European Union: United for Peace

The Flag of Europe
The Flag of Europe

Today is Europe Day, the anniversary of the first major step toward what is now known as the European Union.

Here are some things you may not have known about it.

Following World War II, cooperation between European nations was seen as a way to prevent the extreme nationalism that led to the war.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for a “United States of Europe” and for the creation of a Council of Europe as a first step. As part of the American Marshall Plan to help rebuild the continent’s economies, countries were forced to adopt open-market systems  as a prerequisite to receive aid.

In 1949, the Treaty of London formed the Council of Europe, to promote democracy, human rights, economic development and the rule of law.

One year later, on May 9, 1950, French foreign minister Robert Schuman made a speech which called for placing the production of French and German coal and steel under a single authority. It also allowed for other European countries to participate.

Schumann believed that creating common economic interests between countries would help relations in general.

The Germans responded positively, and on April 18, 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed, which would lead to the creation of the European Economic Community or EEC. Also signing the treaty were the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy. In 1973, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark joined the community. Norway had planned to join, but voters rejected a referendum on membership. It remains outside of the European Union.

In 1985, the Schengen Agreement opened the borders between most of the member states.

1992 saw the formal establishment of the European Union with 12 countries, now including Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The euro, a unified currency, was introduced starting in 1999. A total of 15 national currencies were eliminated on January 1, 2002, when euro bank notes and coins started to circulate.

The currencies that ended then were the Austrian Schilling; the francs of France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Monaco; the Lira in Italy, San Marino and Vatican City; the Dutch guilder; the Finnish markka; the German mark, the Irish pound, the escudo in Portugal; the peseta of Spain and the Greek Drachma. Since then, seven other countries have joined the eurozone: Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The United Kingdom and Denmark are the only longtime members of the European Union that have retained their traditional currencies.

Our question: What is the name of the currency in Denmark?

Today is Victory Day in former Soviet Republics, marking victory over the Germans in World War II.

It’s unofficially Hurray for Buttons Day, National Lost Sock Memorial Day and Tear the Tags Off the Mattress Day.

It’s the birthday of the author of “Peter Pan,” J.M. Barrie, who was born in 1860; archeologist Howard Carter, was born in 1874 and musician Billy Joel, who turns 67 today.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1984, the top song in the U.S. was “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins.

The No. 1 movie was “Breakin’,” while the novel “The Aquitaine Progression” by Robert Ludlum topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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