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The abbreviation for the European Economic Community. An organization of nations established in 1957 to promote free trade and economic cooperation among the nations of western Europe. Its original members were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and West Germany. Britain, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain joined later. Often known as the Common Market or (more recently) as the EC, its functions have expanded to include the allocation of industrial and agricultural specialties to different member nations. In 1991 the Maastricht Treaty committed members to adopt a single currency and common foreign policy and defense, but the treaty, which calls upon members to surrender considerable chunks of sovereignty, was not ratified by all members until 1993. (See also European Union.)