The History of the EU

How long has Europe been in existence and why was the EU founded? Here you can read the most important steps for cooperation and unification in Europe.

Country Literacy men (percent) Literacy among young people (percent)
Albania 98.4 (2012) 99.2 (2012)
Armenia 99.8 (2011) 99.8 (2011)
Azerbaijan 99.9 (2016) 99.9 (2016)
Bosnia and Herzegovina 99.2 (2013) 99.7 (2013)
Bulgaria 98.7 (2011) 97.9 (2011)
Cyprus 99.3 (2011) 99.8 (2011)
Estonia 99.9 (2011) 99.9 (2011)
Georgia 99.7 (2014) 99.7 (2014)
Greece 98.3 (2011) 98.8 (2011)
Italy 99.1 (2011) 99.9 (2011)
Croatia 99.6 (2011) 99.7 (2011)
Latvia 99.9 (2011) 99.8 (2011)
Lithuania 99.8 (2011) 99.9 (2011)
Northern Macedonia 98.2 (2002) 98.7 (2002)
Malta 91.8 (2011) 98.9 (2011)
Moldova 99.4 (2012) 99.5 (2012)
Montenegro 99.4 (2011) 99.2 (2011)
Poland 99.3 (2008) 99.8 (2008)
Portugal 96.3 (2011) 99.4 (2011)
Romania 99.0 (2011) 99.0 (2011)
Russia 99.7 (2010) 99.7 (2010)
San Marino
Serbia 99.5 (2016) 99.7 (2016)
Slovenia 99.7 (2014) 99.8 (2014)
Spain 98.8 (2016) 99.6 (2016)
Czech Republic
Turkey 98.8 (2016) 99.6 (2016)
Ukraine 100.0 (2012) 100.0 (2012)
Hungary 99.2 (2014) 98.8 (2014)
Vatican City State
Belarus 99.8 (2009) 99.8 (2009)

Why EU?

Europe has had many small and large countries for hundreds of years. Some had a very strong and some had a weak economy. There were repeated quarrels and wars between the countries in Europe.

The two world wars in the last century were the worst wars in Europe. So that such wars never arise again, many countries in Europe have decided to work together. In the following you can read the most important steps for cooperation and unification in Europe.


The 6 countries France, Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands sign a joint contract and thereby establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

The aim of the contract was to make trading in “coal” and “steel products” easier and faster between the 6 countries. For example, no more customs duties had to be paid. This made the “coal” cheaper. In addition, care was taken that none of the 6 countries sold the coal too cheaply and the other 5 countries had a disadvantage as a result.


Another contract was signed. These 6 countries form the European Economic Community (EEC). With this new contract, the same rules have been adopted for agricultural and fishery products.

In order to support research into nuclear power, the federal states signed a third contract, thereby establishing the “European Atomic Energy Community” (Euratom, EAEC). At the time, it was believed that electricity from nuclear power could be the best power supply for many years and supported research on nuclear power with a lot of money.


There were now 3 different communities. In order to work better together, the idea came up to meet regularly. Meetings have now been held. These meetings later gave rise to the idea of a “European Parliament”. The Parliament today is a very important institution in the system Europe.


Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark sign all contracts and thereby join the 3 communities. 9 countries are now working together.


The “European Court of Auditors” was founded. Its job is to control exactly how much money is spent by the 3 communities.


For the first time, citizens from the 9 member countries were allowed to vote for the “European Parliament” themselves. Before that, the deputies were not chosen by the citizens, but only by the politicians.


Greece is added.


Spain and Portugal sign the contracts and are thereby added.


Cooperation between the 12 countries is very difficult. When a new task was to be solved, there were always many different opinions. It took a long time to come to an agreement. You always had to come up with new rules, such as how to vote on a new directive or regulation without upset another country. Therefore the 3 contracts were changed again until 1992.


The 12 countries sign the “Treaty on European Union” in the Dutch city of Maastricht. That is why it is also called the “Maastricht Treaty”.
Now there are no longer three separate communities, but one single union. Since that day one speaks of the “European Union” (EU) and means this treaty and the countries that have signed this treaty and will still sign it. Even if this contract has been improved again, it is the most important contract that has ever been signed between several countries.

And because everything is not going so quickly, it took almost 1.5 years for the contract to be valid in all the countries that signed it.


The “Treaty on European Union” is valid from November 1st, 1993 in the 12 countries that signed it.


Sweden, Finland and Austria join the “European Union”. This means that there are already 15 countries in the EU.


The “Treaty on European Union” was improved by the “Treaty of Amsterdam”. The name “European Union” remains with us. The contract has been valid in all countries since May 1, 1999.


The common euro was introduced as a currency and was another big step towards a common Europe. But the development doesn’t end there. More and more countries want to join the EU. One speaks of an enlargement process or also eastward expansion because most countries (except Malta) are in the east.


Among countries listed on, the 10 countries Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus are members of the EU from May 1st 2004. That makes 25 countries in the European Union.


Romania and Bulgaria are now also members of the EU. There are now 27 countries in the European Union.


Croatia has joined the EU. There are now 28 countries in the European Union.

June 23, 2016

The majority of the British population votes in favor of leaving the EU, the so-called “Brexit” (which means something like “British Exit”, meaning “Britain goes”). Negotiations with the UK and the EU are scheduled to start in 2017 and are scheduled to run for two years.


After several extensions, Brexit occurred on January 31, 2020 – Britain’s exit from the EU. Not much changes at first. A transitional solution still applies until the end of 2020, because certain processes still have to be negotiated.

The History of the EU

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