The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
The EU and European citizenship were established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993. The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established, respectively, by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome. The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. The Communities and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009. While no member state has left the EU or its antecedent organisations, the United Kingdom signified the intention to leave after a membership referendum in June 2016 and is negotiating its withdrawal.
Covering 7.3% of the world population, the EU in 2017 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 19.670 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 24.6% of global nominal GDP. Additionally, all 28 EU countries have a very high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Programme. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Because of its global influence, the European Union has been described as an emerging superpower.
Motto: "In Varietate Concordia" (Latin)
"United in Diversity"
Anthem: "Ode to Joy" (orchestral)
|Capital||Brussels (de facto)|
|Type||Political and economic union|
|Government||Supranational and intergovernmental|
|Legislature||see "Politics" section below|
|1 January 1958|
|1 November 1993|
|1 December 2009|
|1 July 2013|
|4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) (7th)|
• Water (%)
• 2018 estimate
|117.3/km2 (303.8/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2019 estimate|
|$23.0 trillion (2nd)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2019 estimate|
|$19.1 trillion (2nd)|
• Per capita
|Gini (2016)|| 30.8|
|HDI (2017)|| 0.899[c]|
|Currency||Euro (EUR; €; in eurozone) and|
|Time zone||UTC to UTC+2 (WET, CET, EET)|
• Summer (DST)
|UTC+1 to UTC+3 (WEST, CEST, EEST)|
|(see also Summer Time in Europe)|
Note: with the exception of the Canary Islands and Madeira, the outermost regions observe different time zones not shown.[d]
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (AD/CE)|
See also: Date and time notation in Europe
During the centuries following the fall of Rome in 476, several European States viewed themselves as translatio imperii ("transfer of rule") of the defunct Roman Empire: the Frankish Empire (481–843) and the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) were thereby attempts to resurrect Rome in the West.[f] This political philosophy of a supra-national rule over the continent, similar to the example of the ancient Roman Empire, resulted in the early Middle Ages in the concept of a renovatio imperii ("restoration of the empire"), either in the forms of the Reichsidee ("imperial idea") or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum ("christian empire"). Medieval Christendom and the political power of the Papacy are often cited as conducive to European integration and unity.
In the oriental parts of the continent, the Russian Tsardom, and ultimately the Empire (1547–1917), declared Moscow to be Third Rome and inheritor of the Eastern tradition after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The gap between Greek East and Latin West had already been widened by the political scission of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the Great Schism of 1054; and would be eventually widened again by the Iron Curtain (1945–91).
Pan-European political thought truly emerged during the 19th century, inspired by the liberal ideas of the French and American Revolutions after the demise of Napoléon's Empire (1804–15). In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, ideals of European unity flourished across the continent, especially in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski, Giuseppe Mazzini or Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski. The term United States of Europe (French: États-Unis d'Europe) was used at that time by Victor Hugo during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849:
A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood ... A day will come when we shall see ... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas.
During the interwar period, the consciousness that national markets in Europe were interdependent though confrontational, along with the observation of a larger and growing US market on the other side of the ocean, nourished the urge for the economic integration of the continent. In 1920, advocating the creation of a European economic union, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that "a Free Trade Union should be established ... to impose no protectionist tariffs whatever against the produce of other members of the Union." During the same decade, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to imagine of a modern political union of Europe, founded the Pan-Europa Movement. His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among which then Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 1929, the latter gave a speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations. In a radio address in March 1943, with war still raging, Britain's leader Sir Winston Churchill spoke warmly of "restoring the true greatness of Europe" once victory had been achieved, and mused on the post-war creation of a "Council of Europe" which would bring the European nations together to build peace.
After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated the continent. In a speech delivered on 19 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill went further and advocated the emergence of a United States of Europe. The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe's future leaders would live and study together.
It also led directly to the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, the first great effort to bring the nations of Europe together, initially ten of them. However, the Council focused primarily on values—human rights and democracy—rather than on economic or trade issues, and was always envisaged as a forum where sovereign governments could choose to work together, with no supra-national authority. It raised great hopes of further European integration, and there were fevered debates in the two years that followed as to how this could be achieved.
But in 1952, disappointed at what they saw as the lack of progress within the Council of Europe, six nations decided to go further and created the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe". European leaders Alcide De Gasperi from Italy, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman from France, and Paul-Henri Spaak from Belgium understood that coal and steel were the two industries essential for waging war, and believed that by tying their national industries together, future war between their nations became much less likely. These men and others are officially credited as the founding fathers of the European Union.
In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and established a customs union. They also signed another pact creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958.
The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC, although they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly. The EEC was headed by Walter Hallstein (Hallstein Commission) and Euratom was headed by Louis Armand (Armand Commission) and then Étienne Hirsch. Euratom was to integrate sectors in nuclear energy while the EEC would develop a customs union among members.
During the 1960s, tensions began to show, with France seeking to limit supranational power. Nevertheless, in 1965 an agreement was reached and on 1 July 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities. Jean Rey presided over the first merged Commission (Rey Commission).
In 1973, the Communities were enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Communities in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held.
Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986. In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states. In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC and the Single European Act was signed.
In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Communities as part of a reunified Germany. A close fiscal integration with the introduction of the euro was not matched by institutional oversight making things more troubling. Attempts to solve the problems and to make the EU more efficient and coherent had limited success.
The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty—whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand—came into force on 1 November 1993. The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred as such before the treaty. With further enlargement planned to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. The expansion of the EU introduced a new level of complexity and discord. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.
In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the eurozone has increased to encompass 19 countries. The euro currency became the second largest reserve currency in the world. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the Union.
In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. The same year, Slovenia adopted the euro, followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, by Slovakia in 2009, by Estonia in 2011, by Latvia in 2014, and by Lithuania in 2015.
On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and reformed many aspects of the EU. In particular, it changed the legal structure of the European Union, merging the EU three pillars system into a single legal entity provisioned with a legal personality, created a permanent President of the European Council, the first of which was Herman Van Rompuy, and strengthened the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe." In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member.
From the beginning of the 2010s, the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues, including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from the Middle East, and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU. A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held in 2016, with 51.9% of participants voting to leave. The UK formally notified the European Council of its decision to leave on 29 March 2017, initiating the formal withdrawal procedure for leaving the EU, committing the UK in principle to leave the EU two years later, on 29 March 2019, unless an extension is sought and granted.
