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“The Hanseatic League was a precursor of the European Union.”
– Comment by a tourist guide in the town of Groningen in the north-east of the Netherlands, 1 March 2014.  

From the Wikipedia page on the Hanseatic League ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanseatic_League ) :
The Hanseatic league (a.k.a. Hansa, among others) was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea, and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries).
    The League was created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid. Despite this, the organization was not a city-state, nor can it be called a confederation of city-states; (…)
    The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names, for example the German airline Lufthansa, F.C. Hansa Rostock, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, …
    [End of citation, dated 24 March 2014]

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