The Quest for European Unity: An Exploration of the Birth of the European Economic Community and its Expansion

The Quest for European Unity: An Exploration of the Birth of the European Economic Community and its Expansion


This article explores the origins of the European Economic Community (EEC) and its attempts to promote unity among European nations while enhancing economic growth and prosperity. From the Schuman Plan in 1950 to the creation of the EEC in 1957, individuals and organizations sought to establish a common market by breaking down barriers and increasing cooperation between nations. However, obstacles, including the failure of the European Defence Community project, hindered progress. Yet, resilience and compromise ultimately led to significant economic growth and the expansion of the EEC, culminating in the admission of Britain in 1973.

Table of Contents

  • The Birth of the European Economic Community
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Expanding the Economic Community
  • Britain’s Quest for Membership
  • The Struggles of Integration


  1. What prompted the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community?

    The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was proposed in 1950 by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman as an effort to integrate the economies of West Germany and France to promote lasting peace after World War II. Specifically, the plan called for France to take control of German coalfields and turn France into the center of the production and distribution of Ruhr coal and steel.

  2. How was the European Economic Community different from the European Coal and Steel Community?

    The European Economic Community (EEC), established through the Treaty of Rome in 1957, aimed to take economic integration a step further than the ECSC. Specifically, the EEC sought to create an open common market for coal and steel, removing barriers to trade between participating countries. Additionally, the EEC sought to provide a free flow of labor and capital between participating countries, contributing to economic growth for all member states.

  3. When did Britain first apply to join the EEC, and why was their application initially rejected?

    Britain first applied to join the EEC in 1961, but their application was rejected twice by French President Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle believed that Britain would rival France’s dominance in the EEC, and he sought to limit American and British influence in Europe. De Gaulle also viewed Britain as too closely tied to the US and an impediment to European political unity, which he saw as necessary to safeguard against future wars.

  4. How did the oil crisis of 1973 affect integration efforts in the EEC?

    The oil crisis of 1973, which followed the Arab-Israeli War, exposed vulnerabilities in Western economies heavily dependent on oil consumption. The crisis highlighted the limits of integration in the EEC and demonstrated that closer ties and political union were necessary to prevent future economic crises. However, despite challenges, the EEC ultimately prevailed, and decades of economic growth followed.

  5. What led to the ultimate expansion of the EEC?

    The ultimate expansion of the EEC was due to a combination of factors, including the departure of Charles de Gaulle from office, the election of British Prime Minister Edward Heath, who was pro-European, and the widespread economic growth that occurred within the EEC. The benefits of increased trade and investment coupled with the realization of the dangers of nationalism led to the admission of new members into the EEC.


The creation and expansion of the European Economic Community offered a unique opportunity to promote lasting peace and economic growth among European nations. Despite challenges, including the failure of past integration efforts and national motives, the EEC ultimately emerged as a dominant economic power and paved the way for political and cultural integration. The lessons and triumphs of the EU continue to shape the understanding of what is possible when nations prioritize unity and cooperation over nationalism and individualism.

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