European Union

Intergovernmental organization
Flag of Europe
United in Diversity
Ode to Joy
Map of the European Union
Flag of Europe
Flag of ECSC
Maastricht Treaty:
European Communities
Status Intergovernmental organization
President of the Council
- From 2009Herman Van Rompuy
President of the Commission
- 1993-1995Jacques Delors
- 1995-1999Jacques Santer
- 1999-2004Romano Prodi
- From 2004José Manuel Barroso
Legislature Legislature
- Upper houseCouncil of Ministers
- Lower houseEuropean Parliament
January 1, 1958 Rome Treaty
November 1, 1993Maastricht Treaty
May 1, 1999Amsterdam Treaty
February 1, 2003Nice Treaty
December 1, 2009Lisbon Treaty
Area4,324,782 km²
- 2010501,064,211
GDP2010 (PPP)
- TotalUS$ 14,896.1 billion
- Per capitaUS$ 29,729
Flag of Europe European Communities
Flag of the Western European Union WEU

The European Union is an economic and political union of 28 member states in Europe.


Following the two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century, a number of European leaders in the late 1940s became convinced that the only way to establish a lasting peace was to unite the two chief belligerent nations - France and Germany - both economically and politically. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed an eventual union of all Europe, the first step of which would be the integration of the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. The following year the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, signed the Treaty of Paris.

The ECSC was so successful that within a few years the decision was made to integrate other elements of the countries' economies. In 1957, envisioning an "ever closer union," the Treaties of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the six member states undertook to eliminate trade barriers among themselves by forming a common market. In 1967, the institutions of all three communities were formally merged into the European Community (EC), creating a single Commission, a single Council of Ministers, and the body known today as the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament were initially selected by national parliaments, but in 1979 the first direct elections were undertaken and they have been held every five years since.

In 1973, the first enlargement of the EC took place with the addition of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The 1980s saw further membership expansion with Greece joining in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht laid the basis for further forms of cooperation in foreign and defense policy, in judicial and internal affairs, and in the creation of an economic and monetary union - including a common currency. This further integration created the European Union (EU), at the time standing alongside the European Community. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU/EC, raising the membership total to 15.

A new currency, the euro, was launched in world money markets on 1 January 1999; it became the unit of exchange for all EU member states except the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark. In 2002, citizens of those 12 countries began using euro banknotes and coins. Ten new countries joined the EU in 2004 - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia - and in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined, bringing the membership to 27, where it stands today.

In an effort to ensure that the EU could function efficiently with an expanded membership, the Treaty of Nice (signed in 2000) set forth rules aimed at streamlining the size and procedures of EU institutions. An effort to establish a "Constitution for Europe," growing out of a Convention held in 2002-2003, foundered when it was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. A subsequent effort in 2007 incorporated many of the features of the rejected Constitution while also making a number of substantive and symbolic changes. The new treaty, initially known as the Reform Treaty but subsequently referred to as the Treaty of Lisbon, sought to amend existing treaties rather than replace them. The treaty was approved at the EU intergovernmental conference of the 27 member states held in Lisbon in December 2007, after which the process of national ratifications began. In October 2009, an Irish referendum approved the Lisbon Treaty (overturning a previous rejection) and cleared the way for an ultimate unanimous endorsement. Poland and the Czech Republic signed on soon after. The Lisbon Treaty, again invoking the idea of an "ever closer union," came into force on 1 December 2009 and the European Union officially replaced and succeeded the European Community.[1]


