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History of the European Union 1960-69

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ – a period of economic growth

The 1960s is a good period for the economy, helped by the fact that EEC countries stop charging custom duties when they trade with each other. They also agree joint control over food production, so that everybody now has enough to eat. May 1968 sees student riots in Paris, and many changes in society and behaviour become associated with the ‘68 generation’.

3 May 1960 – European Free Trade Association created

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is created, to promote free trade and economic integration between certain countries not in the EEC: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. By 2020, the EFTA members are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

August 1961 – The Berlin Wall is built

The communist government in East Germany builds a wall across Berlin. It becomes a symbol of the separation of Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War.

30 July 1962 – The first Common Agricultural Policy

The first common agricultural policy gives EEC countries joint control over food production. There is enough food for everyone and farmers earn a good living. The unwanted side effect is overproduction, with mountains of surplus produce. Since the 1990s, priorities have been to cut surpluses, raise food quality and promote sustainability.

20 July 1963 – The EEC signs its first big international agreement

The 6 member countries sign the Yaoundé Convention to promote cooperation and trade with 18 former colonies in Africa. Today the EU has a special relationship of this kind with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions and is working to build a stronger partnership with Africa to tackle challenges common to both continents.

8 April 1965 – Signing of the ‘Merger Treaty’

The Treaty merging the executives of the 3 Communities (the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and Euratom) is signed in Brussels and enters into force on July 1, 1967. From now on, the European Communities will have a single administrative arm (the Commission) and a single executive (the Council).

May 1968 – Students riot in Paris

Rioting by students and workers in France shakes the very foundations of the state. Milder student protests occur in other European countries. They reflect frustration at governments as well as protests against the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race.

1 July 1968 – beginning of the Customs Union

The 6 EEC member countries remove customs duties on goods imported from each other, allowing free cross-border trade for the first time. They also apply the same duties on their imports from outside countries. Trade among these 6 and with the rest of the world grows rapidly.

August 1968 – The Prague Spring is crushed

Soviet tanks crush the short-lived ‘Prague Spring’ of fledgling democracy in Czechoslovakia.