Due to the frequent bloody wars between France & Germany during 1870-1945 a number of European leaders in the late 1940's decided that the only way to secure a lasting peace between the two chief belligerent nations was to unite then economically & politically.
In 1950 the French Foreign Minister, Robert Shuman proposed & eventual union of all Europe, the first step of which would be the integration of the coal & steel industries of Western Europe. In 1951 the European Coal & Steel Community (E.C.S.C.)* was set up. The six countries in the E.C.S.C. were Belgium, France, Italy, West Germany, Luxembourg & The Netherlands. The power to take decisions about the coal & steel industry in these countries was placed in the hands of an independent, supranational body called the "High Authority", with Jean Monnet as its first President. These same six countries decided to go further & integrate other sectors of their economies, reason being that the E.C.S.C.
was such a success. Since, the European Atomic Energy Community (E.U.R.A.T.O.M.)* & the European Economic Community (E.E.C.)* were formed as in 1957 the six countries signed the Treaties of Rome & began to eliminate trade barriers by forming a common market. In 1967 the institutions of the three European communities were merged, called the European Community (E.C.), with a single commission & a single council of Ministers as well as the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament were initially selected by national parliaments, but in 1979 the first direct elections were undertaken & they have been held every five years since.
In 1973, the first enlargement of the E.C. took place with the addition of Denmark, Ireland & the United Kingdom. The 1980's saw further membership expansion with Greece joining in 1981, Spain & Portugal in 1986.