A Brief History of European Integration

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NATO and European Union

A BRIEF HISTORY OF EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

Until it crystallized into a political concept and became the long-term goal of the Member States of the European Community, the European idea was unknown to all but philosophers and visionaries. The notion of a United States of Europe was part of a humanistic-pacifistic dream which was shattered by the conflicts which brought so much destruction to the European continent in the first half of this century. The vision of a new Europe which would transcend national antagonism finally emerged from the resistance movements which had sprung up to resist totalitarianism during the Second World War. Altiero Spinelli, the Italian federalist and Jean Monnet, the man who provided the inspiration for the Schuman Plan which led to the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, where the main proponents of two approaches , the federalist and the functionalist, which were to provide the impetus for European integration. Central to the federalist approach is the idea that local, regional, national and European authorities should cooperate and complement each other. The functionalist approach, on the other hand, favours a gradual transfer of sovereignty from national to Community level. Today, the two approaches have merged in a conviction that national and regional authorities need to be matched by independent, democratic European institutions with responsibility for areas in which consolidated actions is more effective than action by individual States: the single market, monetary policy, economic and social cohesion, foreign and security policy.

In 1995 the European Union is a monument to the dedication of early pioneers. The Union is an advanced form of multisectoral integration, its competence extending to the economy, industry, politics, citizens’ rights and foreign policy. The Treaty of Paris establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (1951), the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) (1957), the Single European Act (1986) and the Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1992) from the constitutional basis of the Union, bindings its Member States more firmly than any conventional agreement between sovereign States. The European Union generates directly applicable legislation and creates specific rights which can be relied upon by its citizens.

Initially the Community’s activities were confined to the creation of a common market in coal and steel between the six founder members ( Belgium, France, Germany Italy , Luxembourg and the Netherlands). In that post-war period the Community was primarily seen as a way of securing peace by bringing victors and vanquished together within an institutional structure which would allow them to cooperate as equals.

In 1957, three years after the French National Assembly had rejected a European Defence Community, the Six decided to create an economic community, built around the free movement of workers, goods an services. Customs duties on manufactured goods were duly abolished on 1 July 1968 and common policies, notably an agricultural policy and commercial policy , were in place by the end of the decade.

The success of the Six led Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom to apply community membership. They were finally admitted in 1973 following difficult negotiations during which France, under General de Gaule, used its veto twice, once in 1961 and again in 1967. This first enlargement, which increased the number of Member States from six to nine in 1973, was matched by further deepening, the Community being given responsibility for social, regional and environmental matters.

The need for economic convergence and monetary union became apparent In the early 1970s when the United States of America suspended convertibility of the dollar. This marked the beginning of a period of worldwide monetary instability, aggravated by the...
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