European Integration Timeline

From its beginnings, half a century ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, through the expansion of the seventies and eighties and the great debate surrounding the Maastricht Treaty, here we highlight some of the key events which have shaped the development of the European Union towards closer integration and the introduction of the single currency.

1948 The Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) is set up in Paris in April 1948, co-ordinating the distribution of the Marshall Plan financial aid which will amount to $12.5 billion from 1948 to 1951. The OEEC consists of one representative from each of the 17 Western European countries which join the organisation. In May 1948 in The Hague, the Congress of Europe (a meeting of delegates from 16 European countries) agree to form the Council of Europe with the aim of establishing closer economic and social ties
1951 The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is established by the signing of the Treaty of Paris in April 1951. Along with France and West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands have also chosen to join the organisation. Members of the ECSC pledge to remove all import duties and quota restrictions on the trade of coal, iron ore, and steel between the member states
1952 The European Defence Community (EDC) Treaty is signed by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg in May 1952. It includes the provision for the formation of a parallel European Political Community (EPC). However both initiatives are destined to founder since the French National Assembly never ratifies the EDC Treaty, finally rejecting it in August 1954
1955 The process of further European integration is given fresh impetus by a conference of ECSC foreign ministers at Messina, Italy, in June 1955. The meeting agrees to develop the community by encouraging free trade between member states through the removal of tariffs and quotas. Agreement is also reached to form an Atomic Energy Community to encourage co-operation in the nuclear energy industry
1958 The two Treaties of Rome are signed, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). As well as stipulating the eventual removal of customs duties on trade between member countries (over a period of 12 years) the EEC Treaty sets out allow the free movement of workers, capital and services across borders and to harmonise policies on agriculture and transport
1960 At the Stockholm Convention in January 1960 Austria, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland form the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The objective of EFTA is to promote free trade but without the formal structures of the EEC
1972 In October, following the recommendations of the Werner Report, the EEC launches its first attempt at harmonising exchange rates. The mechanism adopted is the so called 'snake in the tunnel' whereby participating governments are required to confine the fluctuations of their currencies within a range of +/- 1% against each other. The value of the group of currencies (the snake) is also to be maintained within a range of +/-2.25% against the US Dollar (the tunnel). Countries requiring assistance to keep their currencies within the required band may receive help only in the form of loans
1978 At a summit in Bremen in July, the French and West German governments announce their intention to create the European Monetary System (EMS). At the centre of the EMS is the European Currency Unit (ECU). The value of the ECU is to be derived from a weighted basket of all participating currencies with the greatest weighting against the West German mark
1986 In October, following the recommendations of the Werner Report, the EEC launches its first attempt at harmonising exchange rates. The mechanism adopted is the so called 'snake in the tunnel' whereby participating governments are required to confine the fluctuations of their currencies within a range of +/- 1% against each other. The value of the group of currencies (the snake) is also to be maintained within a range of +/-2.25% against the US Dollar (the tunnel). Countries requiring assistance to keep their currencies within the required band may receive help only in the form of loans
1992 On 7th February, at a summit of the European Council in Maastricht, Holland, the Treaty on European Union (TEU), also known as the Maastricht Treaty, is signed. Originally intended to include a declaration of an intention to move towards federal union, at Britain's insistence this aspect is played down. Subsequent to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, the European Community is referred to as the European Union (EU)
1994 Stage 2 of EMU is initiated on January 1st with the establishment of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) to oversee the co-ordination of the monetary policies of the individual national central banks. The EMI will also work towards the introduction of stage 3 by organising the creation of the European Central Bank
1995 In December the European Council settles on "euro" as name for the single currency
1998 At the beginning of May, at a summit of EU officials and heads of state in Brussels, the announcement is made as to which countries will participate in the launch of the euro the following January. In June the European Central Bank (ECB) is established in Frankfurt, Germany. The ECB together with the national central banks of the 15 EU member states form the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) which will be responsible for setting monetary policy for the euro countries and managing those countries' foreign reserves