Page Last modified 13 Apr 2011
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The immediate post-war decade sees the gradual development of the idea of a European Community. This culminates in the signing of the Rome Treaty, on 25 March 1957, creating the European Economic Community (EEC) or ‘Common Market’.

The guiding principle is that people, goods and services should be able to move freely across borders. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands are the six founding members.

The Cold War between East and West dominates political agendas globally and is set to do so for 40 years. We see the first nuclear power plants and accidents; yet the environmental movement has not emerged as a political force. Europe experiences a baby boom.

9 May, the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presents a plan for closer cooperation. 9 May is now celebrated as 'Europe Day'.

Six countries — Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg — sign a treaty to cooperate in running their key heavy industries, i.e. coal and steel. In this way, the raw materials of war are brought under common management.

The ‘Great London Smog’ episode kills thousands. It will lead the UK government to introduce the first Clean Air Act (1956).

The first nuclear power plant grid started operations at Obninsk in the Soviet Union.

‘The six’ extend their cooperation to other economic sectors. They sign the Treaty of Rome, creating the European Economic Community (EEC) or the ‘Common Market’.

The first significant nuclear accident occurs in October at Windscale in northern England.

The first reliable and continuous measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide begin at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory. CO2 concentrations are found to be 315 parts per million and rising.


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