The following timeline illustrates the integration that has led to the formation of the present union, in terms of structural development driven by international treaties:
Maastricht Treaty (TEU)
|Content:||(est. alliance)||(founded WU)||(founded ECSC)||(protocol amending WU to become WEU)||(founded EEC and EURATOM)||(merging the legislative & administrative bodies of the 3 European communities)||(founded TREVI)||(amended: EURATOM, ECSC, EEC)+
|(amended: EURATOM, ECSC, and EEC to transform it into EC)+
|(amended: EURATOM, ECSC, EC to also contain Schengen, and TEU where PJCC replaced JHA)||(amended with focus on institutional changes: EURATOM, ECSC, EC and TEU)||(abolished the 3 pillars and WEU by amending: EURATOM, EC=>TFEU, and TEU)
(founded EU as an overall legal unit with Charter of Fundamental Rights, and reformed governance structures & decision procedures)
|Three pillars of the European Union:|
(with a single Commission & Council)
|European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)|
|European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)||Treaty expired in 2002||European Union (EU)|
|European Economic Community (EEC)||European Community (EC)|
|Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism and Violence Internationally (TREVI)||Justice and Home Affairs
|Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)|
|European Political Cooperation (EPC)||Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)|
|Franco-British alliance||Western Union (WU)||Western European Union (WEU)|
|Treaty terminated in 2011|
As of 1 January 2016, the population of the European Union was about 510.1 million people (6.9% of the world population). In 2015, 5.1 million children were born in the EU-28, corresponding to a birth rate of 10 per 1,000, which is 8 births below the world average. For comparison, the EU-28 birth rate had stood at 10.6 in 2000, 12.8 in 1985 and 16.3 in 1970. Its population growth rate was positive at an estimated 0.23% in 2016.
In 2010, 47.3 million people who lived in the EU were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million).
The EU contains about 40 urban areas with populations of over one million, including the two megacities (cities with a population of over 10 million) of London and Paris. Also, there are several other metropolises with a population of over 5 million like Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and includes polycentric urbanised regions like Rhine-Ruhr (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt Rhine-Main, the Flemish Diamond (Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven, Ghent et al.) and Upper Silesian area (Katowice, Ostrava et al.).
The European Union has 24 official languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Irish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish. Important documents, such as legislation, are translated into every official language and the European Parliament provides translation for documents and plenary sessions.
Due to the high number of official idioms, most of the institutions use only a handful of working languages. The European Commission conducts its internal business in three procedural languages : English, French, and German. Similarly, the European Court of Justice uses French as the working language, while the European Central Bank conducts its business primarily in English.
Even though language policy is the responsibility of member states, EU institutions promote multilingualism among its citizens.[g] English is the most widely spoken language in the EU, being understood by 51% of the EU population when counting both native and non-native speakers. German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (spoken by 16% of the EU population.) More than a half (56%) of EU citizens is able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.
Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, represented by the Balto-Slavic,[h] the Italic,[i] the Germanic,[j] the Hellenic,[k] and the Celtic[l] branches. Some EU languages however, namely Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian (all three Uralic), Basque (Vasconic[m]) and Maltese (Semitic) do not belong to Indo-European languages. The three official alphabets of the European Union (Cyrillic, Latin, and modern Greek), all derive from the Archaic Greek scripts.
Besides the 24 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people. Catalan, Galician, Basque, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh are not recognised official languages of the European Union but have semi-official status: official translations of the treaties are made into them and citizens have the right to correspond with the institutions in these languages. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ratified by most EU states provides general guidelines that states can follow to protect their linguistic heritage. The European Day of Languages is held annually on 26 September and is aimed at encouraging language learning across Europe.
|Affiliation||% of EU population|
The EU has no formal connection to any religion. The Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises the "status under national law of churches and religious associations" as well as that of "philosophical and non-confessional organisations".
The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe". Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or God, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped.
Christians in the European Union are divided among members of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern Rite), numerous Protestant denominations (Anglicans, Lutherans, and Reformed forming the bulk of this category), and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million, and an estimated Jewish population of over a million. The other world religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism are also represented in the EU population.
According to new polls about religiosity in the European Union in 2015 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union, accounting for 71.6% of the EU population. Catholics are the largest Christian group, accounting for 45.3% of the EU population, while Protestants make up 11.1%, Eastern Orthodox make up 9.6%, and other Christians make up 5.6%.
Eurostat's Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52% of EU citizens believed in a God, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18% had no form of belief. Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16%) and the Czech Republic (19%). The most religious countries were Malta (95%, predominantly Roman Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90% of citizens professing a belief in God. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, older people, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 or 16, and those "positioning themselves on the right of the political scale".
Through successive enlargements, the European Union has grown from the six founding states (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) to the current 28. Countries accede to the union by becoming party to the founding treaties, thereby subjecting themselves to the privileges and obligations of EU membership. This entails a partial delegation of sovereignty to the institutions in return for representation within those institutions, a practice often referred to as "pooling of sovereignty".
To become a member, a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 meeting of the European Council in Copenhagen. These require a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law; a functioning market economy; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership, including EU law. Evaluation of a country's fulfilment of the criteria is the responsibility of the European Council. No member state has yet left the Union, although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides the basis for a member to leave the Union. Since mid-2017, the United Kingdom has been negotiating terms for its withdrawal from the EU.
There are six countries that are recognised as candidates for membership: Albania, Iceland, North Macedonia,[n] Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey, though Iceland suspended negotiations in 2013. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates, with Bosnia and Herzegovina having submitted a membership application.
The four countries forming the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are not EU members, but have partly committed to the EU's economy and regulations: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are a part of the single market through the European Economic Area, and Switzerland, which has similar ties through bilateral treaties. The relationships of the European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City include the use of the euro and other areas of co-operation. The following 28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the European Union:
|Area (km2)||Pop. density
|Austria||Vienna||AT||1 January 1995||8,772,865||83,855||104.62||18|
|Bulgaria||Sofia||BG||1 January 2007||7,101,859||110,994||63.98||17|
|Croatia||Zagreb||HR||1 July 2013||4,154,213||56,594||73.4||11|
|Cyprus||Nicosia||CY||1 May 2004||854,802||9,251||92.4||6|
|Czech Republic||Prague||CZ||1 May 2004||10,578,820||78,866||134.14||21|
|Denmark||Copenhagen||DK||1 January 1973||5,748,769||43,075||133.46||13|
|Estonia||Tallinn||EE||1 May 2004||1,315,635||45,227||29.09||6|
|Finland||Helsinki||FI||1 January 1995||5,503,297||338,424||16.26||13|
|Greece||Athens||GR||1 January 1981||10,768,193||131,990||81.58||21|
|Hungary||Budapest||HU||1 May 2004||9,797,561||93,030||105.32||21|
|Ireland||Dublin||IE||1 January 1973||4,784,383||70,273||68.08||11|
|Latvia||Riga||LV||1 May 2004||1,950,116||64,589||30.19||8|
|Lithuania||Vilnius||LT||1 May 2004||2,847,904||65,200||43.68||11|
|Malta||Valletta||MT||1 May 2004||460,297||316||1,456.64||6|
|Poland||Warsaw||PL||1 May 2004||37,972,964||312,685||121.44||51|
|Portugal||Lisbon||PT||1 January 1986||10,309,573||92,390||111.59||21|
|Romania||Bucharest||RO||1 January 2007||19,644,350||238,391||82.4||32|
|Slovakia||Bratislava||SK||1 May 2004||5,435,343||49,035||110.85||13|
|Slovenia||Ljubljana||SI||1 May 2004||2,065,895||20,273||101.9||8|
|Spain||Madrid||ES||1 January 1986||46,528,024||504,030||92.31||54|
|Sweden||Stockholm||SE||1 January 1995||9,995,153||449,964||22.21||20|
|United Kingdom||London||GB||1 January 1973||65,808,573||243,610||270.14||73|
The EU's member states cover an area of 4,423,147 square kilometres (1,707,787 sq mi).[p] The EU's highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level. The lowest points in the EU are Lammefjorden, Denmark and Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands, at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level. The landscape, climate, and economy of the EU are influenced by its coastline, which is 65,993 kilometres (41,006 mi) long.
