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Europe Week
50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome
With friendly permission of the Center for West European Studies Northwest
University of Washington
Posted January 21, 2007


The dream of creating a unified Europe is not a new one, but only came to fruition in the last century in a peaceful process of political and economic integration that has lead to today’s European Union. The greatest impetus to integration has been the desire to bring to an end Europe’s recurring cycles of division and war. Since the Eighteenth Century, numerous European politicians and intellectuals argued for a unified Europe in order to overcome the national rivalries that so often led to conflict and ruin. After the First World War this idea evolved into the Pan-Europa Movement, which continued to gain strength until the Great Depression, the rise of fascism, and then the Second World War. At the conclusion of that conflict, with Europe in chaotic ruins and millions dead, some wondered if the continent would ever truly recover. It was in the aftermath of Europe’s most devastating conflict that the dream of a unified Europe once again came to the forefront, but this time to lasting effect. 

The proposal that would lay the foundations for an integrated Europe was forwarded by French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann and Jean Monnet, a French civil servant and businessman. Together these ‘founding fathers’ of Europe set out the basic framework for the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), an agreement signed by the six original EU members in 1951. The ECSC effectively prevented the possibility of war occurring between the signatory countries (France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries), as it pooled their coal and steel resources and encouraged interdependent economic growth. It is today seen as the first momentous step in the process of European integration. 

Less than a decade later, the same six nations made a great leap in European integration with the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. The Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC), a common market based on “four freedoms”-- free movement of services, goods, people, and capital. The aim of the EEC was to form an economically unified community of its member nations, with the long-term goal of creating a politically unified body. It is in many ways the ‘big bang’ of European integration, hence the great attention lavished on its fiftieth anniversary this year. 

Since 1957, the EEC has evolved from being an economic community of six states to a fully integrated market of twenty-seven members. As membership grew, the countries continued to deepen their economic and political integration, moving from a customs union to a single market to an economic union with a common currency and central bank. Even though the original goal of preventing war sometimes has been eclipsed in the public’s perception by Europe’s rapid economic growth and integration since the Treaty of Rome, it is important to remember just how successful the founders’ vision of a peaceful continent has been. Europe today is whole, free, and at peace, an amazing progression since the Second World War. 

Fifty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, the European Union is thriving, thanks in large part to the procedures that were set forth with the formation of the EEC. The creation of the institutions and the broad policy framework enshrined in the original Treaty allow for a flexible procedure to move forward, which enabled not just the survival of but the strengthening of the European Union in the face of unforeseen events of the late Twentieth Century—most notably the collapse of communism and the reintegration of the entire European continent. The success of the ongoing process is at least as important as each of the individual achievements. 

In celebration of the fifty year old treaty, the European Commission has established March 18-31, 2007, as Europe Week, with commemoration events scheduled around the world. For a full listing of US events, see the web site of the European Commission Delegation to the United States:


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