Internally, the EU has abolished trade barriers, adopted a common currency, and is striving toward convergence of living standards. Internationally, the EU aims to bolster Europe's trade position and its political and economic power. Because of the great differences in per capita income among member states (from $7,000 to $78,000) and in national attitudes toward issues like inflation, debt, and foreign trade, the EU faces difficulties in devising and enforcing common policies. Eleven established EU member states, under the auspices of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999 (Greece did so two years later), but the UK and Denmark have 'opt-outs' that allow them to keep their national currencies, and Sweden has not taken the steps needed to participate. Between 2004 and 2007, the EU admitted 12 countries that are, in general, less advanced economically than the other 15. Of the 12 most recent member states, only Slovenia (1 January 2007), Cyprus and Malta (1 January 2008), Slovakia (1 January 2009), and Estonia (1 January 2011) have adopted the euro; the remaining states other than the UK and Denmark are legally required to adopt the currency upon meeting EU's fiscal and monetary convergence criteria. The EU has recovered from the global financial crisis faster than expected, with business investment growing by an estimated 2% in 2010, but with public investment and housing development lagging. Strong corporate profits should enable this recovery to continue in 2011. Nevertheless, significant risks to growth remain, including, high official debts and deficits, aging populations, over-regulation of non-financial businesses, and doubts about the sustainability of the EMU. In June 2010, prompted by the Greek financial crisis, the EU and the IMF set up a $1 trillion bailout fund to rescue any EMU member in danger of default, but it has not calmed market jitters that have diminished the value of the euro. Discussions are currently under way to create a permanent European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM) in 2013, when the existing European Financial Stability Facility expires.[2]

Member states Edit

Country Area Population GDP per capita Capital
Flag of Austria Austria 83,872 8,356,707 $39,454 Vienna
Flag of Belgium Belgium 30,528 10,827,519 $35,534 Brussels
Flag of Bulgaria Bulgaria 110,993 7,576,751 $12,052 Sofia
Flag of Croatia Croatia 56,594 4,486,881 $17,609 Zagreb
Flag of Cyprus Cyprus 9,248 803,147 $27,713 Nicosia
Flag of the Czech Republic Czech Republic 78,866 10,674,947 $24,832 Prague
Flag of Denmark Denmark 43,098 5,557,709 $36,336 Copenhagen
Flag of Estonia Estonia 45,228 1,340,021 $17,908 Tallinn
Flag of Finland Finland 338,424 5,374,781 $34,044 Helsinki
Flag of France France 543,965 63,136,180 $33,678 Paris
Flag of Germany Germany 357,021 81,757,600 $34,212 Berlin
Flag of Greece Greece 131,990 11,305,118 $28,834 Athens
Flag of Hungary Hungary 93,028 9,992,339 $18,566 Budapest
Flag of Ireland Ireland 70,273 4,470,700 $39,468 Dublin
Flag of the Italian Republic Italy 301,338 60,418,711 $29,109 Rome
Flag of Latvia Latvia 64,589 2,217,969 $10,630 Riga
Flag of Lithuania Lithuania 65,200 3,244,000 $16,481 Vilnius
Flag of Luxembourg Luxembourg 2,586 502,202 $80,304 Luxembourg
Flag of Malta Malta 316 412,966 $23,662 Valletta
Flag of the Netherlands Netherlands 41,848 16,649,400 $39,938 Amsterdam
Flag of Poland Poland 312,685 38,192,000 $18,705 Warsaw
Flag of Portugal Portugal 92,090 10,647,267 $22,027 Lisbon
Flag of Romania Romania 238,391 21,959,278 $11,767 Bucharest
Flag of Slovakia Slovakia 49,035 5,429,763 $16,281 Bratislava
Flag of Slovenia Slovenia 20,273 2,048,951 $27,900 Ljubljana
Flag of Spain Spain 504,030 46,030,109 $29,651 Madrid
Flag of Sweden Sweden 449,964 9,354,462 $36,502 Stockholm
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom 243,610 62,041,708 $35,720 London

Timeline Edit

In force
Brussels Treaty
London Agreement
Paris Treaty
Modified Brussels Treaty
Rome treaties
Merger Treaty
European Council conclusion
Schengen Treaty
Single European Act
Maastricht Treaty
Amsterdam Treaty
Nice Treaty
Lisbon Treaty
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities: (EC)  
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
Allied Autorities Ruhr Authority (IAR) European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
          European Economic Community (EEC)
        Schengen Area   European Economic Community (EC)
    TREVI Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)  
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
            European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    
Treaty terminated in 2011  

See also Edit


  1. The CIA World Factbook: Introduction - Background
  2. The CIA World Factbook: Economy - Overview