Including the overseas territories of France which are located outside the continent of Europe, but which are members of the union, the EU experiences most types of climate from Arctic (north-east Europe) to tropical (French Guiana), rendering meteorological averages for the EU as a whole meaningless. The majority of the population lives in areas with a temperate maritime climate (North-Western Europe and Central Europe), a Mediterranean climate (Southern Europe), or a warm summer continental or hemiboreal climate (Northern Balkans and Central Europe).
The EU's population is highly urbanised, with some 75% of inhabitants living in urban areas as of 2006. Cities are largely spread out across the EU, although with a large grouping in and around the Benelux.
The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making, and according to the principles of conferral (which says that it should act only within the limits of the competences conferred on it by the treaties) and of subsidiarity (which says that it should act only where an objective cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states acting alone). Laws made by the EU institutions are passed in a variety of forms. Generally speaking, they can be classified into two groups: those which come into force without the necessity for national implementation measures (regulations) and those which specifically require national implementation measures (directives).
Constitutionally, the EU bears some resemblance to both a confederation and a federation, but has not formally defined itself as either. (It does not have a formal constitution: its status is defined by the Treaty of European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). It is more integrated than a traditional confederation of states because the general level of government widely employs qualified majority voting in some decision-making among the member states, rather than relying exclusively on unanimity. It is less integrated than a federal state because it is not a state in its own right: sovereignty continues to flow 'from the bottom up', from the several peoples of the separate member states, rather than from a single undifferentiated whole. This is reflected in the fact that the member states remain the 'masters of the Treaties', retaining control over the allocation of competences to the Union through constitutional change (thus retaining so-called Kompetenz-kompetenz); in that they retain control of the use of armed force; they retain control of taxation; and in that they retain a right of unilateral withdrawal from the Union under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. In addition, the principle of subsidiarity requires that only those matters that need to be determined collectively are so determined.
The European Union has seven principal decision-making bodies, its institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Auditors. Competence in scrutinising and amending legislation is shared between the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, while executive tasks are performed by the European Commission and in a limited capacity by the European Council (not to be confused with the aforementioned Council of the European Union). The monetary policy of the eurozone is determined by the European Central Bank. The interpretation and the application of EU law and the treaties are ensured by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The EU budget is scrutinised by the European Court of Auditors. There are also a number of ancillary bodies which advise the EU or operate in a specific area.
EU policy is in general promulgated by EU directives, which are then implemented in the domestic legislation of its member states, and EU regulations, which are immediately enforceable in all member states. Lobbying at EU level by special interest groups is regulated to try to balance the aspirations of private initiatives with public interest decision-making process
The European Parliament forms the other half of the EU's legislature. The 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years on the basis of proportional representation. Although MEPs are elected on a national basis, they sit according to political groups rather than their nationality. Each country has a set number of seats and is divided into sub-national constituencies where this does not affect the proportional nature of the voting system.
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union pass legislation jointly in nearly all areas under the ordinary legislative procedure. This also applies to the EU budget. The European Commission is accountable to Parliament, requiring its approval to take office, having to report back to it and subject to motions of censure from it. The President of the European Parliament (currently Antonio Tajani) carries out the role of speaker in Parliament and represents it externally. The President and Vice-Presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years.
The European Council gives political direction to the EU. It convenes at least four times a year and comprises the President of the European Council (currently Donald Tusk), the President of the European Commission and one representative per member state (either its head of state or head of government). The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently Federica Mogherini) also takes part in its meetings. It has been described by some as the Union's "supreme political authority". It is actively involved in the negotiation of treaty changes and defines the EU's policy agenda and strategies.
The European Council uses its leadership role to sort out disputes between member states and the institutions, and to resolve political crises and disagreements over controversial issues and policies. It acts externally as a "collective head of state" and ratifies important documents (for example, international agreements and treaties).
Tasks for the President of the European Council are ensuring the external representation of the EU, driving consensus and resolving divergences among member states, both during meetings of the European Council and over the periods between them.
The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent of the EU based in Strasbourg.
The Council of the European Union (also called the "Council" and the "Council of Ministers", its former title) forms one half of the EU's legislature. It consists of a government minister from each member state and meets in different compositions depending on the policy area being addressed. Notwithstanding its different configurations, it is considered to be one single body. In addition to its legislative functions, the Council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The European Commission acts as the EU's executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. The Commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It operates as a cabinet government, with 28 Commissioners for different areas of policy, one from each member state, though Commissioners are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state.
One of the 28 is the President of the European Commission (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) appointed by the European Council. After the President, the most prominent Commissioner is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who is ex-officio a Vice-President of the Commission and is also chosen by the European Council. The other 26 Commissioners are subsequently appointed by the Council of the European Union in agreement with the nominated President. The 28 Commissioners as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.
The EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013, representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03% of GDP.
In the 2010 budget of €141.5 billion, the largest single expenditure item is "cohesion & competitiveness" with around 45% of the total budget. Next comes "agriculture" with approximately 31% of the total. "Rural development, environment and fisheries" takes up around 11%. "Administration" accounts for around 6%. The "EU as a global partner" and "citizenship, freedom, security and justice" bring up the rear with approximately 6% and 1% respectively.
The Court of Auditors is legally obliged to provide the Parliament and the Council with "a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions". The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions. The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission's handling of the budget.
The European Court of Auditors has signed off the European Union accounts every year since 2007 and, while making it clear that the European Commission has more work to do, has highlighted that most of the errors take place at national level. In their report on 2009 the auditors found that five areas of Union expenditure, agriculture and the cohesion fund, were materially affected by error. The European Commission estimated in 2009 that the financial effect of irregularities was €1,863 million.
EU member states retain all powers not explicitly handed to the European Union. In some areas the EU enjoys exclusive competence. These are areas in which member states have renounced any capacity to enact legislation. In other areas the EU and its member states share the competence to legislate. While both can legislate, member states can only legislate to the extent to which the EU has not. In other policy areas the EU can only co-ordinate, support and supplement member state action but cannot enact legislation with the aim of harmonising national laws.
That a particular policy area falls into a certain category of competence is not necessarily indicative of what legislative procedure is used for enacting legislation within that policy area. Different legislative procedures are used within the same category of competence, and even with the same policy area.
