In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective

Political Science The Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective
George Ross
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 March 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0268

George Ross updated this article on March 27, 2019. It was originally written by George Ross, published on April 22, 2013. The original article can be found here.


The European Union (EU) may be the most successful transnational cooperation in modern history. Beginning in the 1950s, it has grown from six to twenty-eight members—twenty-seven after Brexit—encompassing almost all of Europe. It is now one of the largest, most open, and wealthiest economic areas on the planet, helping to promote peace and prosperity in an area with a history of brutal warfare. Making this happen has not been easy. Periods of success have been punctuated by quarrels between member states and periods of stagnation, while successes have brought complex and unwieldy institutions that are difficult for ordinary Europeans, steeped in national lives and identities, to understand. The initial “Common Market” years saw periodic disputes between founding member states but nonetheless launched market integration. Then, after 1985, in response to the end of post–World War II growth, the European Communities (EC) forged a European Single Market committed to the free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the EC added Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), pledged new cooperation in foreign and security policies, and changed its name to the EU. The 21st century has so far been trying, however. First came long dithering about the institutional reforms needed to enlarge to post-communist central and eastern European countries, difficulty in establishing common foreign and security policies, and low economic growth and high unemployment. Then, after 2008, the long Eurozone crisis led to costly, ineffective, and divisive EU responses, and as it abated, new crises appeared.

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