Following World War II, Europe's nations decided that never again would such devastation take place on the continent, which at that time was divided by historical national confrontations.
A first step was the signing of the Benelux Treaty in 1944, which came into force in 1948, where Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands established the first European market in which there was no internal borders.
In 1949, the Treaty of London created the Council of Europe, with ten founding states: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden, who had the common objective of promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of European unity, proposed the creation of a European organisation to control the production of coal and steel, two raw materials which were indispensable for the reconstruction of the continent.
Following the general lines of Robert Schuman´s proposal, in 1951 six states (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) signed an agreement to pool the management of their heavy industries. The result was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) , whose first president was Jean Monnet, the father of Europeanism.
The initiative was so successful that it was not long before these countries decided to integrate other sectors of their economies, such as agriculture, thereby advancing along the path towards the elimination of trade barriers and the formation of a common market.
In 1965, in accordance with the Treaty of Brussels, the governing bodies of the three existing institutions (ECSC, EEC and the EAEC) established the European Commission and Council.
Although the members of the EEC abolished customs duties in 1968, the divergent national legislation continued to be an obstacle to free economic exchange. In 1987, the Single European Act came into force, the first significant reform of the existing treaties, which set a goal of creating a single market by 1 January 1993. During the 1980s, this process took up the majority of Europe's efforts.
In 1992 a definitive step forward was taken in the process of integration with the approval of the Treaty on European Union or Maastricht Treaty .
The European Economic Community was renamed the European Community (EC); a new supranational organisation was created called the European Union (EU), which would replace the three European Communities in existence (the ECSC, the EC and the EAEC), and the go ahead was given for the creation of an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), with the aim of establishing a single currency.
The Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997 and the Treaty of Nice of 2001 made it possible to broaden the authority of the Union and for Member States to make progress towards relinquishing certain significant parts of their sovereignty in the interests of common rules and harmonised standards.
The Lisbon Treaty of 2007 provides the European Union with the legal framework and means necessary to meet citizens' expectations.