The distribution of competences in various policy areas between Member States and the Union is divided in the following three categories:
|As outlined in Title I of Part I of the consolidated Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union|
The EU is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties. These are power-giving treaties which set broad policy goals and establish institutions with the necessary legal powers to implement those goals. These legal powers include the ability to enact legislation[q] which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants.[r] The EU has legal personality, with the right to sign agreements and international treaties.
Under the principle of supremacy, national courts are required to enforce the treaties that their member states have ratified, and thus the laws enacted under them, even if doing so requires them to ignore conflicting national law, and (within limits) even constitutional provisions.[s]
The judicial branch of the EU—formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union—consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court The Court of Justice primarily deals with cases taken by member states, the institutions, and cases referred to it by the courts of member states. The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts, and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service. Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law.
The treaties declare that the EU itself is "founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities ... in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."
In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty gave legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The charter is a codified catalogue of fundamental rights against which the EU's legal acts can be judged. It consolidates many rights which were previously recognised by the Court of Justice and derived from the "constitutional traditions common to the member states." The Court of Justice has long recognised fundamental rights and has, on occasion, invalidated EU legislation based on its failure to adhere to those fundamental rights.
Although signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership,[t] previously, the EU itself could not accede to the Convention as it is neither a state[u] nor had the competence to accede.[v] The Lisbon Treaty and Protocol 14 to the ECHR have changed this: the former binds the EU to accede to the Convention while the latter formally permits it.
Although, the EU is independent from Council of Europe, they share purpose and ideas especially on rule of law, human rights and democracy. Further European Convention on Human Rights and European Social Charter, the source of law of Charter of Fundamental Rights are created by Council of Europe. The EU also promoted human rights issues in the wider world. The EU opposes the death penalty and has proposed its worldwide abolition. Abolition of the death penalty is a condition for EU membership.
The main legal acts of the EU come in three forms: regulations, directives, and decisions. Regulations become law in all member states the moment they come into force, without the requirement for any implementing measures,[w] and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions.[q] Directives require member states to achieve a certain result while leaving them discretion as to how to achieve the result. The details of how they are to be implemented are left to member states.[x] When the time limit for implementing directives passes, they may, under certain conditions, have direct effect in national law against member states.
Decisions offer an alternative to the two above modes of legislation. They are legal acts which only apply to specified individuals, companies or a particular member state. They are most often used in competition law, or on rulings on State Aid, but are also frequently used for procedural or administrative matters within the institutions. Regulations, directives, and decisions are of equal legal value and apply without any formal hierarchy.
Since the creation of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of justice and home affairs; initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism. Accordingly, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition, family law, asylum law, and criminal justice. Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties.[y] In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation.[z] By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.[aa]
The Union has also established agencies to co-ordinate police, prosecutorial and immigrations controls across the member states: Europol for co-operation of police forces, Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. The EU also operates the Schengen Information System which provides a common database for police and immigration authorities. This co-operation had to particularly be developed with the advent of open borders through the Schengen Agreement and the associated cross border crime.
Foreign policy co-operation between member states dates from the establishment of the Community in 1957, when member states negotiated as a bloc in international trade negotiations under the EU's common commercial policy. Steps for a more wide-ranging co-ordination in foreign relations began in 1970 with the establishment of European Political Cooperation which created an informal consultation process between member states with the aim of forming common foreign policies. It was not, however, until 1987 when European Political Cooperation was introduced on a formal basis by the Single European Act. EPC was renamed as the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) by the Maastricht Treaty.
The aims of the CFSP are to promote both the EU's own interests and those of the international community as a whole, including the furtherance of international co-operation, respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The CFSP requires unanimity among the member states on the appropriate policy to follow on any particular issue. The unanimity and difficult issues treated under the CFSP sometimes lead to disagreements, such as those which occurred over the war in Iraq.
The coordinator and representative of the CFSP within the EU is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who speaks on behalf of the EU in foreign policy and defence matters, and has the task of articulating the positions expressed by the member states on these fields of policy into a common alignment. The High Representative heads up the European External Action Service (EEAS), a unique EU department that has been officially implemented and operational since 1 December 2010 on the occasion of the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union.
Besides the emerging international policy of the European Union, the international influence of the EU is also felt through enlargement. The perceived benefits of becoming a member of the EU act as an incentive for both political and economic reform in states wishing to fulfil the EU's accession criteria, and are considered an important factor contributing to the reform of European formerly Communist countries.:762 This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".
The predecessors of the European Union were not devised as a military alliance because NATO was largely seen as appropriate and sufficient for defence purposes. 22 EU members are members of NATO while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality. The Western European Union, a military alliance with a mutual defence clause, was disbanded in 2010 as its role had been transferred to the EU.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United Kingdom spent $61 billion on defence in 2014, placing it fifth in the world, while France spent $53 billion, the sixth largest. Together, the UK and France account for approximately 40 per cent of European countries' defence budget and 50 per cent of their military capacity. Both are officially recognised nuclear weapon states holding permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
Following the Kosovo War in 1999, the European Council agreed that "the Union must have the capacity for autonomous action, backed by credible military forces, the means to decide to use them, and the readiness to do so, in order to respond to international crises without prejudice to actions by NATO". To that end, a number of efforts were made to increase the EU's military capability, notably the Helsinki Headline Goal process. After much discussion, the most concrete result was the EU Battlegroups initiative, each of which is planned to be able to deploy quickly about 1500 personnel.
EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from middle and northern Africa to the western Balkans and western Asia. EU military operations are supported by a number of bodies, including the European Defence Agency, European Union Satellite Centre and the European Union Military Staff. Frontex is an agency of the EU established to manage the cooperation between national border guards securing its external borders. It aims to detect and stop illegal immigration, human trafficking and terrorist infiltration. In 2015 the European Commission presented its proposal for a new European Border and Coast Guard Agency having a stronger role and mandate along with national authorities for border management. In an EU consisting of 28 members, substantial security and defence co-operation is increasingly relying on collaboration among all member states.
The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, or "ECHO", provides humanitarian aid from the EU to developing countries. In 2012, its budget amounted to €874 million, 51% of the budget went to Africa and 20% to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific, and 20% to the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Humanitarian aid is financed directly by the budget (70%) as part of the financial instruments for external action and also by the European Development Fund (30%). The EU's external action financing is divided into 'geographic' instruments and 'thematic' instruments. The 'geographic' instruments provide aid through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI, €16.9 billion, 2007–2013), which must spend 95% of its budget on official development assistance (ODA), and from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which contains some relevant programmes. The European Development Fund (EDF, €22.7 billion for the period 2008–2013 and €30.5 billion for the period 2014-2020) is made up of voluntary contributions by member states, but there is pressure to merge the EDF into the budget-financed instruments to encourage increased contributions to match the 0.7% target and allow the European Parliament greater oversight.
