In 1951, six years after Europe was devastated by the Second World War, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed that France and West Germany combine their coal and steel industries under an independent, supranational authority. These two nations were joined by Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands who established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) following the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

The ECSC began operating in 1952 and its obvious success led to discussions at Messina in Italy during 1955 for further moves towards European economic integration.  As a result of these negotiations the Treaty of Rome was signed in March 1957 establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) with the original six members of the ECSC becoming the founding members.

The Treaty of Rome was intended to create a customs union which would allow the free movement of goods, people, capital and services between member states. The treaty also established a common external trade policy and common policies for both agriculture and fisheries. Other articles of the treaty were concerned with preventing the distortion of competition within the Community, the coordination of national economic policies, the humanisation of social policy, and the Association of overseas countries with the European Community to increase trade and assist with economic and social development. In addition the signing of the Treaty of Rome established the Community's institutional structure as follows:

(1)   The European Commission
(2)   The European Council of Ministers
(3)   The European Parliament
(4)   The European Court of Justice
(5)   The Economic and Social Committee
(6)   The European Investment Bank

In May 1969 the heads of state of the six original EEC members met at The Hague and decided to widen the scope of the Community. In accordance with the decisions made at the Hague, the Council of Ministers of the by now European Community (EC) agreed that from 1975 the European Community would have its own revenue independent of national contributions. This revenue would be collected from customs duties and agricultural import levies collected at the EC external frontiers and a percentage of national receipts from Value Added Taxes (VAT).

In December 1991 the heads of the EC member states met at Maastricht in the Netherlands to chart the way ahead for the Community during the next decade. At Maastricht it was decided that the EC would work towards the following:

(1)   An evolving Federal Structure
(2)   European Currency Union
(3)   Some form of joint foreign and defence policy in a European Union

On 1 January 2002 the Euro was introduced and adopted as its national currency by a majority of countries in the European Union (EU).

In October 2004 the EU countries signed a treaty establishing the European Constitution that was designed to streamline decision-making and management in what was by then the 25 member nations of the European Union. After a period of reflection due to citizens in some European countries voting ‘No’ to the proposed Constitution in national referendums it was not until the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon in December 2007 at the Constitutional Treaty (as amended) was finally accepted. In December 2009 the Lisbon Treaty was finally activated.

By 2010 the original six members of the ECSC had become the following 27 members of the European Union:

Austria; Belgium; Bulgaria; Cyprus (Greek part); Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Romania, Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; United Kingdom.