European integration

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The formation of European states into the world's closest regional association, which has assumed many of the characteristics of statehood.

Early history (up to 1957)

The attempt to promote economic and political union in Europe emerged initially from a desire after World War II to integrate European powers so closely as to make another war between them impossible. It was also influenced by the need of Western European states to respond to the Cold War while binding in West Germany and enabling its rearmament. A further central motive emerged from the 1980s in the concern about the internationalization and globalization of trade and politics, in which the relatively small European states could only have an influential voice if they acted in coordination with each other.

 The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established by the Treaty of Paris on 18 April 1951, to create a common market for coal and steel between the signatories, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, France, Italy, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. Through the common control of those industries which were deemed crucial for war production, German and French politicians such as Robert Schumann and Jean Monnet intended to prevent the unilateral rearmament of any of its member states, and especially to avoid renewed unilateral German rearmament.

 Encouraged by the economic and political success of the ECSC, the six member states proceeded to sign the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This established the European Economic Community (EEC), which from 1967 was transformed into the European Community (EC).

The 1960s and 1980s

 The EEC excluded Europe's most powerful economy of the immediate postwar years, the United Kingdom. The UK was not involved in the negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Rome because it still conducted most of its trade with its Empire, and because the Eden government and its civil service failed to appreciate the will of the other European states to go ahead without it. Following the Treaty of Rome, the UK founded a looser economic association (EFTA), but decided to apply for membership during the 1960s, only to be turned down twice (1963, 1967) because of the veto of the French President, de Gaulle. After de Gaulle's resignation in France, the EC was expanded by the first wave of enlargement to include Denmark, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK as new members, with effect from 1 January 1973. Earlier, Norway had withdrawn its application after a referendum had shown that a majority of its population opposed entry. (This outcome was confirmed in a renewed referendum in 1994.) Under the government of Harold Wilson, a referendum was held in the UK on 5 June 1975, and produced a two‐thirds majority in favour of continuing membership of the EC.

 In 1974 the Paris Summit convened by Giscard d'Estaing made a number of changes that proved to be decisive. It instituted the European Council, and it transformed the European Parliament into a directly elected body with effect from 1979. The 1960s and the 1970s also saw dramatic progress in European legal integration through the rulings of the European Court of Justice. Finally, 1979 saw the creation of the ERM.


Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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