In 2016, the average among EU countries was 0.4% and five had met or exceeded the 0.7% target: Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Because of its ability to shape rules and norms on a global level as well as its attempts to influence neighbouring countries, the EU has been called an emerging or potential superpower by scholars and academics like T. R. Reid, Andrew Reding, Andrew Moravcsik, Mark Leonard, Jeremy Rifkin, John McCormick, and some politicians like Romano Prodi and Tony Blair, They believe that the EU is a superpower, or will become one, in the 21st century – while noting that, for them, the concept of "superpower" has changed to one of soft power rather than the hard (military) superpowers of the 20th century.
The EU uses foreign relations instruments like the European Neighbourhood Policy which seeks to tie those countries to the east and south of the European territory of the EU to the Union. These countries, primarily developing countries, include some who seek to one day become either a member state of the European Union, or more closely integrated with the European Union. The EU offers financial assistance to countries within the European Neighbourhood, so long as they meet the strict conditions of government reform, economic reform and other issues surrounding positive transformation. This process is normally underpinned by an Action Plan, as agreed by both Brussels and the target country.
Critics of the concept of the EU as an emerging superpower point to the lack of either a strong European military or of unified EU foreign policy.
The European Union has established a single market across the territory of all its members representing 512 million citizens. In 2017, the EU had a combined GDP of $21 trillion international dollars, a 17% share of global gross domestic product by purchasing power parity (PPP). As a political entity the European Union is represented in the World Trade Organization (WTO). EU member states own the estimated second largest after the United States(US$98.2 trillion) net wealth in the world, equal to 25% (US$78 trillion) of the $317 trillion(~€280 trillion) global wealth.
19 member states have joined a monetary union known as the eurozone, which uses the Euro as a single currency. The currency union represents 342 million EU citizens. The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar.
Of the top 500 largest corporations in the world measured by revenue in 2010, 161 have their headquarters in the EU. In 2016, unemployment in the EU stood at 8.9% while inflation was at 2.2%, and the current account balance at −0.9% of GDP. The average annual net earnings in the European Union was around €24,000(US$30,000) in 2015, which was about 70% of that in the United States.
There is a significant variation in Nominal GDP per capita within individual EU states. The difference between the richest and poorest regions (281 NUTS-2 regions of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) ranged, in 2017, from 15% (Severozapaden, Bulgaria) of the EU28 average (€30,000) to 700% (Inner London – West, UK), or from €4,600 to €209,900.
Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds are supporting the development of underdeveloped regions of the EU. Such regions are primarily located in the states of central and southern Europe. Several funds provide emergency aid, support for candidate members to transform their country to conform to the EU's standard (Phare, ISPA, and SAPARD), and support to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme. EU research and technological framework programmes sponsor research conducted by consortia from all EU members to work towards a single European Research Area.
Clockwise from top left: A standardised passport design, displaying the name of the member state, the national arms and the words "European Union" given in their official language(s). (Irish model), Croatian version of an EU driving licence card with the EU flag on it, The common EU format of vehicle registration plate (Slovak version pictured)
Two of the original core objectives of the European Economic Community were the development of a common market, subsequently becoming a single market, and a customs union between its member states. The single market involves the free circulation of goods, capital, people, and services within the EU, and the customs union involves the application of a common external tariff on all goods entering the market. Once goods have been admitted into the market they cannot be subjected to customs duties, discriminatory taxes or import quotas, as they travel internally. The non-EU member states of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland participate in the single market but not in the customs union. Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU.
Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries. Until the drive towards economic and monetary union the development of the capital provisions had been slow. Post-Maastricht there has been a rapidly developing corpus of ECJ judgements regarding this initially neglected freedom. The free movement of capital is unique insofar as it is granted equally to non-member states.
The free movement of persons means that EU citizens can move freely between member states to live, work, study or retire in another country. This required the lowering of administrative formalities and recognition of professional qualifications of other states.
The free movement of services and of establishment allows self-employed persons to move between member states to provide services on a temporary or permanent basis. While services account for 60–70% of GDP, legislation in the area is not as developed as in other areas. This lacuna has been addressed by the recently passed Directive on services in the internal market which aims to liberalise the cross border provision of services. According to the Treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.
The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the European Economic Community in 1969. In 1992, having negotiated the structure and procedures of a currency union, the member states signed the Maastricht Treaty and were legally bound to fulfil the agreed-on rules including the convergence criteria if they wanted to join the monetary union. The states wanting to participate had first to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.
In 1999 the currency union started, first as an accounting currency with eleven member states joining. In 2002, the currency was fully put into place, when euro notes and coins were issued and national currencies began to phase out in the eurozone, which by then consisted of 12 member states. The eurozone (constituted by the EU member states which have adopted the euro) has since grown to 19 countries.[ab]
The euro, and the monetary policies of those who have adopted it in agreement with the EU, are under the control of the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB is the central bank for the eurozone, and thus controls monetary policy in that area with an agenda to maintain price stability. It is at the centre of the European System of Central Banks, which comprehends all EU national central banks and is controlled by its General Council, consisting of the President of the ECB, who is appointed by the European Council, the Vice-President of the ECB, and the governors of the national central banks of all 28 EU member states.
The European System of Financial Supervision is an institutional architecture of the EU's framework of financial supervision composed by three authorities: the European Banking Authority, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority and the European Securities and Markets Authority. To complement this framework, there is also a European Systemic Risk Board under the responsibility of the ECB. The aim of this financial control system is to ensure the economic stability of the EU.
To prevent the joining states from getting into financial trouble or crisis after entering the monetary union, they were obliged in the Maastricht treaty to fulfil important financial obligations and procedures, especially to show budgetary discipline and a high degree of sustainable economic convergence, as well as to avoid excessive government deficits and limit the government debt to a sustainable level.
In 2006, the EU-27 had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe). Around 46% of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54% was imported. In these statistics, nuclear energy is treated as primary energy produced in the EU, regardless of the source of the uranium, of which less than 3% is produced in the EU.
The EU has had legislative power in the area of energy policy for most of its existence; this has its roots in the original European Coal and Steel Community. The introduction of a mandatory and comprehensive European energy policy was approved at the meeting of the European Council in October 2005, and the first draft policy was published in January 2007.
The EU has five key points in its energy policy: increase competition in the internal market, encourage investment and boost interconnections between electricity grids; diversify energy resources with better systems to respond to a crisis; establish a new treaty framework for energy co-operation with Russia while improving relations with energy-rich states in Central Asia and North Africa; use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing renewable energy commercialisation; and finally increase funding for new energy technologies.
In 2007, EU countries as a whole imported 82% of their oil, 57% of their natural gas and 97.48% of their uranium demands. There is a strong dependence on Russian energy that the EU has been attempting to reduce.
The EU is working to improve cross-border infrastructure within the EU, for example through the Trans-European Networks (TEN). Projects under TEN include the Channel Tunnel, LGV Est, the Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Öresund Bridge, the Brenner Base Tunnel and the Strait of Messina Bridge. In 2010 the estimated network covers: 75,200 kilometres (46,700 mi) of roads; 78,000 kilometres (48,000 mi) of railways; 330 airports; 270 maritime harbours; and 210 internal harbours.
