct correlation of Neo-Functionalism a term coined by Earns Haas around 1958. Neo-functionalism defined the integration between countries, removing barriers and freeing trade. As Bomberg explains in her writing of, The European Union: How Does It Work? Haas also foreshadowed the idea of how a, “merger of economic activity in specific economic sectors…could “spillover” and provoke wider economic integration in related areas (Bomberg, pg.11)” 5. Eventually, we will see just how this spillover effect helped form the European Union.


The same six countries then signed two other documents known as the Treaties of Rome in March of 1957. The documents officially formed the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC). First, the EEC’s focus was to create a single market covering the range of goods, services, and capital. Previous to being a single market, many of these countries had a free trade area meaning some had already decided to reduce tariffs on trade, making that connection between borders. The step up to a single market meant that those European countries would be identified as one territory. This meant exclusively free movement of trade and the abolishment of tariffs. This was a huge advantage for neighboring countries. However, there were also drawbacks. For example, within this treaty, the CAP was set which stood for the “Common Agricultural Policy” and this agreement that was a part of the EEC meant all countries had to follow this policy that set a strict limit on how much a business could produce, in order to avoid over production. It created many obstacles for independent businesses that did not want to have these limitations. At the same time, it was avoiding further conflicts between countries. Countries that did not have as much resources as the over-producing countries, were of course in more support of the CAP than those countries rich in resources. The richer countries would much rather be earning more to pay off their expenses and their employees. Not being able to produce as much as possible would become a great frustration to these such businesses. Either way, the agreement was made and the countries would see where it could lead.

Along with this huge idea, the treaty also built off of Schuman’s “high authority” figure in establishing the “European Commission” which held essentially the same role as the “high authority” did. It was simply renamed because it further made clear of the relationship between the executives and the council.

The second part of the Treaties of Rome, was the European Atomic Energy Community that created a division dealing with the research and production of nuclear power of those countries in Europe. It is a say in the EU’s production and distribution of nuclear energy to its member states. Relative to human rights, the treaty also made a statement that one of its main goals was to, “establish uniform safety standards to protect the health of workers and of the general public and ensure that they are applied (European Commission, 1957)” 6. We can look at this as yet another way of preventing conflict and even war, in making sure atomic energy was used in precautionary ways. Essentially this was just another extension on the ECSC building on the European Economic Community (EEC). Soon enough, we would see even more extensions to the union.



The years following the Treaties of Rome, the community grew gaining great recognition. It established a diplomatic relationship with America known as the U.S. Mission to the European Union in 1961. This meant there was a connection between supernatural organizations of the two nations. With the U.S. being a superpower, this was a huge plus for the E.U.

The communities’ success did indeed continue, so much so, that even more countries wanted to join in on that success. The community expanded from 6 to 9 member states in 1973. The countries that joined in January of that year were: Britain, Denmark, and Ireland. The introduction of more members led to the introduction of more common polices. So why was joining the European Union such an appealing idea? Wouldn’t this just lead to more regulation? It would, however countries were attracted to the idea of receiving financial and economic support from the union, especially those countries experiencing many difficulties.

As the community grew, this was around the time all the countries realized they needed more direction and authority within the group. The first direct elections to the European Parliament occurred in 1979. It was then decided that these elections would be held every 5 years. Many citizens of the union looked to the elections as a way to have a say in the government that was beginning to develop. With so many countries from different areas, having a say in the EU Council was of great interest in order to speak on behalf of your country. All the more order that was maintained, the more serious the Parliament was perceived, the more legit the union became, and the more countries considered joining. Such as the countries of Greece and Spain in the early 1980’s. Next, we will see even more of this collaboration such as the Schengen Agreement.



Signed in 1985 was the Schengen Agreement. This agreement abolished internal border checks between European countries signed by 5 of the 10 member states of the European Economic Community. In reflection to this, in 1986 the Single European Act was signed. This was a statement agreeing to a free flow of trade across Europe and created the single market of Europe. Put into effect in 1992, the European market became a reality. This meant that the countries in Europe agreed to allow trade, movement of goods and service to process without internal borders or other regulations that could make that trade difficult. This was a huge step in connecting Europe. The way of which the single market functions improves efficiency, raises quality, and even lowers prices of trade and products between European countries. This became one of the main advantages of joining the European Union. But we must not forget some of the disadvantages, for example, a poor or struggling economy such as Germany’s.


