“The strongest institution in the hands of the European Union is the euro.”

–Viktor Orban – 2008

The idea of a unified Europe developed after World War Two and was driven by a desire to put an end to future wars within the European continent. The US too desired a unified Western Europe that would resist Soviet expansion and Communist penetration. A European organisation would restrain Germany and push it towards contributing to Europe’s defence rather than dominating the continent. The first step in the direction of European unity was the integration of the French and German coal and steel industries in 1950. In 1951, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg joined the arrangement, thereby forming the European Coal and Steel Community.

European integration gained further momentum after the Suez War of 1956. The Treaty of Rome of 1957 created the European Atomic Energy Community and the European Economic Community, also called the Common Market. The Common Market committed the six founding members to remove trade barriers, impose a common tariff, ensure free movement of people, good-and-services, and establish a common agricultural and transport policy. By 1968, most of these targets had been achieved. The first direct elections were held for a European Parliament in 1979. In 2000, the Eurozone took shape with the euro replacing the national currencies of all member states except Britain, Sweden and Denmark, which opted out. In 2004, the EU expanded substantially with the admission of 10 new members. Expansion continued with the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania (2007) and Croatia (2013), bringing the total membership to 28, the population to over 500 million and the economy to around $18 trillion. 19 of the 28 members are currently in the Eurozone.