Detailed Timeline of the Formation of Europe
1944: Bretton Woods conference in New Hampshire, America and the founding of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, created with a view to helping Europe along the road to economic recovery.
1946: Winston Churchill delivers his speech in Zurich on a ‘United States of Europe’ (see my separate article which provides the full text).
1947: General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The precedent for all trade agreements. This cut tariffs and fostered international trade.
1950: French foreign minister proposes joint alliance between France and Germany as a way to prevent further war between the two countries.
1951: Treaty of Paris (18th April). This was the forerunner to the EU. It was primarily an agreement between France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands to pool together their coal and steel reserves and supplies with the intent of ending age-old rivalries. This became the European Coal and Steel Community (or ECSC).
1955, 56, 57 and 58 Developments:
1958: Messina Conferences of 1955 and 1956 and the Treaty of Rome of 1957: formed the European Economic Community (EEC). It incorporated a political understanding between France and Germany and the setting up of a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), alongside a customs union and free trade for industrial goods. Included in this was an agreement on nuclear energy: The European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM): this provided for future cooperation between member states along the lines of developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958 and included the same 6 founding members listed above.
The concept of an an intermingling between politics and economics was one that originated in the United States. British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) had led the delegation at the 1944 Bretton-Woods conference. He believed that ‘state intervention [was] necessary to moderate the booms and busts in economic activity’ (quote from the IMF link below). In other words, he promoted the idea that government intervention was necessary in order to keep the economy afloat and manage periods of economic downturn, particularly when confidence was at an all time low (which would have the negative impact of fuelling a further decline in the economy through people’s unwillingness to spend). This brought together government and the economy under one umbrella. (A more detailed history can be gleaned from the link below, but it is worth noting as Keynes is a very important figure in the field of economics). Here is the link:
Also in 1957-58:
1957: The UK float the idea of an International Free Trade Area. West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard was keen but Charles De Gaulle (who came to power in France in 1958) vetoed it. He persuaded Adenauer, the chancellor, to overrule Erhard and reject the idea. This inspired the later development of a European Free Trade Association in 1960 (see below).
1958: Charles de Gaulle becomes President in France and establishes the Fifth Republic (endorsed by a 1962 Referendum). This stated that the President was to be directly elected from the electorate rather than chosen by the National Assembly. The President emerged as a key power. The Fourth Republic had been discredited in the 1950s by the way in which the political parties dominated and ruined it. No new member states join the EEC during De Gaulle’s presidency.
1960: European Free Trade Association (EFTA). For countries not in the EU. Initially included Britain, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. Finland joined as an associate member in 1961. Ireland joined also. EFTA restricted to commercial matters.
1961: UK express an interest in joining the EEC.
1962: Concluding negotiations in respect of a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Took a long time negotiating. France had instigated this to protect famers. The CAP provided price guarantees and income support. (Involved heavy taxation and a transfer of wealth from town to country). Farmers to this day receive large sums of EU money, including in the UK. As a result of CAP, people remained in rural areas. The same year: De Gaulle appointed Georges Pompidou as Prime Minister; he remained Prime Minister until 1968. De Gaulle cut France free from its colonial commitment to Algeria, a financial noose. Two years earlier, 1960, most of French Africa had been granted independence.
1963: France vetoes UK application to join EEC, despite support from the other 5 members of the EEC. De Gaulle said that Britain was ‘insular’ and saw it as an ‘American Trojan horse’. (President John F. Kennedy wanted Britain to join the EEC as he was concerned that France was a country interested in a Europe that excluded American interests). At this time, De Gaulle considered France to be the leader of Europe.
1965: De Gaulle fails to win an overall majority in first round of Presidential elections in December. Forced into a second run-off with Socialist Francois Mitterrand. De Gaulle wins this only just – with 55.2% of the vote.
1967: De Gaulle blocks yet another application by the UK to join the EEC. The same year, there is a military coup in Greece and the Greek democracy are overthrown, (the first and only European democracy overthrown outside the Communist sphere post WW2).
1968: Overthrow of the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. Russian tanks thwarted. Student protests in France. These were echoed in Italy. The ’68 movements touched all Western European countries, including the UK: anti-authoritarianism; a clash between young people and existing power structures. The result: a huge expansion in higher education as student revolts panicked the authorities. Women’s lib and environmental issues came to the fore.
