On 18th April 1951, The Treaty of Rome established the Common Market, which was a deeply significant event that has shaped the recent history of modern Europe. This has become the European Union and has undergone a number of expansions that has taken it from six member states in 1957 to twenty-seven today, a majority of states in Europe and with still more with aspirations to join. Britain joined in 1973 after a long period of being denied membership by France and in particular the ungrateful and chronic Anglophobe President Charles de Gaulle.
The 1960s saw the first attempts at enlargement. In May Denmark, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom applied to join the three Communities. However, President Charles de Gaulle saw British membership as a Trojan horse for US influence and vetoed membership, and the applications of all four countries were suspended.
The four countries resubmitted their applications in May 1967 and with Georges Pompidou succeeding Charles de Gaulle as French President, the veto was lifted. Negotiations began in 1970 under the pro-European government of Edward Heath, who had to deal with disagreements relating to the Common Agricultural Policy and the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth of Nations. Nevertheless, two years later the accession treaties were signed and all but Norway acceded to the Community (Norway rejected membership in a referendum).
These days, before being allowed to join the EU, a state must fulfill the economic and political conditions generally known as the Copenhagen criteria. These basically require a candidate to have a democratic, free market government together with the corresponding freedoms and institutions, and respect the rule of law.
There are twenty-seven countries in the European Union, twenty Republics and seven Monarchies and I have visited twenty of them:
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.