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Formation of the European Union

  • Almost all the information in this timeline is taken form:

  • End of World War II

    End of World War II
    World War II ends in Europe. Millions of people around the world take to the streets to celebrate ‘Victory in Europe Day’, marking the end of the deadliest military conflict in history in which 60 million people died.
  • Cold War

    Cold War
    Political tensions between Eastern and Western Europe over ideology, economics and government lead to a "Cold War", fought with proxy wars rather than direct military conflict, lasting more than 40 years. Tensions between the two spheres had started as early as 1945.
  • Schuman Declartion

    Schuman Declartion
    5 years after the end of World War II, the then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presents a plan for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union. This is why the EU celebrates its birthday — Europe Day — on this day every year.
  • The six founding countries (ECSC)

    The six founding countries (ECSC)
    Schuman’s vision starts to take shape when six countries — Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — sign a treaty to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production (ECSC). With these countries deciding together what to do with Europe’s coal and steel, no single nation can build weapons without the other nations knowing about it.
  • Treaty of Rome

    Treaty of Rome
    Building on the success of the coal and steel treaty, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands expand cooperation to other economic sectors. They sign the Treaties of Rome, creating the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), and the European Economic Community (EEC) or ‘common market’, allowing people, goods and services to move freely across borders.
  • Common Agricultural Policy

    Common Agricultural Policy
    The common agricultural policy (CAP) is one of the EU’s oldest policies, supporting farmers and ensuring that Europe’s food is safe to eat. There are millions of people working in the sector in the EU. They provide an impressive variety of abundant, affordable, safe and good quality products.
  • Yaoundé Convention

    Yaoundé Convention
    The EU signs its first big international agreement (The Yaoundé Convention), a deal to help 18 former colonies in Africa.
  • Merger Treaty (sign)

    Merger Treaty (sign)
    The Merger Treaty was signed, where the ECSC, EEC and Euratom were unified.
  • Merger Treaty (it comes into effect)

    Merger Treaty (it comes into effect)
    The Merger Treaty comes into effect, creating a single Council of Ministers and a single Commission for the European Communities. They already share a Parliamentary Assembly and a Court of Justice.
  • Free cross-border trade

    Free cross-border trade
    Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands stop charging taxes on imports of each other’s goods, allowing free cross-border trade for the first time. They also apply the same taxes on the goods they import from other countries. The world’s biggest trading group is born! Trade among the six, and between them and the rest of the world, grows rapidly.
  • Single market for goods

    Single market for goods
    At a meeting in The Hague, in the Netherlands, EU leaders from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands confirm their willingness to move towards a single market with a common currency and reaffirm their agreement on the principle of letting other countries join the EU. Thanks to the single market, it is not only people who can now move around freely in the EU, but also goods, services and money.
  • First EU enlargement

    First EU enlargement
    Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Communities. Following a referendum, Norway decides not to join.
  • Return of democracy in Greece and Spain

    Return of democracy in Greece and Spain
    Following the death of General Francisco Franco, Spain transitions to democracy. Greece establishes a new democratic and republican constitution in June 1975, restoring the country to democracy.
  • First European Elections

    First European Elections
    For the first time, European citizens can vote for who they want to represent them in the European Parliament (universal suffrage). Before the introduction of direct elections, MEPs were appointed by the national parliaments of each Member State. The European elections have been held every 5 years since then. You have the right to vote at 18 in all EU countries except Austria, Malta (16), and Greece (17).
  • Greece joins the European Communities

    Greece joins the European Communities
    Greece becomes the 10th country to join the European Communities.
  • Greenland leaves the European Communities

    Greenland leaves the European Communities
    Between 1973 and 1985, Greenland was part of the European Communities. Following a referendum held in 1982, it withdrew from the EU but remains associated with it as an Overseas Country and Territory.
  • Schengen Agreement

    Schengen Agreement
    A small village in Luxembourg gives its name to the Schengen Agreement that gradually allows people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. It is signed on 14 June 1985 by Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. 26 countries currently make up the Schengen area.
  • Spain and Portugal join the European Communities

    Spain and Portugal join the European Communities
    They join, bringing the total number of members to 12.
  • European Flag

    European Flag
    The European flag is raised for the first time in front of the Berlaymont building — the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels — to the music of the European anthem. (There are 12 stars because there were 12 member states at the moment.
  • Single European Act

    Single European Act
    01 July 1987
    Although import taxes between member countries disappeared in 1968, trade is not flowing freely across EU borders because of differences in national regulations. The Single European Act launches a 6-year programme to resolve these differences. The act also gives the European Parliament more say and makes the name ‘European Parliament’ official.
  • Single Market

    Single Market
    Thanks to the single market, people, goods, services and money can move around the EU almost as though it were a single country. EU citizens can study, live, shop, work and retire in any country, and enjoy products from all over Europe. It is one of the EU’s greatest achievements.
  • Maastricht Treaty