Also in the same year, Richard Nixon elected in as President in USA (he resigns 1974 after Vietnam War).
1969: De Gaulle resigns after the French government fail to win a referendum on proposed minor changes to the constitution. Pompidou becomes President from 1969 until his death in 1974. Pompidou less concerned with nationalism, more committed to the EU and more keen to see it expand. It is under his watch that the UK are finally permitted to become party of the EEC.
1970: EEC invite Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Norway to join the EEC. The same year, Edward Heath, Conservative, wins election in the UK.
1973: The UK is finally accepted into EEC under Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath (Prime Minister from 1970-1974). The same year, a European Monetary Cooperation Fund is established by members of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of the EEC; the objective: to stabilize exchange rates.
1974: Carnation Revolution in Portugal – right wing dictatorship overthrown. In the same year, the military junta lose power in Greece. Cyprus remains divided and with the Greeks leaving the Turkish zone in the North. The Turks in the south move to the North.
In the EEC, it is decided that the European Council meet 3 x a year and the European Parliament should be elected directly every 5 years, rather than having its members elected by national parliaments. (The first elections for this held in 1979).
1975: Harold Wilson, Labour PM, holds referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EEC (Wilson was Prime Minister from 1964-1970 and again from 1974-1976). In a 65% turnout, 67% of the vote opted to remain in. 17 million voted yes and 8 million voted no (67%/33%).
1977: First elections in Spain since 1936. General Franco had been dictator from 1939 to his death in 1975. Monarchy slowly reintroduced after his death and some power after his death remained with his supporters. Under Franco there had been no independent political parties and no free press, outside the small group that ran the state. Franco’s Prime Minister kept in office until 1976 when the King replaced him. Suarez won and a new constitution was confirmed in December 1978. A parliamentary monarchy was established. The death penalty was abolished and the voting age reduced to 18. No state religion. Proportional representation and bi-cameralism were considered important following the Franco regime. The constitution recognised regional autonomy in Spain. Suarez won the reelection in 1979 but was forced out by his party in 1981.
1978-79: Winter of Discontent. Series of strikes in Britain.
1979: Oil price shocks globally. An Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) is created: designed to facilitate fiscal stability and squeeze out inflation. France and Germany dominated. (Britain joined in 1990). The same year, Thatcher is elected as Conservative Prime Minister in the UK. The same year, the European Parliament is established.
1981: Greece join the EEC.
1983: Thatcher re-elected in Britain.
1985: Single European Act – committing the UK to a future EU. Also in this year a European flag is adopted.
1986: Spain and Portugal join the EEC. Also this year, the Single European Act is signed. This is the first major revision to the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Set the objective of establishing a single market by 1992.
1989: Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. Under Gorbachev in what was the Soviet Union at that time, the perestroika or ‘restructuring’ of the economy involved a loosening of much of the command economy gave rise to a number of economic problems: inflation, a rise in the budget deficit, shortages, a breakdown in economic integration and political change (Black, 193). This provoked the fall of the eastern bloc. Gorbachev’s ‘attempts to push through modernisation in Eastern Europe, totally surprising the East German leadership (who argued that there was no need for reform or openness), left the government weak in the face of popular demand for reform and more change’ (Black, 193). 1989 also marked the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall that divided former East and West Germany: the gate was opened in November 1989 with formal deconstruction starting in June the following year.
1990: East Germany, (Germany no longer being divided), becomes part of the EEC. Stage 1 of the European Monetary Union begins. The UK sign up to the ERM.
1991: Dissolution of the Soviet Union and consequent disbanding of Comecon and the Warsaw Pact. Maastricht Summit in December 1991. During this time, there is widespread anxiety about poorer countries joining Europe and the ensuing impact on EU funds and concerns over increased migration. Ideas of a two-tier Europe are advanced, particularly by France.
1992: On 7th February 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed under Conservative Prime Minister John Major, Thatcher’s successor. Britain secured opt-outs for the single currency and the ‘social chapter’. This created the EU (from what was the EEC). Political and executive powers of the EEC were extended. Criteria towards European Monetary Union (ERM) were outlined, with an agreement that the national debt of the participant countries should not exceed 60% of the GDP.
Also in 1992, Switzerland held a referendum on joining the EU but it was rejected.
