So what changed between 1975 and 2016? Forty years is a long time. Here are the highlights of the history of the European Union:
- By 1975 there were nine countries in the European Union: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Ireland.
- 1983 - 1985 - Greece, Spain, and Portugal joined.
- 1986 - The Single European Act was signed, creating “an area without frontiers in which the free movement of goods and persons, services and capital is ensured.”
- 1990 - East and West Germany were unified.
- 1993 - The Maastricht Treaty created the Euro Currency. Britain negotiated an opt out clause.
- 1995 - Austria, Finland and Sweden joined.
- 2002 - Euro banknotes and coins were introduced.
- 2004 - 10 new Eastern European countries joined the European Union.
- 2007 - Bulgaria and Rumania joined.
- 2008 - A financial crisis hit the global economy.
- 2013 Croatia became the 28th member country.
Had Britain not already have been a member, would they have joined the EU in the last few years? I don't think anyone would have even tried to argue that it would be in their interest to do so. So why should we be surprised if they leave?
The lesson here is that bigger is not always better. As new members join a community, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep everyone's goals in alignment so that continued alliance makes sense for everyone. Community leaders must work extremely hard to continually monitor and change, if necessary, the constitutions of organizations as membership changes through growth.