Rail transport in Europe is being synchronised with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), an initiative to greatly enhance safety, increase efficiency of trains and enhance cross-border interoperability of rail transport in Europe by replacing signalling equipment with digitised mostly wireless versions and by creating a single Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems.
The developing European transport policies will increase the pressure on the environment in many regions by the increased transport network. In the pre-2004 EU members, the major problem in transport deals with congestion and pollution. After the recent enlargement, the new states that joined since 2004 added the problem of solving accessibility to the transport agenda. The Polish road network was upgraded such as the A4 autostrada.
The Galileo positioning system is another EU infrastructure project. Galileo is a proposed Satellite navigation system, to be built by the EU and launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Galileo project was launched partly to reduce the EU's dependency on the US-operated Global Positioning System, but also to give more complete global coverage and allow for greater accuracy, given the aged nature of the GPS system.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the long lasting policies of the European Community. The policy has the objectives of increasing agricultural production, providing certainty in food supplies, ensuring a high quality of life for farmers, stabilising markets, and ensuring reasonable prices for consumers.[ad] It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s, the policy accounted for over 60% of the then European Community's annual budget, and as of 2013 accounts for around 34%.
The policy's price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction. These were intervention stores of products bought up by the Community to maintain minimum price levels. To dispose of surplus stores, they were often sold on the world market at prices considerably below Community guaranteed prices, or farmers were offered subsidies (amounting to the difference between the Community and world prices) to export their products outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers outside Europe, especially those in the developing world. Supporters of CAP argue that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the CAP has been subject to a series of reforms. Initially, these reforms included the introduction of set-aside in 1988, where a proportion of farm land was deliberately withdrawn from production, milk quotas and, more recently, the 'de-coupling' (or disassociation) of the money farmers receive from the EU and the amount they produce (by the Fischler reforms in 2004). Agriculture expenditure will move away from subsidy payments linked to specific produce, toward direct payments based on farm size. This is intended to allow the market to dictate production levels. One of these reforms entailed the modification of the EU's sugar regime, which previously divided the sugar market between member states and certain African-Caribbean nations with a privileged relationship with the EU.
The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market.[ae] The Commission as the competition regulator for the single market is responsible for antitrust issues, approving mergers, breaking up cartels, working for economic liberalisation and preventing state aid.
The Competition Commissioner, currently Margrethe Vestager, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations. For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (GE and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority. Another high-profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action.
The EU has long sought to mitigate the effects of free markets by protecting workers rights and preventing social and environmental dumping. To this end it has adopted laws establishing minimum employment and environmental standards. These included the Working Time Directive and the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. The EU has also sought to coordinate the social security and health systems of member states to facilitate individuals exercising free movement rights and to ensure they maintain their ability to access social security and health services in other member states.
In 1957, when the EEC was founded, it had no environmental policy. Over the past 50 years, an increasingly dense network of legislation has been created, extending to all areas of environmental protection, including air pollution, water quality, waste management, nature conservation, and the control of chemicals, industrial hazards, and biotechnology. According to the Institute for European Environmental Policy, environmental law comprises over 500 Directives, Regulations and Decisions, making environmental policy a core area of European politics.
European policy-makers originally increased the EU's capacity to act on environmental issues by defining it as a trade problem. Trade barriers and competitive distortions in the Common Market could emerge due to the different environmental standards in each member state. In subsequent years, the environment became a formal policy area, with its own policy actors, principles and procedures. The legal basis for EU environmental policy was established with the introduction of the Single European Act in 1987.
Initially, EU environmental policy focused on Europe. More recently, the EU has demonstrated leadership in global environmental governance, e.g. the role of the EU in securing the ratification and coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol despite opposition from the United States. This international dimension is reflected in the EU's Sixth Environmental Action Programme, which recognises that its objectives can only be achieved if key international agreements are actively supported and properly implemented both at EU level and worldwide. The Lisbon Treaty further strengthened the leadership ambitions. EU law has played a significant role in improving habitat and species protection in Europe, as well as contributing to improvements in air and water quality and waste management.
Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in the future, 20% of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels. The EU has adopted an emissions trading system to incorporate carbon emissions into the economy. The European Green Capital is an annual award given to cities that focuses on the environment, energy efficiency, and quality of life in urban areas to create smart city.
Basic education is an area where the EU's role is limited to supporting national governments. In higher education, the policy was developed in the 1980s in programmes supporting exchanges and mobility. The most visible of these has been the Erasmus Programme, a university exchange programme which began in 1987. In its first 20 years, it supported international exchange opportunities for well over 1.5 million university and college students and became a symbol of European student life.
There are similar programmes for school pupils and teachers, for trainees in vocational education and training, and for adult learners in the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013. These programmes are designed to encourage a wider knowledge of other countries and to spread good practices in the education and training fields across the EU. Through its support of the Bologna Process, the EU is supporting comparable standards and compatible degrees across Europe.
Scientific development is facilitated through the EU's Framework Programmes, the first of which started in 1984. The aims of EU policy in this area are to co-ordinate and stimulate research. The independent European Research Council allocates EU funds to European or national research projects. EU research and technological framework programmes deal in a number of areas, for example energy where the aim is to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy to help the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels.
Although the EU has no major competences in the field of health care, Article 35 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union affirms that "A high level of human health protection shall be ensured in the definition and implementation of all Union policies and activities". The European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumers seeks to align national laws on the protection of people's health, on the consumers' rights, on the safety of food and other products.
All EU and many other European countries offer their citizens a free European Health Insurance Card which, on a reciprocal basis, provides insurance for emergency medical treatment insurance when visiting other participating European countries. A directive on cross-border healthcare aims at promoting co-operation on health care between member states and facilitating access to safe and high-quality cross-border healthcare for European patients.
Cultural co-operation between member states has been a concern of the EU since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty. Actions taken in the cultural area by the EU include the Culture 2000 seven-year programme, the European Cultural Month event, and orchestras such as the European Union Youth Orchestra. The European Capital of Culture programme selects one or more cities in every year to assist the cultural development of that city.
Association football is by far the most popular sport in the European Union by the number of registered players. The other sports with the most participants in clubs are tennis, swimming, athletics, golf, gymnastics, equestrian sports, handball, volleyball and sailing.
Sport is mainly the responsibility of the member states or other international organisations, rather than of the EU. However, there are some EU policies that have affected sport, such as the free movement of workers, which was at the core of the Bosman ruling that prohibited national football leagues from imposing quotas on foreign players with European citizenship.
The Treaty of Lisbon requires any application of economic rules to take into account the specific nature of sport and its structures based on voluntary activity. This followed lobbying by governing organisations such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, due to objections over the application of free market principles to sport, which led to an increasing gap between rich and poor clubs. The EU does fund a programme for Israeli, Jordanian, Irish, and British football coaches, as part of the Football 4 Peace project.
