From Community to Union, 1973–93
By the end of the Gaullist era, the European Community was an established economic
success. Political progress was less obvious. However, there was a key development at
the beginning of the period covered in this chapter. This was the First Enlargement,
which was to be followed by two further ones within the next decade or so.
We shall see that in many respects, the 1970s were a dismal decade in the history of
the Community, an era often referred to as one of eurosclerosis. Economic recession,
the British accession and in particular the election of the Thatcher government all posed
problems. But once the budgetary problems of the early 1980s were resolved, the
Community was ready to move forward once again. The impact of the Delors initiatives
on the process of integration was to be considerable. By the end of our period, the EC
had become the European Union.
The years up until the early 1970s were good ones for the Six. Europe was peaceful and business was thriving. Since then, things have been more problematic, with periods of tension and difficulty alternating with periods of creative activity.
The period covered in this chapter begins with the First Enlargement, which took place in 1973 and increased membership of the Community from six to nine members. By the end of the period, the Union was on the verge of becoming the Fifteen.
Greece had long hoped to become a member of the EEC and in the early 1960s had made an Association Agreement. Any chance of full membership received a serious setback in 1967 when a military junta seized power and began what became known as the Rule of the Colonels. The Community froze the Agreement for the period in which democracy was suspended. When the Colonels were brought down in 1974, the Agreement was reactivated and within a year the new government applied for full membership. Member states were keen to encourage the democratic regime. Accordingly, in 1979 Greece signed the Accession Treaty and entered the EC two years later. With this Second Enlargement, there was now a community of the Ten.
Spain and Portugal were also unacceptable as members of the Community as long as they had authoritarian regimes. Both disappeared in the mid-seventies and the EC was keen to recognise the new situation and in so doing extend its influence in the Mediterranean region. The negotiations took much longer to conclude than they had done with other countries, so that although applications were made in 1977 they were not able to become members until January 1986. This was mainly because of internal problems within the EC, which for several years in the early 1980s was preoccupied with consideration of its own budgetary arrangements.
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Publication information: Book title: The European Union. Contributors: Duncan Watts - Author. Publisher: Edinburgh University Press. Place of publication: Edinburgh. Publication year: 2008. Page number: 30.
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