The European Union is a geo-political entity covering a large portion of the European continent. It is founded upon numerous treaties and has undergone expansions that has taken it from 6 member states to 27, a majority of states in Europe.
With over 500 million citizens, the EU combined generates anestimated 28% share (US$ 16.45 trillion in 2009) of the nominal gross world product and about 21.3% (US$14.8 trillion in 2009) of the PPP gross world product.
The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. It maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries andregional development. Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the Eurozone. The EU has developed a limited role in foreign policy, having representation at the World Trade Organization, G8, G-20 major economies and at the United Nations. It enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, including the abolition of passport controls by the Schengen Agreement between22 EU and 3 non-EU states.
As distinct from ideas of federation, confederation or customs union the main development in Europe depends on a supranational foundation to make war unthinkable and materially impossible and reinforce democracy enunciated by Robert Schuman and other leaders in the Europe Declaration. The principle was at the heart of the European Coal and Steel Community in the Treatyof Paris (1951), following the "Schuman Declaration" and the later the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. Both these bodies are now part of the European Union, which was formed under that name in 1993.
PRE-1945: THE IDEA OF EUROPE
Large areas of Europe had previously been unified by empires built on force, such as the RomanEmpire, Byzantine Empire, Frankish Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, the First French Empire and Nazi Germany. A peaceful means of some consolidation of European territories used to be provided by dynastic unions; less common were country-level unions, such as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Largely due to the devastating effects of war many people turnedto the idea of some form of unified Europe, notably William Penn, Abbot Charles de Saint-Pierre, Victor Hugo, Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and Giuseppe Mazzini. Such ideas became greater in Western Europe following World War I, with the massive loss of life it entailed, but it was not until after World War II that real steps were taken in Western Europe.
1945–1957 PEACE FORGED FROMCOLD STEEL
World War II from 1939 to 1945 saw a human and economic cost which hit Europe hardest. It demonstrated the horrors of war and also of extremism, through the holocaust and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example. Once again, there was a desire to ensure it could never happen again, particularly with the war giving the world nuclear weapons. The countries of WesternEurope failed to maintain their Great power status leaving two rival ideologically opposed superpowers.
To ensure Germany could never threaten the peace again, its heavy industry was partly dismantled and its main coal-producing regions were detached (Saarland, Silesia), or put under international control (Ruhr area).
With statements such as Winston Churchill's 1946 call for a "United States ofEurope" becoming louder, in 1949 the Council of Europe was established as the first pan-European organisation. In the year following, on 9 May 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed a community to integrate the coal and steel industries of Europe - these being the two elements necessary to make weapons of war.
On the basis of that speech, France, Italy, the Benelux countries...