The flag used is the Flag of Europe, which consists of a circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background. The blue represents the West, while the number and position of the stars represent completeness and unity, respectively. Originally designed in 1955 for the Council of Europe, the flag was adopted by the European Communities, the predecessors of the present Union, in 1986.
United in Diversity was adopted as the motto of the Union in the year 2000, having been selected from proposals submitted by school pupils. Since 1985, the flag day of the Union has been Europe Day, on 9 May (the date of the 1950 Schuman declaration). The anthem of the Union is an instrumental version of the prelude to the Ode to Joy, the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's ninth symphony. The anthem was adopted by European Community leaders in 1985 and has since been played on official occasions.
Besides naming the continent, the Greek mythological figure of Europa has frequently been employed as a personification of Europe. Known from the myth in which Zeus seduces her in the guise of a white bull, Europa has also been referred to in relation to the present Union. Statues of Europa and the bull decorate several of the Union's institutions and a portrait of her is seen on the 2013 series of Euro banknotes. The bull is, for its part, depicted on all residence permit cards.
Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne (Latin: Carolus Magnus) and later recognised as Pater Europae ("Father of Europe"), has a symbolic relevance to Europe. The Commission has named one of its central buildings in Brussels after Charlemagne and the city of Aachen has since 1949 awarded the Charlemagne Prize to champions of European unification. Since 2008, the organisers of this prize, in conjunction with the European Parliament, have awarded the Charlemagne Youth Prize in recognition of similar efforts by young people.
Media freedom is a fundamental right that applies to all member states of the European Union and its citizens, as defined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.:1 Within the EU enlargement process, guaranteeing media freedom is named a "key indicator of a country's readiness to become part of the EU".
The vast majority of media in the European Union are national-oriented. However, some EU-wide media focusing on European affairs have emerged since the early 1990s, such as Euronews, EUobserver, EURACTIV or Politico Europe. ARTE is a public Franco-German TV network that promotes programming in the areas of culture and the arts. 80% of its programming are provided in equal proportion by the two member companies, while the remainder is being provided by the European Economic Interest Grouping ARTE GEIE and the channel's European partners.
The MEDIA Programme of the European Union intends to support the European popular film and audiovisual industries since 1991. It provides support for the development, promotion and distribution of European works within Europe and beyond.
Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is considered to be the de facto capital of the EU
English is the most commonly known language in the EU with over a half of the respondents (51%) speaking it either as their mother tongue or as a foreign language.
56% of citizens in the EU Member States are able to hold a conversation in one language apart from their mother tongue.
international organisation comprising 28 European countries and governing common economic, social, and security policies ...
It is commonly called the Council of Ministers.
In the EU27, gross inland energy consumption was 1 825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2006, stable compared with 2005, while energy production decreased by 2.3% to 871 mn toe ...
Gross inland consumption is defined as primary production plus imports, recovered products and stock change, less exports and fuel supply to maritime bunkers (for seagoing ships of all flags) ...
A tonne of oil equivalent (toe) is a standardised unit defined on the basis of one tonne of oil having a net calorific value of 41.868 Gigajoules.
European uranium mining supplied just below 3% of the total EU needs, coming from the Czech Republic and Romania (a total of 526 tU).
the common agricultural policy is the most integrated of all EU policies and consequently takes a large share of the EU budget. Nevertheless, its portion of the EU budget has dropped from a peak of nearly 70% in the 1970s to 34% over the 2007–2013 period.
The EU states have never felt the need to make the organisation into a powerful military alliance. They already have NATO to undertake that task.
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
| Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, also known as the EU referendum and the Brexit referendum, took place on 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom (UK) and Gibraltar to ask the electorate if the country should remain a member of, or leave the European Union (EU), under the provisions of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and also the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The referendum resulted in 51.9% of votes being in favour of leaving the EU. Although legally the referendum was non-binding, the government of that time had promised to implement the result, and it initiated the official EU withdrawal process on 29 March 2017, meaning that the UK was due to leave the EU before 11PM on 29 March 2019, UK time, when the two-year period for Brexit negotiations expired.Membership of the EU and its predecessors has long been a topic of debate in the United Kingdom. The country joined what were then the three European Communities, principally the European Economic Community (EEC, or "Common Market"), in 1973. A previous referendum on continued membership of the then European Communities (Common Market) was held in 1975, and it was approved by 67.2% of those who voted.
In May 2015, in accordance with a Conservative Party manifesto commitment following their victory at the 2015 UK general election, the legal basis for a referendum on EU membership was established by the UK Parliament through the European Union Referendum Act 2015. Britain Stronger in Europe was the official group campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU, and was endorsed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. Vote Leave was the official group campaigning for the UK to leave the EU, and was fronted by the Conservative MP Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove and Labour MP Gisela Stuart. Other campaign groups, political parties, businesses, trade unions, newspapers and prominent individuals were also involved, and each side had supporters from across the political spectrum.
Immediately after the result, financial markets reacted negatively worldwide, and Cameron announced that he would resign as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a "Remain" vote. It was the first time that a national referendum result had gone against the preferred option of the UK Government. Cameron was succeeded by Home Secretary Theresa May on 13 July 2016. The opposition Labour Party also faced a leadership challenge as a result of the EU referendum. Several campaign groups and parties (supporting both leave and remain) have been fined by the Electoral Commission for campaign finance irregularities, with the fines imposed on Leave.EU and BeLeave constrained by the cap on the commission's fines. There is also an ongoing investigation into possible Russian interference in the referendum.Brexit
Brexit (; a portmanteau of "British" and "exit") is the potential withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU). Following a referendum held on 23 June 2016 in which 51.9 per cent of those voting supported leaving the EU, the Government invoked of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, starting a two-year process which was due to conclude with the UK's exit on 29 March 2019 – a deadline which was later extended to 31 October 2019.Withdrawal has been advocated by Eurosceptics, both left-wing and right-wing, while pro-Europeanists, who also span the political spectrum, have advocated continued membership and maintaining the customs union and single market. The UK joined the European Communities (EC) in 1973 under the Conservative government of Edward Heath, with continued membership endorsed by a referendum in 1975. In the 1970s and 1980s, withdrawal from the EC was advocated mainly by the political left, with the Labour Party's 1983 election manifesto advocating full withdrawal. From the 1990s, opposition to further European integration came mainly from the right, and divisions within the Conservative Party led to rebellion over the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The growth of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the early 2010s and the influence of the cross-party People's Pledge campaign have been described as influential in bringing about a referendum. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged during the campaign for the 2015 UK General Election to hold a new referendum—a promise which he fulfilled in 2016 following pressure from the Eurosceptic wing of his party. Cameron, who had campaigned to remain, resigned after the result and was succeeded by Theresa May, his former Home Secretary. She called a snap general election less than a year later, but lost her overall majority. Her minority government is supported in key votes by the Democratic Unionist Party.
