Throughout the years following World War 2, a number of increasingly far-reaching treaties have been signed by more and more European states, ultimately resulting in what we now know as the European Union (EU) or European Community. The most significant of these treaties are detailed below.
The Treaty of Paris (1951)
On April 18th, 1951, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Paris. These “Inner Six” nations were first and foremost intent on sharing natural resources used in heavy industry, and the treaty effectively gave rise to the European Coal and Steel Community. It implications, however, were considerably more far-reaching, as this economic cooperation proved to open more doors than ever before for diplomatic relations between some of Europe’s, and the world’s, leading industrialized nations.
The Treaty of Rome (1957)
On the 25th of March, 1957, the same six nations that had formed the European Coal and Steel Community came together once again to strengthen their multilateral bonds. By strategically minimizing customs duties related to trade between the nations, this newly expanded organization, now known as the European Economic Community (EEC), allowed freer movement of people, investments, services rendered, and goods imported and exported between the countries. The treaty was also a giant leap towards the possibility of creating multinational social policies and programs to improve the lives of people within and across these nations’ national borders.
The Maastricht Treaty (1992)
Signed in the Netherlands in 1992 and becoming effective the following year, the Maastricht Treaty aimed to go a step beyond the past sphere of the EEC, and to create a truly integrated European marketplace. The long-used name of “European Community” also became official, as the term European Economic Community became less and less accurate as the Maastricht Treaty further pushed the European Community’s sphere to reach further and further beyond the realm of economics. Perhaps one of the Maastricht Treaty’s most important achievements was the creation of the Euro, a common currency now used by 19 European Union member states in lieu of their own national currencies. The treaty also set forth more detail in regards to the management of debts and fiscal policies within and between the constituent European Community member states.
The "Brexit" Referendum
By way of a nationwide referendum held on June 23rd, 2016, the United Kingdom became the first European member state to decide to leave the EU.