HistoryFollowing the Second World War, a series of political and economic organizations were founded in Europe to promote peace, cooperation, and integration, after decades of war and instability. The Council of Europe oversaw the suppression of nationalism and the advancement of democracy, while the European Coal and Steel Community dealt with matters of the economy and trade. These alliances were strengthened by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and a customs union was established along with the European Economic Community. These organizations were the precursor to the modern European Union, and were fundamental in allowing the decades that followed the war to become the most prosperous in Europe's history. Those at the core of these organizations were France, West Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries, with France and Germany as the unofficial leaders of European integration. As the EEC economies outgrew most other Western European economies, membership became more appealing, particularly for the UK whose international influence waned following the war. The UK joined in 1973, and several other western European states joined by 1986.
The European Union was formally established in 1993, with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and French President François Mitterrand as its leading architects. This period also coincided with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the subsequent transition to democracy. The Copenhagen criteria was then created in this time to ensure that future members fulfil certain eligibility requirements, regarding economics, politics, and human rights, in order to join the EU. By 1995, most Western European countries had joined the EU, with Norway and Switzerland as the main exceptions. In 2002, the Eurozone was launched, creating a single monetary area across much of Europe; unfortunately, the European debt crisis of 2009 meant that economic hardship in in some eurozone countries (especially Greece) therefore had a strong ripple effect across the EU. Between 2004 and 2013, many former Eastern Bloc countries also became EU members. The accession of 13 relatively weaker economies into the EU saw a wave of economic migration from these countries to the west, and introduced a new dynamic to European integration.