For centuries, Europe was the scene of frequent and bloody wars. A number of European leaders became convinced that the only way to secure a lasting peace between their countries was to unite them economically and politically. So, in 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed integrating the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. As a result, in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up, with six members: Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

In the early days the focus was on a common commercial policy for coal and steel and a common agricultural policy. The ECSC was such a success that, within a few years, these same six countries decided to go further and integrate other sectors of their economies. In 1957 they signed the Treaties of Rome, creating the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the European Economic Community (EEC). The member states set about removing trade barriers between them and forming a "common market".

The EEC has grown in size with successive waves of accessions. Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973 followed by Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986. It took some time for the Member States to remove all the barriers to trade between them and to turn their "common market" into a genuine single market in which goods, services, people and capital could move around freely. The Single Market was formally completed at the end of 1992. The Treaty of Maastricht (1992) introduced new forms of cooperation between the member state governments for example on defence, and in the area of "justice and home affairs". By adding this inter-governmental cooperation to the existing "Community" system, the Maastricht Treaty created the European Union (EU).

The European Union welcomed Austria, Finland and Sweden which joined in 1995 and further ten countries in eastern and southern Europe: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. These countries joined the EU in 2004. Bulgaria and Romania expect to follow a few years later and Turkey is also a candidate country. To ensure that the EU can continue functioning efficiently with 25 or more members, its decision-making system must be streamlined. That is why the Treaty of Nice lays down new rules governing the size of the EU institutions and the way they work. It came into force on 1 February 2003.

The European Union is built on an institutional system which is the only one of its kind in the world. The Member States delegate sovereignty for certain matters to independent institutions which represent the interests of the Union as a whole, its member countries and its citizens. Democracy and the rule of law are the cornerstones of the structure. In 1967 the institutions of the three European communities were merged. From this point on, there was a single Commission and a single Council of Ministers as well as the European Parliament. The Commission traditionally upholds the interests of the Union as a whole, while each national government is represented within the Council. Originally, the members of the European Parliament were chosen by the national parliaments but in 1979 the first direct elections were held, allowing the citizens of the member states to vote for the candidate of their choice. Since then, direct elections have been held every five years.

This "institutional triangle" of Commission, Council and Parliament is flanked by two more institutions the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors and five other European bodies. In addition thirteen specialized agencies have been set up to handle certain essentially technical, scientific, or management tasks.

Economic and political integration between the member states of the European Union means that these countries have to take joint decisions on many matters. So they have developed common policies in a very wide range of fields - from agriculture to culture, from consumer affairs to competition, from the environment and energy to transport and trade. Other policies were added as time went by, and as the need arose. In 1992 the EU decided to go for economic and monetary union (EMU), involving the introduction of a single European currency managed by a European Central Bank. The single currency the euro became a reality on 1 January 2002, when euro notes and coins replaced national currencies in twelve of the 15 countries of the European Union (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Finland).

Some key policy aims have changed in the light of changing circumstances. For example, the aim of the agricultural policy is no longer to produce as much food as cheaply as possible but to support farming methods that produce healthy, high-quality food and protect the environment. The need for environmental protection is now taken into account across the whole range of EU policies. The European Union's relations with the rest of the world have also become important. The EU negotiates major trade and aid agreements with other countries and is developing a Common Foreign and Security Policy.


community, n. ; '; business community ; economic community ; European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) 㳿; European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) ' ; local community ; rural community .

commission, n. ; ; to appoint a commission ; to be on the commission ; to come into commission ; to discharge a commission ; to establish/to set up a commission ; to go beyond commission ; to put into commission ; to sit on a commission .

council, n. ; borough/common/town council ; city council ; Council of Ministers ̳; research council ; works council .

treaty, n. ; bilateral treaty ; commercial/trade treaty ; equal/equitable treaty ; inequitable/unequal treaty ; reciprocal treaty ; to accede to/to join a treaty ; to annual/to cancel/to repudiate/to rescind/to revoke/to terminate a treaty ; to break/to infringe/to violate a treaty ; to conclude/to make a treaty ; to enter into a treaty ; to keep to/to observe a treaty ; to withdraw from a treaty .

cooperation, n. ; ; broad/large-scale cooperation ; busness cooperation ; close cooperation ; consumer cooperation ; effective/fruitful cooperation ; equal/equitable cooperation ; to broaden/to expand/to extend/to intensify cooperation ; to carry on cooperation ; to develop cooperation ; to effect cooperation ; to maintain cooperation ; to undermine cooperation .

union, n. '; ; ; amalgamated union ' ; closed unon ; craft unon ; credit unon ; customs/tarff unon ; independent unon ; industrial unon ; international unon ; labour/trade unon ; monetary unon / ; open unon ; payments unon .

accession, n. ; ; ; accesson to the throne ; accesson to a treaty ; accesson of territory .

institution, n. ; ; ; affiliated institution ; chartable institution ; credit institution ; nonprofit institution ; educational institution ; endowed institution ; government/state institution ; legal institution ; research institution - ; scientific institution ; thrift institution ; public educational institution .

structure, n. ; management structure ; market structure ; marketing structure ; price structure ; tax structure ; population structure ; reward/wage structure ; socal structure .

integration, n. '; ; ; agro-industrial integration ; circular integration ; diagonal integration ; economic integration ; progressive integration ; regional integration ; forward/backward/vertical integration ; horizontal/lateral integration ; to effect integration .



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