European Union's Silver Anniversary
When we think of Europe today, it’s hard not to imagine it without largely open borders and the euro currency. But the European Union (E.U.) is just shy of a quarter century old.
The E.U. of course has an impact beyond Europe’s borders so, with an anniversary coming up, this is a good time to look at how the organization came into being and the benefits that it’s brought to travelers.
The seeds of the E.U. were planted in the aftermath of World War II. In September 1946, British statesman Winston Churchill referred to his vision of a “United States of Europe.” It was hoped that cooperation among nations would bolster the economies of European countries and, by making them interdependent, ensure a stable, peaceful continent. Over the next decade, European nations forged ties in areas where they had common interests such as, the market for coal and steel.
Twenty-five years ago, the move toward cooperation took another giant step forward. On Dec. 9–10, 1991, representatives of European countries met in Maastricht, in the Netherlands, to draft a treaty that would form the basis for the European Union. The Maastricht Treaty was signed on Feb. 7, 1992 and went into effect on Nov. 1, 1993. At the time, 12 countries were part of the European Union. Today, there are 28 member nations.
From its inception, the E.U. has recognized the vital role that tourism plays in the economies of member nations. Tourism provides jobs, spurs growth, and develops little-known areas into popular destinations.
Indeed, Europe continues to be a popular vacation spot for Americans. A European river cruise in London, Rome, and Florence/Tuscany made the top 10 international vacation destinations in Travel Leaders Group’s annual Travel Trends Survey, which polled 1,316 U.S.-based travel agency owners, managers, and frontline agents about their bookings for 2016. Paris was close behind at number 11.
Two outgrowths of the E.U. that benefit travelers are the single currency—the euro—used in most of the member nations and open borders across much of the continent—which makes traveling via car, train, or plane a much easier process given how many countries you can cross into over a relatively short distance.
A key element of the Maastricht Treaty was the creation of the euro, which was introduced on Jan. 1, 2002. Today, the euro is used by 19 of the 28 E.U. countries. (Some, including the United Kingdom, decided to stick with their own currency.)
For American travelers, a single currency makes it easier to budget a vacation, especially if it involves traveling to more than one country. There’s no need to figure out multiple exchange rates. There’s no need to exchange currency multiple times. And in recent years, a strong U.S. dollar has meant that travelers get more for their money when visiting Europe. For example, in 2015 the dollar reached an 11-year high against the euro.
Travelers will find open borders across a wide swath of Europe—meaning they don’t have to show their passports as they go from one country to the next. (Although, before you go, be aware that there are exceptions and, at certain times, border security can be tightened.) Borderless travel makes seeing Europe quicker and easier. And with so much to see, there’s no time to waste.
For help planning a trip to Europe, contact your us at (719) 597-0004.