The following visionary leaders inspired the creation of the European Union we live in today. Without their energy and motivation, we would not be living in the sphere of peace and stability that we take for granted.
From resistance fighters to lawyers and parliamentarians, the EU pioneers were a diverse group of people who held the same ideals: a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.
Beyond the pioneers described below, many others have worked tirelessly towards and inspired the European project. This section on the EU’s pioneers is therefore a work in progress.
Find out about the creation of the European Union and how it has developed over the decades.
- 1945-59Peace in Europe and the beginnings of cooperation
How post-war cooperation in Europe led to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the signing of the Treaties of Rome and the birth of the European Parliament.
- 1960-69The ‘Swinging Sixties’ – a period of economic growth
How the European Union developed through the 1960s, with further economic integration in Europe and the beginnings of international cooperation.
- 1970-79A growing Community – the first new members join: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom
How the European Union developed in the 70s, with the first addition of new members, European elections and a regional policy to boost poorer areas.
- 1980-89The changing face of Europe - the collapse of communism
How the European Union developed in the 1980s with more countries joining, the Erasmus programme and the start of the single market.
- 1990-99A Europe without frontiers
How the European Union developed in the 1990s, with more expansion, and the launch of the single market, border-free travel and the euro.
- 2000-09Further expansion
How the European Union developed from 2000 to 2009 with 12 new countries joining, the euro becoming legal tender and the signing of the Lisbon Treaty.
- 2010-19A challenging decade
How the European Union developed from 2010 to 2019, responding to the financial crisis, Croatia joining the EU, and the UK voting to leave.
- 2020-todayA united and resilient EU
How the European Union has developed since 2020, responding to unprecedented challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and fighting climate change.