In 1989, the Berlin wall splitting Germany into east and west came down. The wall had originally been built to divide the east of Germany which was communist, and the west of Germany which was democratic. Many Germans would flee from east to west. The life in the west of Germany was less repressive than the east. The west also received financial aid from the U.S during the Marshall Plan. John F. Kennedy president of the the time, gave a very famous and inspiring speech toward Germany. He expressed some of his attitudes toward communism versus democracy. He states with certainty, “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us (Kennedy, 1963)” 7. During this speech showing a compromising side, President Kennedy is also able to state the opinions and perspectives of those in support of communism, such as the economic progress it could have potential to bring. But ultimately, he uses Berlin, Germany as an example of communism being unsuccessful to individuality and personal freedoms. The government of the East eventually wanted to prevent the people escaping to the West and came to the conclusion that the best way to do that, was to finally close the border so that Germany could become stronger as a unified country. Germany was of course stronger as a whole once the wall was down and its economy grew for the better. Their unification made the country a key asset to the success of the European Union.



Along with the amendment of Germany, we will next see the amendment of the government of the union. November of 1993 marked the year of the Treaty of Maastricht which was an extremely progressive step forward. The Treaty of Maastricht officially turned the European community into the European Union. It officially defined European citizenship, and created a common foreign and security policy. It also defined all the rules that would follow the membership of a union member as well as the structure of the union known as the pillar structure. The first pillar would deal with the supra-national sector involving the Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice. The second and third pillar are the intergovernmental divisions that dealt with the decisions that lie outside the constitutional charter. The union is broken up into these groups in hopes of supporting a democratic-like government for the group of countries. The reason for its creation, was due to many member states that wanted to extend just the economic community to other areas of interest such as military and foreign policy. Along with these additions, there was also the agreement of a common currency coming into circulation known as the euro. The euro made it easier to travel from country to country throughout Europe and not deal with the exchange rate of changing currencies. However, with the euro coming into circulation around 2003 caused an inflation that hit most countries because prices rose with the adoption of the euro but wages, did not. The perceived inflation could be explained by a few theories, one being the rounding effect. As Princeton University Graduate Giovanni Mastrobuoni explains it in his essay, The Effects of the Euro conversion..,Consumers tend to round the exchange rate to compare current and past prices (Mastrobuoni, pg.3) 8. He uses the example of Italy that had an exchange rate of, “1,936.27 lire for one euro (Mastrobuoni, pg.3)” 8. Inevitably, inflation would occur with the development of the Euro, however the euro did become more accepted and we can see that by the many countries that wished to be accepted into the community.


The EU received 12 applications of membership in the mid 1990’s. 10 of these candidates joined the union in May 2004, those countries being: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Then in 2007, we see Bulgaria as well as Romania became members. After the events of the Romanian Revolution the Romanian government looked to the union for help and support. Its neighboring country of Bulgaria, having issues with political corruption, crime, and human trafficking, looked to the EU as well. With the accession of these two countries, the EU rose to 27 member states along with 23 different official languages being spoken in the union. Therefore with all the new business, some changes needed to be made.

This is where the Treaty of Lisbon came into play. The Lisbon treaty was yet another agreement signed in December of 2007 and put into effect in 2009. This was in a way, an amendment treaty that renewed the two treaties that formed the constitutional structure of the union. The Maastricht treaty that originally set up the goals of the union and the pillar system of its structure, became even more defined after analyzation. There was a rule set on majority voting in the Council of Ministers. There was more power given to the Parliament, there was the creation of a long-term president of the union, and there was a bill of rights and fundamental rights initiated. Many citizens at this time, supported the treaty because it brought more checks and balances to the system. Critics of the treaty would argue that it took away from democracy because national electorates were given less power and less of a say in decision-making.

Although it caused further analyzation, the enlargement had been a great advantage for Europe as a whole. It helped to ease the division of nations and instead encourage peace and stability. It was likely the union would be willing to accept more member states. Not only was it unifying pieces of Europe, it was also making the union stronger as a whole. It became likely that members would want to join for the financial support as well as the assisting in that countries issues. Whether it was debt, crime, poverty, social injustice, governmental instability, ext. the European Union would be a solution, when all else failed.

