12.02.2019 – 09:35
The European Union
The European Union (EU) is a political and economic coalition consisting of 28 member states with a total of around 508 million citizens. Politically, they are represented by the members of the European Parliament, whom they are able to elect in a direct vote once every five years. The European Parliament, which together with the Council of the European Union exercises the legislative function of the EU, is based in Strasbourg and Brussels.
The union was established as a direct political result of the large-scale suffering caused by the Second World War. On 25 March 1957 six states - West Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands - signed the Treaties of Rome, two documents establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) as well as the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). In 1951, the six nations had already founded the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) as a centralised control mechanism over coal and steel, two industries with high relevance for arms production and the military.
The EEC's foundation was a common policy in areas such as agriculture, fisheries, transport, competition and foreign trade. Another big step came in 1968, when the customs union removed all internal tariffs and thereby the obligation to pay customs duties on trade between any of the six member states. The EEC's first enlargement followed in 1973, with Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain joining the bloc. Over the following years, the member states continued to grow closer by transferring more and more responsibilities to the EEC's institutions.
Before the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993, the official collective name for the EEC, Euratom and the ECSC was "European Communities". The Maastricht Treaty created legal and institutional requirements for an economic and monetary union and also provided a starting point for a common foreign and security policy. It also established the name "European Union" as the bloc's uniform designation.
The following interactive list displays all Presidents of the European Commission since 1967:
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