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History of the European Union 1970-79

A growing Community – the first new members join

Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Communities on 1 January 1973, raising the number of member countries to 9. The Arab-Israeli war of October 1973 triggers an energy crisis and economic problems in Europe.

Democracy spreads in Europe with the overthrow of the dictatorships in Greece, Portugal and Spain. Regional policy starts to transfer huge sums of money to create jobs and infrastructure in poorer areas. The first direct elections by citizens of members of the European Parliament take place in 1979.

1970s – Environmental protection on the agenda

The European communities adopt laws to protect the environment, introducing the notion of ‘the polluter pays’. Many environmental NGOs are founded.

1 January 1973 – From 6 to 9 member countries

The 6 members become 9 when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom formally join the European Communities.

1973 – Oil crisis hits Europe

Following an Arab-Israeli war in October, Middle East oil-producing nations impose big price increases and restrict sales to certain European countries. This creates economic problems throughout the EEC.

10 December 1974 – Reducing disparities between the regions

To show their solidarity, leaders of the EEC agree to set up a major new fund under European regional policy. Its purpose is to transfer money from rich to poor regions – to improve infrastructure, attract investment and create jobs. The European Regional Development Fund is created the following year.

1974-75 – New democracies in Portugal, Greece and Spain

The overthrow of the Salazar regime in Portugal and the collapse of military rule in Greece in 1974, together with the death of General Franco of Spain in 1975, mark the end of these dictatorships in Europe. The 3 countries commit themselves to democratic government — an important step towards qualifying for future membership of the European Communities.

June 1979 – First direct elections to the European Parliament

European citizens directly elect the members of the European Parliament for the first time. Previously members were delegated by national parliaments. Members sit in pan-European political groups, not in national delegations.