16th September 1992: ‘Black Wednesday’. A low point in Britain’s relationship with Europe when Norman Lamont, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announces Britain’s withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. (Norman Lamont has now, at time of writing, come out in favour of a UK Brexit: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/eu-referendum-lord-norman-lamont-latest-conservative-grandee-back-brexit-1547038). Italy also pull out of the ERM.
Opt-outs and Exclusions
Denmark had held a referendum in 1992 on membership on the ratification of the Maastricht treaty and it was rejected by the electorate. As a result, they managed to secure 4 exclusions under the Edinburgh Agreement in December 1992. These were as follows:
(1) It was not part of a defence cooperation, the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); (2) it was not a member of the EMU, the monetary union; (3) it was not included in stipulations about EU citizenship; (EU citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship and gives rights such as the right to vote in European elections, the right to free movement, settlement and employment within European member states and the right to consular protection of any European consulate if their own is not available in the country in which it is needed); and (4) it did not cooperate in terms of a supranational legal body/police and justice affairs, that being the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ). Denmark did however agree to Schengen, a Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Social Chapter.
Britain also secured the following opt outs from Maastricht in 1992: (1) Opted out of Schengen; the EMU; the AFSJ (Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, as outlined above), and (3) the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was part of the Treaty of Lisbon and Britain wanted to limit the extent that the European courts would be able to rule on issues related to that Charter if they were brought before a British court. Britain had concerns over how the Charter would alter labour laws in the UK, particularly vis a vis allowing more strikes.
Ireland opted out of (1) Schengen and (2) the AFSJ.
Poland opted out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Under the conservative ruling party at that time, the Law and Justice party, they had concerns over granting homosexual couples the same kind of benefits that heterosexual couples enjoyed. When the Civic Platform party were elected in 2007, they announced they would change their view on this, thereby leaving the UK as the only country not to adopt it. Donald Tusk, now head of the EU Commission, was Prime Minister and leader of the Civic Platform party at that time. However, when it came down to altering this, they changed their minds, saying that they wanted to honour the deal negotiated by the previous government. The current ruling party in Poland, at time of writing, are once again the conservative Law and Justice party who were elected in the October 2015 parliamentary elections.
1993: Copenhagen Criteria: the rules that define whether a country is eligible to join the EU. Set standards for democracy, human rights, rule of law, minority protection and civilian control over the military that all EU candidates must meet before they become members. Denmark hold another referendum in this year following the opt outs obtained in the December 1992 Edinburgh Agreement and agreed to ratify the Maastricht Treaty. Also this year, the EEC becomes the EU. There are also concerns in this period over the war in former Yugoslavia and there are concerns over the impact of integration and cost.
1994: European Monetary Institute (1994-1997). This was the second stage in the creation of a monetary union and its purpose was to handle the transitional issues of the member states in adopting the euro. It was headed by the economist Alexandre Lamfalussy (Hungarian born, left at 20 in 1949 to study Economics at Oxford). The EMI was the forerunner to the ECB and Lamfalussy helped to build the EU single market, another important economist to study. Lamfalussy died recently, in 2015 in fact, and it was only reading his obituary in the Financial Times that brought him to my attention:
Also in 1994, Norway votes against joining Europe for a second time. In this year, the UN Convention on Climate Change came into force (21st March 1994), following a summit on Climate Change that had been held in Rio. The summit proposed setting an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posted by climate change and was singed in New York in June 1992. (Al Gore’s film on climate change, ‘An Inconvenient T ruth’ came out in 2006).
1995: Austria, Sweden and Finland join the EU, under the Treaty of Corfu (signed 1994).
1997: Tony Blair becomes UK Labour Prime Minister (1997-2001) in a landslide victory. Blair’s stance on Europe is pro-Europe. Under Blair, Britain signed up to the social chapter which delivered some of the social protections that had long been coveted by the left. Blair set his sights on joining the euro but the UK economy under Gordon Brown (chancellor at the time and later leader of the Labour Party), was doing well, support for this was not strong.
