At the end of the 1940s, in the wake of the immense suffering and destruction caused by two world wars, there was a great need to ensure a lasting peace on the European continent.
With this in mind the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed to Germany that the important military industries of coal and steel be managed in a joint market under a higher-level authority. Together with Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, they founded the European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC) in 1951. The purpose, as set forth in the Schuman declaration of 9 May 1950, was to «make a war between France and Germany not only unthinkable, but also materially impossible». The ECSC in turn made it possible for Germany to return to the European stage on an equal footing. Apart from the ECSC, the Treaties of Rome in 1957 established the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and the European Economic Community (EEC). The Merger Treaty of 1965 united the ECSC, the EEC, and EURATOM under a single institutional structure (Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament, European Court of Justice), together forming the European Communities.
The aim of the EC was to create an internal market with free movement of goods, people, services, and capital. Concurrently, it expanded territorially. In 1973 the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark joined the EC, followed by Greece in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. Integration gathered momentum again in the mid-1980s, with the Single European Act (SEA) of 1986 placing the entire area of the internal market under the rule of qualified majority voting, thereby creating the conditions for more efficient functioning.
Shortly thereafter, in 1989, a fundamental and unexpected change occurred on the continent: Hungary opened its borders to the West, and the Wall fell in divided Berlin. This was followed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Following the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, the European Union was created in 1992 by the Treaty of Maastricht, which also introduced the three-pillar structure, with the European Communities as the first pillar, adding the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as the second pillar, and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) as the third pillar, which enhanced cooperation in the area of law enforcement and home affairs. In the first pillar the decisions of the EC were mostly made according to the principle of qualified majority voting, whereas in the second and third pillars intergovernmental cooperation was the rule and decisions were reached unanimously.