    Maastricht Treaty
    The Maastricht Treaty, named after the Dutch city in which it was signed, comes into force. It is a major milestone of the European integration. It formally creates the European Union and paves the way for the creation of the single European currency: the euro. It also gives the European Parliament a bigger role in decision-making and the power to approve the Commission as a whole.
  • Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU

    Austria, Finland and Sweden join the EU
    Increasing its membership to 15.
  • Schengen Area (it comes into effect)

    Schengen Area (it comes into effect)
  • Treaty of Amsterdam

    Treaty of Amsterdam
    02 October 1997
    The Treaty of Amsterdam is signed in the capital of the Netherlands. It prepares the European Union for the arrival of future Member States. From now on, a new Commission president can only be appointed with the approval of the European Parliament.
  • European Central Bank

    European Central Bank
    The European Central Bank, which works with the national central banks of all EU Member States and is responsible for managing the euro, is created. Its main aim is to keep prices stable in order to support economic growth and job creation. It is based in Frankfurt, Germany.
  • The euro

    The euro
    Euro notes and coins become the legal currency in 12 EU countries. 19 countries currently use the euro.
  • Ten more countries join the EU

    Ten more countries join the EU
    Large parts of eastern and western Europe are united in peace and democracy as 10 new countries join the EU. The addition of Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia brings the total number of Member States to 25. Numerous events take place across Europe to mark this historic enlargement.
  • European Health Insurance Card

    European Health Insurance Card
    Introduction of the European Health Insurance Card. As an EU citizen, if you fall ill or have an accident in another EU country, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, you are entitled to receive any urgent medical treatment that cannot wait until you get home.
  • Bulgaria and Romania join the EU

    Bulgaria and Romania join the EU
    Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union, bringing its membership to 27.
  • A new economic crisis

    A new economic crisis
    A major financial crisis hits the world economy. The initial spark was problems with mortgage loans in the US. The recession that follows is a lot global one and the EU economy takes a big hit.
    PIGS was used to refer to the economies of Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, EU member states that were unable to refinance their government debt or to bail out over-indebted banks on their own during the crisis.
  • Montenegro applies to join the EU

    Montenegro applies to join the EU
  • Treaty of Lisbon

    Treaty of Lisbon
    The Treaty of Lisbon becomes law. Its aim is to make the EU more democratic, more efficient and better able to address global problems, such as climate change, with one voice. It also provides a formal procedure to be followed by Member States wishing to leave the European Union, known as Article 50.
  • Serbia applies to join the EU

    Serbia applies to join the EU
  • European Citizens’ Initiative

    European Citizens’ Initiative
    Europeans get a greater say in the policies that affect their lives thanks to a new initiative that gives them the possibility to propose the creation of a law to the European Commission.
  • Croatia joins the EU

    Croatia joins the EU
    Croatia becomes the 28th member of the European Union.
  • European migrant crisis

    European migrant crisis
    The European migrant crisis, also known as the European refugee crisis, is a period of significantly increased movement of refugees and migrants into Europe since 2011. (Because of, for example, the civil war of Syria, Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan. In 2015, over a million migrants enter the Schengen area).
  • Lithuania adopts the euro

    Lithuania adopts the euro
    Lithuania becomes the 19th EU Member State to adopt the euro.
  • Brexit Referendum

    Brexit Referendum
    In a referendum in the United Kingdom, a majority of 52 % vote for the country to leave the European Union.
  • Western Balkans and the EU

    Western Balkans and the EU
    The EU announces plans for six countries in the Western Balkans to potentially join the EU after 2025, with Montenegro and Serbia likely to be the first.
  • DiscoverEU

    DiscoverEU
    The EU launches ‘DiscoverEU’, a new initiative that gives 18-year-old Europeans the chance to visit between one and four destinations outside their own country for up to 30 days. With the help of free travel passes they can explore Europe’s cultural diversity, make new friends and get to know their continent better!
  • First woman to head the European Commission

    First woman to head the European Commission
    The European Parliament elects Ursula von der Leyen as the 2019-2024 President of the European Commission – the first woman ever to hold the position.
  • Brexit - UK leaves the EU

    Brexit - UK leaves the EU
    Having been an EU Member State since 1973, the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, following the 2016 referendum result. The so-called “Brexit agreement”, jointly approved by the European and the British Parliaments, now provides for a negotiation period that will redefine the relationship between the EU and the UK in many areas, including trade, education, defence and employment, with a substantial impact on both European and British citizens.
  • Brexit: new beginnings for the UK and the EU

    Brexit: new beginnings for the UK and the EU
    01 January 2021
    The United Kingdom’s Brexit transition period is officially completed and it fully leaves the European Union after 47 years of membership. The EU and the UK reached an agreement on their future relationship after four years of negotiations that followed the UK referendum in 2016. As a result of the deal, the EU and the UK will continue to trade without extra taxes, but there will be more paperwork and other checks than before.