The European Union as we know it started its journey over half a century ago. Visionary leaders came together to create economic and political 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, good 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 European Communities were well established by the mid-60’s and spurring the EC 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 EC 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 7th 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 fourth and largest enlargement of the EU; Malta was part of this enlargement.

After the 5th 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.