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Örjan Martinsson

The European Union

= EU members with the euro as currency (Ireland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Greece, Cyprus and Malta)
= EU members that have not converted their currencies to the euro (Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Czech republic, Hungary, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria)
= Candidate countries (Iceland, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Turkey)
= New member countries (refer to the maps below)

The predecessor to the present EU was the European Coal and Steel Community, which was founded in 1951 with the signing of Treaty of Paris. The founding countries were France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy. This economic cooperation was then expanded to encompass the entire economic sphere when the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957 and the European Economic Community (EEC) was created. However, already from the beginning was there an ambition that this cooperation should not only cover the economic sphere but also have a political dimension. To underline the increasing and expanding integration of Europe were all part of the cooperation collectively known as the European Community (EC) and when the political dimension was finally realized with the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 was the entire organization named the European Union (EU). One of the parts of the Treaty of Maastricht was the establishment of an economic and monetary union, this became physical reality in 2002 when 12 member countries exchanged their national currencies to the euro. Slovenia was the first of the new member countries that adopted the Euro (2007) and it was followed by Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 2008-2015. The other member countries will do the same when their economies and popular will permits it.


The EC's customs union and its supranational element meant that several western European countries were unwilling to become members. They instead created the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). This free trade area was dominated by Great Britain and when they decided to joined the EC in 1973 were they followed by Ireland and Denmark. It was also the intention that Norway would join but they Norwegians opposed their politicians when they voted no in a referendum.


The south European countries of Spain, Portugal and Greece were at this time dictatorships and thus not welcomed in the EC. This changed however in 1974-75 when they became democracies and first Greece and then Spain and Portugal were admitted in the EC in the 1980s.


The fall of communism in 1989 meant that the iron curtain was removed and an expansion east was made possible for the EC/EU. The east Germans became members already in 1990 as a consequence of Germany's reunification. Because the EC had been regarded as the economic branch of NATO had several countries not seen a membership possible to combine with their neutrality in the Cold War. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact changed this and Austria, Finland and Sweden became members in 1995. Also Norway had tried to join the EU but the Norwegians voted no yet again in a referendum.


After lengthy negotiations were most of the former eastern bloc admitted in the EU in 2004. Romania and Bulgaria had greater difficulties to comply with the EU's demands and had to wait until 2007. Together with the former communist countries became also Malta and Cyprus members. The part of Cyprus which is controlled by Turkish Cypriots was however not allowed to join because the the Greek Cypriots unexpectedly voted no to a plan to solve the long political division of the island.

The last expansion took place in 2013 when Croatia became a member. More candidate countries are however waiting for membership. But of these it is very uncertain if Turkey or Iceland will ever succeed with their ambitions to become EU-members. Turkey's large Muslim population and democratic deficiencies are major obstacles for them and for Iceland it will be difficult to overcome its EU-skeptic popular opinion. The EU-accession of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia is also uncertain. In their case because of the longstanding feud with Greece over the right to the name Macedonia.

The most recent countries to gain official candidate status are Montenegro (December 2010),Serbia (March 2012) and Albania (June 2014).

The maps over the EU's expansion is also available in a slightly larger size on this page.