The European Union (EU)
The foundation of the European Union (EU) was created in the aftermath of World War II in response to the economic, social and political devastations that resulted from nationalist divisions within Europe. The EU has evolved over time to include 27 countries, and operates based on the decisions of numerous governing bodies within the organization. This guide introduces the history of the EU and how it was formed, and explores how it currently operates.
History of the EU
Find out how the six original members of the European Coal and Steel Community (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) formed in 1951 and then grew to include 21 other European countries. Use the sites below to discover the groups and elements that gave rise to the European Union as it currently exists.
- Current members of the EU include: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (1951); Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom (1973); Greece (1981); Portugal and Spain (1986); Austria, Finland and Sweden (1995); Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia (2004); Bulgaria and Romania (2007).
- If you want to learn more about the countries that comprise the EU, visit the CIA’s World Factbook for detailed country overviews.
- Europa, the official EU Web site, is referenced throughout this guide as it provides an exhaustive overview of the EU, including its history, current members, operations and issues.
The BBC presents a timeline of the EU, starting in 1948. It details the plans for a peaceful Europe, the creation of NATO, and the many declarations, treaties and groups that ultimately created the body now known as the EU. Scroll through the most significant years in EU history and find hyperlinks to brief discussions of major events.
Europa offers a timeline of the EU organized by decade and then year. You’ll find photos, videos and overviews of the major themes and events that categorized each period.
For a broad history…
HistoriaSiglo20.org is a Spanish site with an English version that offers a lengthy educational overview of the history of the EU. Use the links on the right to browse this extensive resource, including descriptions of the integration process, important treaties, issues of citizenship and more.
For primary sources…
The European University Institute provides a historical database of the official documents that have defined developments in EU policy. Although the site doesn’t offer an overview of EU history, it does provide valuable primary sources, though many of the source documents are in languages other than English.
How the EU Functions
Because the European Union has formed over time and is constantly adding new members, its methods ... read more »
As the European Union expands to include an increasing number of countries, the organization faces ... read more »