Europe's history relates in the main the wars for the domination of some nations over the others and the battles of those others for their liberation from their oppressor or oppressors. After centuries of incessant wars, recurring aggressions, revolutions, massacres, human sacrifices, genocides, material destructions, economic disasters, Europe arrived in the middle of the last century at the most devastating war of world history, the economic downfall of all European nations and the world supremacy of a non-European power.
In 1945, just after the Second World War, Winston Churchill described Europe as "a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground for pestilence and hate". A year later, on 19 September 1946, in his famous Zurich speech, he proposed as a remedy "to recreate the European Family ... and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom ... a kind of United States of Europe". Half a century later, realising and exceeding Churchill's vision, the western part of the "European Family" had become an island of peace and prosperity in a world ravaged by hatreds, conflicts, civil wars and misery.
In actual fact, right after the Second World War, some inspired politicians, like Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi and Spaak, realised that the European nations, which had just ruined each other in a nonsensical war for the enlargement of their economic space, were in fact parts of a single geographic, economic and political entity, that could guarantee the prosperity of all in a single market. Realists rather than idealists, those wise political leaders were fully aware of the difficulties of uniting Europe. The famous declaration of Robert Schuman of the 9th May 1950, inspired by Jean Monnet, was clear as to the step by step approach to be followed for European integration. The realisation of a customs union would fulfil the requirements for building a large common market and this would in turn establish the conditions and exert the pressures needed for the attainment of an economic and monetary union.
Fifty years after the "invitation to union" of Robert Schuman we may say with confidence that the expectations of the fathers of European unification have been largely fulfilled. The European Community/Union (EC/EU) has built the three first floors of its edifice - the customs union, the common market and economic and monetary union - and although work is still needed and done daily on them, it has started building the last floor, that of political union.
The successful formula that European nations had invented to overcome their depression was the integration of the formerly antagonistic nation-states into a union of peacefully interacting and competing nations. The multinational integration formula involves the gradual creation of imperceptible albeit innumerable links between the nations taking part in the process. Those links consist of common policies and common laws, which govern the Member States' economic activities and influence the day-to-day lives and occupations of their citizens.