A Growing Community

1970-1979: A Growing Community - The First Enlargement

Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Union on 1 January 1973, raising the number of member states to nine. The short, yet brutal, Arab-Israeli war of October 1973 result in an energy crisis and economic problems in Europe. The last right-wing dictatorships in Europe come to an end with the overthrow of the Salazar regime in Portugal in 1974 and the death of General Franco of Spain in 1975. The EU regional policy starts to transfer huge sums to create jobs and infrastructure in poorer areas. The European Parliament increases its influence in EU affairs and in 1979 all citizens can, for the first time, elect their members directly.

24 April 1972

The EU’s first plan for a single currency dates from 1970. To maintain monetary stability, EU members decide to allow their currencies to fluctuate against each other only within narrow limits. This exchange rate mechanism (ERM), created in 1972, is a first step towards the introduction of the euro, 30 years later.

The fight against pollution intensifies in the 1970s. The EU adopts laws to protect the environment, introducing the notion of ‘the polluter pays ’ for the first time. Pressure groups such as Greenpeace are founded.


1 January 1973

The six become nine when Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom formally enter the EU.

(Orange) Member States: Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

(Yellow) New Member States: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Following an Arab-Israeli war in October 1973, Middle East oil-producing nations impose big price increases and restrict sales to certain European countries. This creates economic problems throughout the EU.


10 December 1974

To show their solidarity, EU leaders set up the European Regional Development Fund. Its purpose is to transfer money from rich to poor regions to improve roads and communications, attract investment and create jobs. This type of activity later comes to account for one third of all EU spending.


7–10 June 1979

EU citizens directly elect the members of the European Parliament for the first time. Previously they were delegated by national parliaments. Members sit in pan-European political groups (Socialist, Conservative, Liberal, Greens, etc.) and not in national delegations. The influence of the Parliament is constantly increasing.

The overthrow of the Salazar regime in Portugal in 1974 and the death of General Franco of Spain in 1975 end the last right-wing dictatorships in Europe. Both countries commit themselves to democratic government — an important step towards qualifying for future membership of the EU.

The murder of former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, in 1978 is one of many acts of terrorism carried out by extremist groups in the 1970s. Among the victims are leading lawyers, businessmen and politicians, as well as 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games (1972).