While it still continues to grow, the union still has its fair share of issues. Britain’s exit from the union was a huge shock to all on June 23rd of 2016 when the vote to leave the union came in. Britain made a statement that they were going to take power into their own hands, gain their independence and hope that it leads them to success on their own. This bold statement being made by Britain of being the first country to leave the union ever in history, left other countries to really contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of being a part of the European Union. While some are still in full support, other countries’ such as Austria and France had already begun with forming anti-EU populist parties.

  • The Predicted Future of the European Union

The future of course is really quite unpredictable. Anything can happen at any point of time, and completely change the perspective of the world. Especially in today’s century when technology that is constantly being updated, has a huge impact on all divisions of business, social media, politics and the globalization of ideas.

Looking to the past for an answer to the future is a gamble. But as we saw the European Union grow over time, we all must wonder, will we also see it decrease over time? We’ve learned that the actions of one country can inspire and have influence on its neighboring countries or countries that are experiencing similar difficulties. We have learned that some member states really do not feel independent and self-sufficient while being a part of the European Union, yet other states fully rely on the union. We may also want to look into the actions of foreign affairs that may have a large impact on the union’s efficiency and the member states opinion on the community. For example, in January of 2017 Donald Trump was sworn into office becoming the 45th president of the United States of America. Trump’s outlook for America greatly involves America’s safety and progression as a whole. He believes he can, “make America great again”. He has made it clear that he wants to do this by closing more connections between countries and foreigners that were the ones who helped build America and shape it into the superpower it is. However, he is skeptical about these foreign connections due to terrorism. With this type of outlook, we will see extreme changes in human rights as a whole, as well as trade and partnerships. The European Union questions what their future relationship with America will become. Donald Trump has criticized free trade, NATO, and even global warming policies. Donald Trump shows hesitation toward foreign trade deals and as Jean-Claude Junker the president of the European Commission puts it, “the trade deal with the United States, I do not view that as something that would happen in the next two years (Junker, 2016)” 9. This of course, will greatly effect businesses that rely on or strive off of trade with America.

Considering this, I believe that the chain of reactions that could come from the pessimistic presidency of Donald Trump involving his views on foreign affairs, could greatly change the future of the European Union. Trump had shown support in Great Britain leaving the EU. If Britain proves to stand strong on its own, it may be likely in my opinion, that other larger and stronger countries in Europe will leave the European Union to gain that independence as well. That is unless the European Union decides to make some great changes particularly involving more freedoms and say to the states that feel they are abiding by too many rules and regulations.

  1. Conclusion

In 10 years, I would like to say the European Union will stand strong. I would like to say this because I feel it has accomplished quite a lot and overall it has helped maintain peace for almost half a century. The European Union was even awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2012 due to its representation of collaboration, democracy and concerns on human rights. However, I cannot say with certainty that it will continue to be this successful in 15 years. The world is currently facing so many issues that would directly effect that union. There will of course, always be concerns and issues, but it is how the union decides to go about dealing with them that is truly significant. I believe the structure of the union is strong in terms of the voice of the people and the voice of the government. However, to pass a law or decision can take years because it has to be accepted by different branches and I feel that is a huge issue. Countries aren’t receiving the instant gratification that they could be receiving as an independent country. Many people will say these countries in the European Union are stronger as a whole, which is true in most aspects, but certainly not all. The stronger countries such as Britain and Greece struggling economically and politically, feel they are being more restricted than helped. Feel they are giving up too much to be a part of the union. With these contradictions, we may just reach a point in time, when the European Union is just something read about in history books.

























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“The Schuman Declaration – 9 May 1950.” European Union Website, the Official EU Website – European Commission. N.p., 18 Nov. 2016. 4


The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Treaty of Rome.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Jan. 2010.


EU Legislation. “EUR-Lex Access to European Union Law.” Access to the European Union Law. Eur-Lex, 2007. Web. 05 Mar. 2017. 6


“The Economy.” European Union Website, the Official EU Website – European Commission. Communication Department of the European Commission, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 03 Mar. 2017. 6


“The History Place – Great Speeches Collection: John F. Kennedy Speech – Ich Bin Ein Berliner.”  7


Giovanni Mastrobuoni, Giovanni. “The Effects of the Euro-Conversion on Prices and Price Perceptions.” (n.d.): 1-49. Sept. 2104. Web. 8


“EU’s Juncker Demands Clarity from Trump on Trade, Climate, NATO.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 9


Kern, Soeren. “The Future of the European Union?” Gatestone Institute.



“How Trump Will Impact The European Union.” ZeroHedge. N.p., 06 Jan. 2013. Web.




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