European Union Timeline


The statute of the Council of Europe enters into force.

August 3, 1949

Schulman Plan

April 8 1951

six countries sign a treaty to run their heavy industries – coal and steel – under a common management. In this way, none can on its own make the weapons of war to turn against the other, as in the past. The six are Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

They sign the Treaty of Rome

March 25, 1957

creating the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘ common market ’. The idea is for people, goods and services to move freely across borders.

The EU signs its first international agreement

July 20 1963

a deal to help 18 former colonies in Africa. By 2005, it has a special partnership with 78 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions.

The Commission addresses a recommendation to the Member States.

September 20,1965

It asks not to create new obstacles to intra-Community trade when they adopt laws and regulations of a technical nature.

The EEC Council of Ministers decides to harmonise indirect taxes

February 9, 1967

in the Community To adopt the principle of the added-value tax system and to approve the first medium-term economic policy programme defining and fixing the aims of the economic policy of the Community for the years ahead.

The EU’s first plan for a single currency

April 24 1972

dates from 1970. To maintain monetary stability, EU members decide to allow their currencies to fluctuate against each other only within narrow limits. This exchange rate mechanism (ERM), created in 1972, is a first step towards the introduction of the euro, 30 years later.

The six become nine

January 1 1973

when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom formally enter the EU

EU citizens directly elect the members of the European Parliament

June 7 1979 - June 10 1979

Previously they were delegated by national parliaments. Members sit in pan-European political groups (Socialist, Conservative, Liberal, Greens, etc.) and not in national delegations. The influence of the Parliament is constantly increasing

Computers and automation are changing the way we live and work.

February 28 1984

To stay in the forefront of innovation, the EU adopts the ‘Esprit’ programme in 1984 as the first of many research and development programmes it has since funded.

Spain and Portugal enter the EU, Greece has also recently joined

January 1 1986

Bringing membership to 12

Trade is not flowing freely across EU borders

February 17 1986

The main obstacles are differences in national regulations. The Single European Act of 1986 launches a vast six-year programme to sort these out. The Act also gives the European Parliament more say and strengthens EU powers in environmental

The Treaty on European Union is signed in Maastricht.

February 7 1992

It is a major EU milestone, setting clear rules for the future single currency as well as for foreign and security policy and closer cooperation in justice and home affairs. Under the treaty, the name ‘European Union’ officially replaces ‘European Community’

The single market and its four freedoms are established

January 1 1993

the free movement of goods, services, people and money is now reality. More than 200 laws have been agreed since 1986 covering tax policy, business regulations, professional qualifications and other barriers to open frontiers. The free movement of some services is delayed.

The euro is introduced in 11 countries

January 1 1999

(joined by Greece in 2001) for commercial and financial transactions only. Notes and coins will come later. The euro countries are Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland. Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom decide to stay out for the time being

the EU takes on peace-keeping operations in the Balkans

March 31 2003

firstly in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and then in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In both cases, EU-led forces replace NATO units. Internally, the EU agrees to create an area of freedom, security and justice for all citizens by 2010.

The 25 EU countries sign a Treaty establishing a European Constitution .

October 29 2004

It is designed to streamline democratic decision-making and management in an EU of 25 and more countries. It also creates the post of a European Foreign Minister. It has to be ratified by all 25 countries before it can come into force. When citizens in both France and the Netherlands voted 'No' to the Constitution in referendums in 2005, EU leaders declared a "period of reflection".

The 27 EU countries sign the Treaty of Lisbon

December 13 2007

which amends the previous Treaties. It is designed to make the EU more democratic, efficient and transparent, and thereby able to tackle global challenges such as climate change, security and sustainable development. The Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all EU countries before entering into force on 1 December 2009.

Heads of State and Government within the euro area

May 7 2010

agree to deeper fiscal consolidation, stronger economic coordination and budgetary surveillance to defend the euro.

The enhanced cooperation procedure

December 20 2010

(EU laws only applying in some EU countries initially) is used for the first time, as the European Council agrees on the rights of international couples living within the EU to choose which country’s rules apply should they decide to separate.

At an informal summit of the European Council

January 30 2012

a new treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the economic and monetary union is agreed by all EU countries with the exception of the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. The treaty aims to strengthen fiscal discipline through automatic sanctions and stricter surveillance and, in particular, the 'balanced budget rule'.