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Six decades of EU evolution

BRUSSELS, March 21, 2017 (BSS/AFP) - From the Treaty of Rome to the migration crisis and Brexit, here is a look at 60 years of ups and downs in the making of the European Union. - Birth of contemporary Europe - On May 9, 1950, just five years after the end of World War II, French foreign minister Robert Schuman unveils proposals for an economic union between France and West Germany, drawing from the ideas of political advisor and economist Jean Monnet.

A year later, six countries -- Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands -- establish the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). On March 25, 1957, the Treaty of Rome establishes the European Economic Community (EEC, or Common Market).

It takes effect a year later, establishing key European institutions: the Council of Ministers, the executive European Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly, which later becomes the European Parliament, to which the first elections by direct universal suffrage take place in 1979.

- Expansion - On January 1, 1973, Britain, Denmark and Ireland join the EEC, followed by Greece in 1981, Portugal and Spain in 1986, and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995.

On February 7, 1992, the Maastricht Treaty is signed, laying the foundation for a single European currency.

In January 1993, a single market allowing the free movement of goods, services, people and capital becomes reality.

On November 1, 1993, the EEC becomes the European Union. Euro banknotes and coins go into circulation in 12 countries on January 1, 2002, replacing national currencies such as the deutschmark, franc, lira and peseta.

Britain, Denmark and Sweden, however, decide to keep their national currencies.

On May 1, 2004, the EU swells to 25 members from 15, taking in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania join in 2007, and Croatia becomes the 28th member in 2013.

- Crises - Storm clouds gather in the spring of 2005, as French voters reject a draft European Constitution proposed by the Treaty of Lisbon, followed three days later by Dutch voters.

Shocked European leaders manage to get the treaty ratified in 2009, with provisions designed to improve the functioning of the enlarged EU institutions.

In November 2009, Athens reveals a sharp rise in its public deficit, unleashing a financial crisis across the eurozone. First Greece, then Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus seek aid from the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which demands strict fiscal discipline in return.

Several heads of government fall as austerity measures provoke a popular backlash. Just as it begins to emerge from the financial crisis, Europe is hit by its most serious migration crisis since the end of World War II, and EU leaders fail to work out a joint action plan.

On September 13, Germany, which had until then had been welcoming refugees, restores border controls, a move quickly followed by Austria, Slovakia and other countries. The latest crisis came on June 23, 2016, when Britons voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favour of quitting the EU, putting the United Kingdom on course to become the first country to quit the bloc.