On 23 July 1952, the Treaty of Paris, which formally established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), came into effect.
The treaty, which was signed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, was intended to bring peace and economic prosperity to the continent in the aftermath of the Second World War.
It established a common market for coal and steel, originally proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman in 1950. Schuman thought that the joint production of coal and steel would make war “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible”.
With its headquarters in Brussels, the ultimate aim of the ECSC was to create a ‘United States of Europe’ governed by supranational institutions. And gradually, the ECSC would indeed morph into the European Union.
In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community, which broadened the scope of co-operation, and allowed for the free movement of all goods, services and people across borders.
In 1973 came the EEC’s first expansion, when Denmark, Ireland and the UK joined. Greece joined in 1981, followed five years later by Spain and Portugal. Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995, and in 2004, eight former Eastern Bloc countries, plus Cyprus and Malta, joined. Bulgaria and Romania became members in 2007, and Croatia in 2013.
The ECSC was finally disbanded in 2002.
Today, the EU’s 28 member states have a combined population of 503 million – some 7% of the world’s population. Its budget in 2014 was €142.6bn. By 2020, that is projected to rise to €167bn.