WORKSHOP “HISTORY OF THE EUROPEAN UNION”
The aim of this workshop is to explain the fundamental moments in European history, making it clear that the Union as we know it today is the result of a gradual evolution and of major changes in the political, social and economic priorities of its Member States. The activity consists of watching a video (structured as a time line based on what is written in the "script" below) and a quiz to respond to later, to check the acquired notions.
European history has always been characterised by multiple wars between states,
including two world wars which have strongly marked economies and international
relations within the continent. In particular, World War II (1939–1945) and its
dramatic events put in crises States' ethics and diplomacy, clearly highlighting the
need for radical change. Immediately after the war, the two great powers of the United
States of America and Russia clearly influenced the different regions of Europe.
2. “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts
proportionate to the dangers which threaten it”.
The Schuman Declaration, the 9th May 1950, is considered by many as being the
starting point of European integration: the French foreign minister was the first major
European political figure who practically attempted the creation of a commonly
organised Europe.Leaving aside its powerful symbolic value, Schuman’s speech on a European
common fate was not the first, nor the last, as we remember ides such as the ones
stated in the Ventotene Manifesto or by individuals such Carlo Cattaneo and Winston
Churchill. It is no coincidence that Europe Day was set precisely on the day of the
declaration, that is, 9th May.
3. The formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1952 brought
together six countries (Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux) by creating a
common market for steel and coal with the aim of enhancing the overall economy of
member states: major points were the free movement of products without customs
duties or taxes and the prohibition of discriminatory measures such as state aids.
Why coal and steel? Because these were the sectors necessary for the production of
war material. By ensuring common access to industrial resources and their sources of production
the countries not only brought their prices down, but also ensured a mutual
transparency on their use, making a secret rearmament virtually impossible.
4. A further step was the Treaty of Rome (1957): this agreement established the
European Economic Community (ECC) by providing an institutional asset that later
became what we today know as the Commission, the Council and the Parliament. Its
establishment assured the free movement of people, goods, services and capital
within the Community’s borders as well as deeper integration and economic growth
through trade. A second treaty was signed as the foundation of the Euratom took
5. In 1973 three countries joined the Community raising the number from six to nine:
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. In 1981 Greece joined the community as
a result of its democratisation process after years of military regimes. In 1986 Spain
and Portugal became members raising the number of MSs to twelve.
6. 1979 was the first European Parliament election. For the first time European
citizens spoke their minds by voting directly, just like it happens with national
Parliaments. This gave the European Parliament more democratic legitimacy, but no
more competences.The European Parliament is elected every 5 years and procedures are governed both
by European legislation, which lays down common rules for all Member States (e.g.
the principleof proportional representation), and by specific national provisions, which
vary from one Member State to another (such as the minimum age of voters).
7. The first major amendment of the Treaty of Rome, was the Single European Act
(1987), a Treaty aimed at setting the year 1992 as the target for the formation of a
single common market: it strengthened the role of Parliament giving it the power to
discuss new laws and it created the groundwork for common European Foreign,
Justice and Home Affairs policies. It swept away restrictive economic practises which
went against the idea of a common market.
8. In 1987 the European Parliament introduces a great news for young people: the
Erasmus Programme. Over the following 30 years, 9 million young Europeans will
take part in this support programme for studying abroad.
9. The Maastricht Treaty (1992) is a fundamental step towards European integration
as it established the European Union and granted European citizenship to every
citizen of all Member States. Coming into effect in 1993 it also established the Euro
as the single currency for the bloc and the European Central Bank, whose main role
is to keep prices stable, thus keeping the Euro as a valuable currency.
10.In 2004 the biggest enlargement of the EU took place as the Czech Republic,
Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia
joined the Union only to be followed three years (2007) later by Bulgaria and
Romania, and Croatia (2013). This happened in the context of the process of
reorientation of Eastern European countries, after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989,
symbol of the political division between USA and Russia.
11. In 2005 the European Union faces an identity crisis: France and the Netherlands
rejected with two referenda the proposal of a common European Constitution, due
to a general public resistance and the inability of the member states to reach a
12.The Treaty of Lisbon, in 2009, was the product of the failed attempt by the
commission to enforce the European Constitution. To overcome the identity crisis the
Commission entered a two-year reflection period which culminated in the reform of
various institutions as well as their procedures, starting with the European Parliament,
whose role has since become more important thanks to an enhanced legislative
procedure as well as an increase in shared competences. Reforms were also put into
place for the European Council, the Council of Ministers and the Commission;
moreover a formal procedure for the withdrawal from the EU was implemented with
the article 50 TEU. Additionally, most of the values claimed by the draft of the
European Constitution were welcomed by these new Treaty and the Charter of
Fundamental Rights, which officially become legally binding. Lastly, a big step foward
in terms of democratic participation was done by establishing the European Citizens’
Initiative, meaning citizens being allowed to present law initiatives to the European
13. In 2012 The EU and its predecessors are awarded the Nobel peace prize for their
commitment to peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights. As already
mentioned, one of the Union's first objectives since its foundaton was to maintain
peace among its Members States. We can say that this mission has been achieved,
because we are experiencing the longest period of continuous peace in the history of
14. In 2017, for the first time in its history the European Union became smaller with Great
Britain requests to leave the EU. The so-called Brexit is the process that ended the
United Kingdom's accession to the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of
the Treaty on European Union, as a result of a popular referendum. After a complex
process of approval of the Withdrawal Agreement, on 31st of January 2020 the United
Kingdom officially ceased to be a Member State of the European Union.
15. Between the 23rd and the 26th of May 2019, the last European Parliament
elections were held, with a reduction in seats due to Brexit, from 751 to 705.
Following the election results, the Italian David Maria Sassoli was appointed as
President of the European Parliament. In addition, the Treaty of Lisbon provides
that the European Parliament must elect on the basis of political results the President
of the European Commission, who is currently the German Ursula von der Leyen.
Other positions renewed in 2019 are the Presidency of the European Council,
currently Charles Michel from Belgium, and the Presidency of the European Central
Bank, now held by the French Christine Lagarde.