7 Places That Shaped the EU’s History

European Commission
6 min readMay 5, 2023

Step back in time and explore the significant moments in the history of the European Union by visiting the very places where they occurred! From the clock room where the Schuman Declaration was made to the grandeur of the Jerónimos Monastery where the Treaty of Lisbon was signed, these historical sites offer a glimpse into the EU’s past, but also provide an opportunity to look into the EU’s future and the role it plays in shaping the world today.

The Clock Room, France

“Salon de l’Horloge” of the Quai d’Orsay in Paris © EC — Audiovisual Service

Enter the historic Clock Room located in the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry, where time has marked the unstoppable progress of European unity. This room was the site of one of the most significant speeches in European history. On May 9th, 1950, Robert Schuman, the French foreign minister, delivered his famous declaration proposing a new form of political cooperation in Europe. The Schuman Declaration paved the way for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually evolved into the European Union. The room gets its name from the magnificent clock that graces the wall, which has become a symbol of the reconciliation and cooperation between France and Germany. Get the virtual tour here!

Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii, Italy

Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii © Photo Archivio Cicconi/Getty Images

Step inside the Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii (Sala degli Orazi e Curiazi), located in the historic Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome. This grand hall served as the backdrop for a historic event on March 25th, 1957, when six European nations signed the Treaty of Rome, which paved the way for the creation of the European Economic Community. The signing ceremony was attended by a number of dignitaries from across Europe, and the Hall of the Horatii and Curiatii’s grandiose architecture and intricate frescoes provided a fitting setting for this momentous occasion. As you stand in the room today, you can almost hear the echoes of the past and feel the significance of the treaty’s signing.

The Hall of Knights in the Hague, The Netherlands

The Hall of Knights in the Hague © EC — Audiovisual Service

As you enter the magnificent Hall of Knights, or Ridderzaal, in The Hague, the atmosphere of the historic venue is palpable. This impressive hall has been a symbol of Dutch democracy since the 13th century, and it has hosted many important events over the years. Among them was the Hague summit in December 1969, where the heads of state or government of the six founding members of the European Community gathered to make crucial decisions. They agreed to pursue economic and monetary union, a landmark decision that paved the way for the creation of the Euro. Additionally, they decided to create new policies, implement the common agricultural policy, and admit new member states, all with the goal of enhancing integration and cooperation in Europe. These decisions marked a turning point in the history of the EU.

The Princesse Marie-Astrid Boat, Luxembourg

The Princesse Marie-Astrid Boat on the Moselle river © EC — Audiovisual Service

Come aboard the Princesse Marie-Astrid boat, where a momentous event in European history occurred. On June 14th, 1985, representatives from five European countries — Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands — gathered on this boat for a journey on the Moselle river where the Luxembourg, German and French borders meet. There, they signed a historic agreement which paved the way for the creation of the Schengen Area, a zone of free movement without internal borders, making travel easier and more efficient for millions of people. Today, the ship is owned by Luxembourg and is being transformed into a museum with exhibitions and a performance space, allowing visitors to experience the historic moment and learn about the significance of the Schengen Agreement.

The banquet hall of the Limburg provincial government building in Maastricht, The Netherlands

Banquet hall of the Limburg provincial government building © EC — Audiovisual Service

Step inside the magnificent banquet hall of the Limburg provincial government building in Maastricht, where history was made on February 7th, 1992. Twelve European nations gathered in this very room to sign the Maastricht Treaty, a landmark agreement that paved the way for the creation of the European Union. As you admire the hall’s ornate decorations and crystal chandeliers, you can almost feel the excitement that filled the air as the representatives put pen to paper, cementing their commitment to a more united Europe. The Maastricht Treaty has since been awarded the European Heritage Label in recognition of its significance to European ideals, values, history, and integration. Today, the building serves as a visitor and exhibition center, allowing visitors to explore the hall and learn about the events that took place there.

The Stoa of Attalos, Greece

The Stoa of Attalos © EC — Audiovisual Service

As you walk up the steps of the Stoa of Attalos (Η Στοά του Αττάλου) in Athens, imagine yourself transported back to April 16th, 2003, when representatives of ten countries — Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia — gathered to sign their Accession Treaty to the European Union. This marked the largest enlargement in the EU history, and with the ink drying on the historic document, the signatories cemented their commitment to a more united Europe, setting the stage for the EU’s further expansion. The Greek Presidency chose the Stoa of Attalos as the location for the signing due to its rich history and cultural significance. Built in the 2nd century BC, this ancient building was reconstructed in the 1950s and now serves as a museum of ancient Greek artifacts.

The Jerónimos Monastery, Portugal

Signing in the Jerónimos Monastery of Lisbon, © Photo Bruno Portela EC — Audiovisual Service

Step into the grandeur of the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) in Lisbon and transport yourself back to December 13th, 2007. This stunning monastery, located in the Belem district of the city, was built in the 16th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was at this historic location that representatives from all 27 EU member states, along with the presidents of the three main EU institutions, gathered in the courtyard to sign the Treaty of Lisbon. The event was made even more special by a beautiful performance of the European anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, sung by a choir of Portuguese children. The Jerónimos Monastery was chosen as the location due to its cultural and historical significance as a symbol of Portugal’s rich heritage and contribution to European history.

Learn more:

· Navigate Europe’s past and present with the House of European History

· Discover our EU timeline and navigate the European history

· Learn about the EU pioneers who inspired the Europe that we know today.

· Walk through our European Heritage Label sites thanks to our interactive map

--

--

European Commission

Official Medium account of @EU_Commission | Stories, posts & articles about our work. Our social media policy: https://europa.eu/!dyJq74