The European Union was set up after World War Two to ensure the such a conflict would never afflict the continent again. It is based on the principles of 'peace, stability and prosperity' and began purely as an economic union. Here are some of the key dates in the European project:
- 1951: France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands sign the Treaty of Paris, creating the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)
- 1957: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg sign the Treaty of Rome establishing European Economic Community (EEC)
- 1974: The European Council is created as an informal forum for heads of state and government
- 1979: The Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) is formed, linking seven national currencies
- 1991: Maastricht Treaty sets the timetable for a single European currency by 1999. The EC is renamed the European Union
- 1999: The Euro is launched replacing national currencies in 11 countries
- 2007: 27 EU countries sign the Treaty of Lisbon, critics say the treaty erodes democracy by moving power away from national governments
- 2009: Greece doubled it deficit estimate, triggering the still raging eurozone crisis
More top news
Hospital chiefs asked by NHS regulator to fill vacancies only where "essential" as they face an unprecedented financial challenge.
The footballer and father-of-two said he is 'filled with pride' at being asked to take on the role.
A state of emergency has been declared as emergency crews struggle to overcome raging wildfires that have been burning for six days.