HISTORY 101: The Rise And Possible Fall Of The European Union

europe map

There’s a big meeting of European leaders today about Greece’s second bailout, and according to some academics, it’s “do or die” time for the Euro.

We thought it was an appropriate time to make a primer on just how the European Union came to be about, and where it might be heading.

Here’s what you need to know about the supranational organisation that forms the biggest economy in the world.

1951: The European Coal and Steel Community is created

French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman suggested integrating the Coal and Steel Communities of Western Europe. The Treaty of Paris in 1951 did just this, with France, Western Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands) as the first members.

Source: BBC News

A step is taken toward greater integration.

The European Economic Community and European Atomic Energy Commission were created. The same six countries joined that signed the Treaty of Paris. These two organisations are referred to as the European 'Common Market.'

Source: The BBC

1963: France Shuts Down The UK's Bid To Join The EEC

Charles De Gaulle vetoed the UK's application to enter the European Economic Community, worried about the UK's close ties to the United States and the possibility of France losing influence in the world.

He called the UK a 'Trojan Horse' for the United States.

Source: BBC News

1965: The Empty Chair Crisis

In response to the proposed Common Agriculture Policy, Charles De Gaulle organised a 'walkout' from the European Council, where all French representatives would not show up.

Because the Council uses qualified majority voting (meaning that a majority of members have to vote yes, as opposed to unanimous voting), nothing could get done for the year that France refused to participate.

The crisis ended in 1966 with the 'Luxembourg Compromise' that said the Council could postpone decisions that member states found 'very important.'

This led to an increase in the use of unanimous voting as opposed to qualified majority voting, which effectively means that decisions are made very slowly.

Source: European Union

1967: The European Commission, European Parliament and European Council Are Formed

One leadership for the three markets (European Economic Community, European Coal and Steel Community, European Atomic Energy Commission) is formed.

Source: BBC News

1973: First Enlargement of the European Community

Denmark, Ireland and the UK (finally) are allowed to join the Common Market.

Source: BBC News

1979: The European Monetary System Is Announced

This is seen as the start of the 'road to the euro.' The 'European currency unit' is introduced, which acted as a benchmark for currency conversions.

Source: BBC

1981: Greece Joins the EC

Greece becomes the European Community's 10th member.

Source: BBC News

1986: Portugal and Spain Join The EC

Source: The BBC

The European Community becomes the 'European Union' with the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1991. This treaty is seen as leading to the creation of the euro. A common social policy is included as well.

The United Kingdom negotiates a way out, and bcomes exempt from both the monetary union and the EU's social policy.

Source: BBC News

1995: Borders come down with the Schengen agreement

Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and the Benelux countries and later Italy, Denmark, Austria, Sweden and Finland signed the Schengen agreement and allowed for travel between these countries without barriers or passport checks.

Notably, Ireland and the UK never joined the Schenegen zone.

Source: BBC News

1998: The EU opens up eastward

The EU became less-focused on Western Europe.

The Eastern European countries of Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia join the EU.

Source: BBC News

1999: The Euro is launched

The single-currency starts. The 11 countries that adopt the Euro first are:

Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Source: The BBC

2004: A constitution is signed

But never ratified. French and Dutch voters did not vote to approve The EU constitution. The EU operates on the basis of treaties but has never been able to pass a constitution.

Source: BBC News

2004: Greece admits fudging its data to enter the Eurozone

Greece admits that it never had a debt level below 3% which was the requirement to enter the eurozone. Goldman Sachs helped Greece move around the numbers so it looked like they were solvent enough to join the euro project.

Source: The Guardian

2007: Romania and Buglaria enter the EU

Despite concerns that Romania and Bulgaria have not met either the economic or political qualifications to enter the EU, they were allowed to join the EU in 2007.

Source: BBC News

2007: More powers given to the EU

The Treaty of Paris was signed. This created a European Presidency, gave more powers to the European Parliament, and created an international affairs position to give the EU more weight on the world stage.

Source: The EU

2010: Greece needs a bailout from the EU and the IMF. Later this year, Ireland will also need a bailout

The financial crises in Greece and Ireland meant that they'd be insolvent if not for help from the EU and IMF. Protestors sprung up to demonstrate against the austerity measured required as conditions from these bailouts.
Source: The Guardian

2011: Portugal needs a bailout

In May, Portugal became the third eurozone country that needed a bailout.

Source: BBC

2011: Cracks form in the Schengen agreement

After pressure from its right-leaning political parties, Denmark reinstituted border controls. Passports will now be checked on the German-Danish border.

Source: BBC News

2011: A second Greek bailout

European leaders will meet tomorrow to discuss the fate of Greece's second bailout.

Pundits and academics have been theorizing that this may be the 'end of the euro' as we know it, and the economic crisis may fundamentally change the European Union.

2011 may be a landmark year in determining the fate of the European Union.

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