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The European Union as we know it started its journey over half a century ago. Visionary leaders came together to create economic and p​olitical stability to ensure long term peace in Europe. From then on, many others have followed in their footsteps, striving to build on this vision through successive treaties.


In 1951, the Treaty of Paris established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the first of a series of treaties with the aim of increasing cooperation in Europe. The founding countries of the ECSC were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.


Following the success of the ECSC, the founding fathers broadened their cooperation by signing the Treaties of Rome in March 1957, establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The aim of the EEC was to create a common market based on the freedom of movement of people, goods and services and capital. In 1968, customs duties between the countries of the EEC were removed, and the first common policies relating to agriculture and trade were introduced. Alongside the EEC, EURATOM was established to promote the pacific use of nuclear energy in Europe.


The three European Communities were well established by the mid-60’s and spurring the European Community forward. However, the EC leaders felt the Communities could be further improved. Under the Merger Treaty, all three communities were fused into one, managed by the Single Commission, Council and Assembly. This was a significant step towards the EU as we know it.


As the European Community grew, its leaders realised they needed to enhance the free movement of goods and services. This would help the EC create wealth and jobs. Consequently, they created the single market as stipulated in the Single European Act (SEA), undoubtedly one of the EU’s greatest achievements. The single market paved the way for more competition, better efficiency and lower prices.


The Treaty of Maastricht signed on 7 February 1992, established the European Union (EU) on the basis of three pillars: the European Communities, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), and the Police and Judicial Cooperation in Criminal Matters (JHA). It introduced the concept of European citizenship, enhanced the powers of the European Parliament, and launched the economic and monetary union (EMU).


The need for solutions to new problems led to the Treaty of Amsterdam, an amendment to previous treaties. The Member States felt the need to enforce the freedom of movement to boost the EU’s economy. Thus, the Treaty of Amsterdam included new provisions on the Schengen Agreement into the EU framework. At the time, Schengen was still an intergovernmental form of cooperation between 5 Member States.


The Treaty of Nice, signed in 2001, streamlined the institutional system in a bid to maintain efficiency in preparation for the largest enlargement of the EU, in 2004; Malta was part of this enlargement.


After the 2004 enlargement, the EU faced new bureaucratic challenges. As a result, the Lisbon Treaty—signed in 2007—simplified the working methods, voting rules and created a President of the European Council. In addition, the Treaty created the post of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. This strengthened the EU’s presence in the international sphere.​


Main EU Institutions


The Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union is the body that represents each Member State, represented by Government Ministers. The Council is considered as being the voice of EU member governments, adopting EU laws and coordinating EU policies. Each EU country holds the rotating Presidency of the Council every six months.

For more information about the Council of the European Union click here​


The European Parliament


The European Parliament is the EU body with legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities. Members of the European Parliament are elected directly by EU citizens every five years, and currently there are 751 members, presided over by Antonio Tajani, as President. It was established in 1952 as Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community, and in 1962, the assembly changed its name to the European Parliament, with the first direct elections held in 1979.


For more information about the European Parliament click here



The European Commission

The European Commission is the EU's politically independent executive arm. It is solely responsible for drawing up proposals for new European legislation, and it implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

The Commission is the sole EU institution tabling laws for adoption by the Parliament and the Council that protects the interests of the EU and its citizens on issues that cannot be dealt with effectively at national level. To get the technical details of its proposals right the Commission consults experts as well as the general public, through a public consultation process.
For more information about the European Commission click here.