In 1950, Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, proposed integrating the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. And in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was formed. Originally this consisted of six members: Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
In 1957 the ECSC had been so successful the member countries wanted to join together other aspects of their economy. In 1957 they signed the Treaties of Rome; this created the European Economic Community (EEC). The six member states set about removing trade barriers to create a common market between them. This involved the setting up of joint external tariffs and a common trade policy.
The term European Union was not introduced until November 1993, it came into being with the signing of the Maastricht Treaty. The Treaty established new areas of European co-operation in foreign and security policy, and justice and home affairs. It also set out a timetable for the economic and monetary union and the introduction of a single currency.
Further changes were introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. This increased the powers of the European Parliament and increased cooperation in foreign policy and home affairs.