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Brief history of the European Union | Immigration Matters

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Key dates from Churchill’s concept 60 years ago to present day superstate:


Winston Churchill calls for a “kind of United States of Europe” in a speech at Zurich University.


France, UK and the Benelux countries decide to set in place a Council of Europe.


Robert Schuman, the French Foreign Minister, proposes that France, Germany and any other European country wishing to join pool coal and steel resources.


Treaty of Paris signed by the Six (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands), establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).


Treaties of Rome establish the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).


First session of the European Parliamentary Assembly held in Strasbourg, France. Robert Schuman is elected President of the Assembly.


July, seven countries of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) – Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK – decide to establish a European Free Trade Association (EFTA).


UK applies to join the Community.


The Parliamentary Assembly changes its name to the European Parliament.


General de Gaulle declares that France doubts the political will of the UK to join the Community.


The Treaty merging the executives of the three Communities (ECSC, EEC, Euratom) is signed in Brussels; enters into force on July 1, 1967.


UK re-applies to join the Community.


Referendum in Norway on joining; majority votes against.


January: Denmark, Ireland and the UK join the European Communities.


April: foreign secretary James Callaghan makes statement to the Council on the new Labour government’s policy on the Community. Calls for major changes in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), “fairer methods of financing the Community budget” and solutions to monetary problems.

December: the Community’s heads of state or government decide to hold meetings three times a year as the European Council, agree direct elections to the European Parliament, resolve to set up the European Regional Development Fund and establish economic and monetary union.


June: British referendum shows 67.2 per cent in favour of UK remaining a member of the Community.


European Council establishes the European Monetary System based on a European currency unit (the ECU) and the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The Ecu has some characteristics of a real currency and is used in travellers’ cheques and bank deposits. ERM gives national currencies a central exchange rate against the Ecu. All the community’s members apart from the UK join the ERM.


First direct elections to the European Parliament.


January: Greece becomes 10th member of the European Community.


February: draft Treaty on the establishment of the European Union passed by the European Parliament.

June: European Council in Fontainebleau agrees on the amount of rebate to be granted to the UK.


European Council in Luxembourg agrees to amend the Treaty of Rome and to revitalise integration by drawing up a Single European Act.


1 January: Spain and Portugal join the Community.

February: Single European Act signed, aiming to create a Single Market by 1992, and reforming the legislative process to speed this up.

May: the European flag, adopted by Community institutions, flown for the first time in front of the Berlaymont building, HQ of the Commission in Brussels.


Turkey formally applies to join.


European Council held in Rome launches two Intergovernmental Conferences, one on Economic and Monetary Union, the other on Political Union.


February: Maastricht Treaty on the European Union is signed, leading to creation of the euro, and the “pillar” structure of the European Union: the European Community (EC) pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) pillar, and the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) pillar.

June: in a referendum, Denmark votes against ratification of Maastricht Treaty.


January: Single European Market enters into force.

May: in a second referendum, Danes vote in favour of Maastricht.


January: Austria, Finland and Sweden join the Union, bringing membership to 15.

March: Schengen Agreement comes into force between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, lifting border control.The UK and Ireland stay out of the agreement due to fears of terrorism and illegal immigration.


Amsterdam Treaty signed, emphasising citizenship and the rights of individuals, more powers for the European Parliament, the beginnings of a common foreign and security policy (CFSP).


Establishment of the European Central Bank.


Entire Commission led by Jacques Santer resigns following report by the Committee of Independent Experts on allegations of fraud, mismanagement and nepotism.


September: Danes vote against joining the single currency.

December: formal proclamation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.


February: Treaty of Nice signed, reforming the institutional structure of the European Union to allow for eastward expansion.

June: Irish vote against the Treaty of Nice in a referendum.


January 1: euro coins and notes enter circulation in the 12 participating member states: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

October: in a second referendum, the Irish people vote in favour of Nice.


May: European Union’s biggest enlargement ever as 10 new countries join – Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.

October: the Heads of State and Government and EU foreign ministers sign the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe.


May: French voters reject ratification of the European Constitutional Treaty.

June: Dutch voters reject ratification of the Treaty.


January: Bulgaria and Romania join the EU, bringing membership to 27.


June: Ireland’s voters rejected Lisbon Treaty.


June: European Parliament elections, the biggest transnational elections in history, with 736 MEPs elected to represent 500 million Europeans

October 2: Irish vote again on Lisbon again

Source: Daily Telegraph   

The eastward enlargement of the EU has had the biggest impact on UK immigration since the 1950’s when commonwealth citizens started migrating from the West Indies and India to fill vacant jobs. 

Over one million Eastern Europeans have migrated to the UK since 2004, however, many have since returned home. 

Immigration figures released by the Home Office last month show that last year the total number of ‘A8′ citizens coming to Britain from the former Eastern Bloc states dropped by more than a quarter from 109,000 to 79,000.

But the numbers heading back to their homelands more than doubled, from 25,000 to 66,000.

The trend, which follows a combination of a tightening of low skilled jobs, a falling pound and booming economies back home, helped drive down net immigration to 118,000, a drop of 44 per cent and the lowest since the EU expansion five years ago.

Related articles:

As East European workers leave UK in droves what effect will the exodus have on the Care Sector?

Eastern European workers continue to leave UK

Immigration and asylum statistics released by Home Office 

Immigration in the slump: Newcomers still needed says Guardian

MAC report on points-based system

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