Volume 12, Number 5
11 October 2005

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This Week

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Useful Info About the EU

Although it's hard to concentrate on anything else when your father almost died only a week ago, I'm not going to talk about my father's sickness any more, since I hate it when columnists tell us about a personal event over and over. I don't want to be another İclal Aydın repeating "my pregnancy is going well and the doc said this and that and blah blah blah...." (Yes, I can get rude when I'm irritated.)

The day I'm writing this is the first day of the accession talks between Turkey and the European Union. I guess you could probably use some background information about the EU if you don't want to have an expression on your face when people talk about recent political events like the one Nicolas Cage has all the time. So, I've decided to write briefly about the history of the Union this week, which means that this column will be more serious than usual.

Six European countries (France, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands) got together and decided to pool their coal and steel resources under a supranational authority, the European Coal and Steel Community, in 1952. The 1958 Rome Treaties extended the agreement to cover all sectors of the members' economies. This changed the ECSC into the European Economic Community, which would eventually become the European Union.

The Merger Treaty, signed in 1965, went into force in 1967 and provided "for a Single Commission and a Single Council" for Europe. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark joined the European Community in 1973. Greece (1981), Spain (1986) and Portugal (1986) were then admitted, increasing the number of members to 12. (Forget about the misunderstood connection between the 12 stars on the EU flag and the number of members. The emblem of the European Community had the same number of stars long before the Community had 12 members.)

The Madrid European Council of 1989 produced a plan for economic integration between member countries called the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). As the Berlin Wall fell, the borders of the European Community changed from the middle of Germany to east of Poland.

In 1992, the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty) was signed. It was rejected in the first referendum in Denmark, but the year after was ratified by all of the member countries and entered into force. In 1994, the members of the EU and the European Free Trade Association got together and created a single market made up of 19 countries. In 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the Union. The same year, Norway did not ratify its accession treaty, which caused it to lose the chance of becoming a member for the time being. Citizens of most of the EU member countries met their future monetary unit, the euro, in 1999. The euro was fully launched in 2002. The European Convention, which aimed to shape the future of Europe, began the same year.

Ten more countries joined the Union in 2004. On December 17, 2004, the EU decided that accession negotiations with Turkey would start on October 3, 2005, if certain criteria were fulfilled as of that day. And yesterday, the European Union declared that Turkey had fulfilled the criteria, and the negotiations started.

I hope this brief information was helpful for those who are curious about the EU's past. You can reach more information via http://europa.eu.int.   Take care…

İsmail O. Postalcıoğlu (POLS/III)

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