In 1967, three European institutions merged. The three institutions were the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the European Economic Community (EEC), and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). When the three merged, they formed the European Community or EC. On November 1, 1993, the 12 members of the European Community ratified the Treaty on European Union, or Maastricht Treaty. The twelve members were- Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. The countries of the Benelux Economic Union- Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg- continue to and in some ways as a single economic entity within the European Union. The EC became the policy-making body of the European Union. .
In 1994 Austria, Finland, and Sweden became members of the European Union. By 1997 more than a dozen countries had applied for European Union membership, but the European Union had only admitted the three listed above. The other countries that applied for membership include Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. Of those countries, six are considered associate members of the European Union: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Three other countries-Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania-are being considered for associate membership. Other potential European Union applicants include members of the European Free Trade Association. The European Union was expected to decide which counties it would open negotiations for full membership with by the end of 1997. .
The purpose of the European Union was to increase economic integration and strengthen cooperation among its member states. European citizenship was granted to citizens of each member state, under the Treaty on European Union. Customs and immigration agreements were enhanced to allow European citizens more freedom to live, work, and study in any of the member states, and border controls were also eased.