Treaty of Amsterdam, signed 2nd December 1997; came into force 1st May 1999. This amended the Maastricht Treaty and set the framework for a further 10 member states joining. It included absorbing the Schengen Convention into EU law (UK and Ireland opted out of this part). For more information on Schengen, please see the following links:
1998: The European Central Bank (ECB), formally replaces the EMI on 1st June in the Treaty on the European Union (Maastricht Treaty). Headed by Wim Duisenberg (Dutch). At the time of writing, the ECB is currently headed by Mario Draghi. Its role is to administer the monetary policy within the Eurozone (of which there are 19 participating countries). Article 2 of the ECB: to maintain price stability within the euro zone and to conduct foreign exchange operations. (This goes back to the concept of Keynesian economics, described above). Art 16 of the ECB has the exclusive right to authorise the printing of new bank notes. It’s capital: the ECB has 5 billion euros which is held by the national central banks of member states as shareholders. The amount they hold is based on the member state’s size of population and GDP. The ECB votes in the interest of the euro and not in the national interest of the member state.
1999: Stage 3 of the EMU. On 1st June the euro was formally introduced – this being the third and final stage of European monetary integration/union (the euro zone). At the time, 11 countries participated. There are now 19 (out of the present 28 member states).
2001: Treaty of Nice signed. Reformed the institutional structure of the EU to allow it to expand eastwards.
2002: The euro, formally introduced in 1999, replaces the member states’ existing currencies.
2004: The Accession Treaty. 10 new member states: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
2005: Switzerland sign up to the Schengen treaty.
2007: Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.
2008: Global financial crisis and the eurozone saw its first recession. The ECB intervene to help restore economic growth. Since this time, the EU have focused on deficit targets, debt, interest rates and bail outs.
2009/10: Risk of default in Greece and other EU member states. Bail outs. A turnaround on existing EU treaties that ruled out any bail out of a euro member to encourage them to manage their finances better. A bail out mechanism is agreed.
2013: Croatia join the EU. There are now 28 member states. In January 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron proposes a referendum on whether to leave the EU after the next election: this idea is opposed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In November 2013, thousand of protesters take to streets of Kiev in the Ukraine after the government’s sudden decision to abandon plans to sign an association agreement with the EU. They accuse the government of bowing to Russian pressure. Disagreements are still ongoing.
2014: September. Voters in a referendum on Scotland reject independence. Narrow margin: 55% wish to remain, 45% wished to leave.
2015: Europe faces the biggest migrant crisis since the aftermath of the Second World War as a result of the civil war in Syria, which, at time of writing, is still ongoing. Ongoing violence in Afghanistan and Iraq contribute to this; particularly as a result of the middle eastern onslaught of Isis/Daesh. Conflicts in Africa are not immune and are an increasing concern as I write as tensions mount in many African countries. Germany, under Angela Merkel, receive the highest number of asylum applications in Europe. EU discussions are held over migrant quotas in the EU. As a result of this crisis, many countries express a desire to close borders and fences are built. Nationalism becomes prevalent in many EU member states and the right wing becomes more dominant. The UK opt out of a specific quota system but agree to take in migrants. Countries in the rest of the world, outside the European hemisphere, also agree to take their fair share.
In November 2015, there are mass shootings at cafes, restaurants and music venues in Paris. 130 people are killed. Isis/Daesh, the extremist Islamic organisation, claim responsibility. This follows on from the January attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices and attacks on a Jewish supermarket in Paris. These attacks bring forth an atmosphere of fear and there is an ensuing reticence over accepting migrants from the Middle East in case any of the migrants are extremists.
December 2015: Major climate change summit held in Paris.
2016: The conservative government under David Cameron negotiate a special status for Britain in the EU in Brussels during talks in February. A referendum is scheduled for 23rd June 2016, after the May 2016 elections for European Parliament.
‘The Politics of Everyday Europe’, Kathleen R McNamara. Oxford University Press, 2015
‘Redrawing the Map of Europe’, Michael Emerson. Macmillan Press, 1998.
‘Europe Since the Seventies’, Jeremy Black. Reaktion Books, 2009.
Featured Image Source: : http://www.vreemdetaal.nl/moodle/file.php/1/together_since_1957.JPG
Other image sources:
(1) Treaty of Rome book page:
(2) Signing Treaty of Rome:
(3) Signature page
(4) What is the EU?:
(5) European Coal and Steel Community:
(6) Map of Europe 2013 Britannica:
(7) Schengen map:
(Additional Schengen map not in images above) Schengen BBC:
(8) EU candidate countries:
(9) Currency map of Europe:
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.