On 29 March 2017, the Government of the United Kingdom invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. May announced the government's intention not to seek permanent membership of the European single market or the EU customs union after leaving the EU and promised to repeal the European Communities Act of 1972 and incorporate existing European Union law into UK domestic law. Negotiations with the EU officially started in June 2017. In November 2018, the Draft Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration, agreed between the UK Government and the EU, was published. The House of Commons voted against the deal by a margin of 432 to 202 (the largest parliamentary defeat in history for a sitting UK government) on 15 January 2019, and again on 12 March with a margin of 391 to 242 against the deal. On 14 March 2019, the House of Commons voted for the Prime Minister, Theresa May, to ask the EU for such an extension of the period allowed for the negotiation. Members from across the House of Commons rejected the deal with the leadership of the Labour Party stating in public debates in the House of Commons that any deal must maintain a customs union and single market, and with a large percentage of its members rejecting the Irish backstop as it is currently drafted in the EU withdrawal agreement. Opponents of the EU Withdrawl Agreement cited concerns that the agreement as drafted could plunge Northern Ireland into a conflict and spark a return of The Troubles as a result of Brexit.
The broad consensus among economists is that Brexit will likely reduce the UK's real per capita income in the medium term and long term, and that the Brexit referendum itself had damaged the economy. Studies on effects since the referendum show a reduction in GDP, trade and investment, as well as household losses from increased inflation. Brexit is likely to reduce immigration from European Economic Area (EEA) countries to the UK, and poses challenges for UK higher education and academic research. As of March 2019, the size of the "divorce bill"—the UK's inheritance of existing EU trade agreements—and relations with Ireland and other EU member states remains uncertain. The precise impact on the UK depends on whether the process will be a "hard" or "soft" Brexit.Brexit negotiations
Negotiations are taking place between the United Kingdom and the European Union for the planned withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, known as Brexit, following the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum on 23 June 2016.
The negotiating period began on 29 March 2017, when the United Kingdom served the withdrawal notice under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union; under the two-year deadline prescribed by Article 50, the period was originally to end on 29 March 2019.
On 19 June 2017, David Davis, the UK's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, arrived in Brussels to begin talks with Michel Barnier, the Chief Negotiator appointed by the European Commission. Negotiations on the withdrawal agreement (which includes a transitional period and an outline of the objectives for a future relationship between the UK and the EU) were concluded in November 2018, with the European Union indicating that no further negotiation or changes before the UK legally leaves will be possible. If the withdrawal agreement is ratified by the UK and other EU state governments and comes into force, more negotiations might be needed to address Free Trade Agreement treaties between the European Union and its members (including the UK) for one part and third countries for the other part, and the tariff-rate quota, which might be split or renegotiated.In March and April 2019, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May and European Union leaders negotiated a delay, moving the deadline from 29 March to 31 October 2019. On 27 March 2019, Theresa May vowed to resign as Prime Minister if her Brexit agreement passes through Parliament.Citizenship of the European Union
Citizenship of the European Union (EU) is afforded to qualifying citizens of European Union member states. It was given to the citizens of member states by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, at the same time as the European Community was gaining its own legal identity. The treaty established a direct legal relationship between that new legal identity and its citizens by establishing a directly elected European Parliament and the ability for citizens to bring cases directly to the ECJ, and has been in force since 1993. European Union citizenship is additional to national citizenship. EU citizenship affords rights, freedoms and legal protections to all of its citizens.
European Union citizens have the right to free movement, settlement and employment across the EU. EU citizens are also free to trade and transport goods, services and capital through EU borders, as in a national market, with no restrictions on capital movements or fees. Citizens also have the right to vote in and run as a candidate in local elections in the country where they live, European elections and European Citizens' Initiative.
Citizenship of the EU also confers the right to consular protection by embassies of other EU member states when a person's country of citizenship is not represented by an embassy or consulate in the country in which they require protection. EU citizens also have the right to address the European Parliament, European Ombudsman, and EU agencies directly in their own language, provided the issue raised is within that institution's competence.EU citizens also enjoy the legal protections of EU law, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and acts and directives regarding, for example, protection of personal data, rights of victims of crime, preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, equal pay, protection from discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief, sexual orientation and age. The EU also has an office of European Ombudsman whom EU citizens can approach directly.Given the substantial number of Europeans who left Europe for other continents in the 1800s and 1900s, and the extension of citizenship by descent, or jus sanguinis, by some European countries to an unlimited number of generations of those emigrants' descendants, there are potentially many tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of persons currently outside Europe who have a claim to citizenship in an EU member state and, by extension, to EU citizenship. If these individuals were to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles of certifying their citizenship, they would have freedom of movement to live anywhere in the EU, under the 1992 European Court of Justice decision Micheletti v Cantabria.Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union, referred to in the treaties and other official documents simply as the Council is the third of the seven Institutions of the European Union (EU) as listed in the Treaty on European Union. It is part of the essentially bicameral EU legislature (the other legislative body being the European Parliament) and represents the executive governments of the EU's member states. It is based in the Europa building in Brussels.The Council of the European Union and the European Council are the only EU institutions that are explicitly intergovernmental, that is forums whose attendees express and represent the position of their member state's executive, be they ambassadors, ministers or heads of state/government.Directive (European Union)
A directive is a legal act of the European Union which requires member states to achieve a particular result without dictating the means of achieving that result. It can be distinguished from regulations, which are self-executing and do not require any implementing measures. Directives normally leave member states with a certain amount of leeway as to the exact rules to be adopted. Directives can be adopted by means of a variety of legislative procedures depending on their subject matter.
The text of a draft directive (if subject to the co-decision process, as contentious matters usually are) is prepared by the Commission after consultation with its own and national experts. The draft is presented to the Parliament and the Council—composed of relevant ministers of member governments, initially for evaluation and comment then subsequently for approval or rejection.Elections to the European Parliament
Elections to the European Parliament take place every five years by universal adult suffrage. 751 MEPs are elected to the European Parliament, which has been directly elected since 1979. No other EU institution is directly elected, with the Council of the European Union and the European Council being only indirectly legitimated through national elections. While European political parties have the right to campaign EU-wide for the European elections, campaigns still take place through national election campaigns, advertising national delegates from national parties.Enlargement of the European Union
The European Union (EU) has expanded a number of times throughout its history by way of the accession of new member states to the Union. To join the EU, a state needs to fulfil economic and political conditions called the Copenhagen criteria (after the Copenhagen summit in June 1993), which require a stable democratic government that respects the rule of law, and its corresponding freedoms and institutions. According to the Maastricht Treaty, each current member state and the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement. The process of enlargement is sometimes referred to as European integration. This term is also used to refer to the intensification of co-operation between EU member states as national governments allow for the gradual harmonisation of national laws.
The EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, was founded with the Inner Six member states in 1958, when the Treaty of Rome came into force. Since then, the EU's membership has grown to twenty-eight, with the latest member state being Croatia, which joined in July 2013. The most recent territorial enlargement of the EU was the incorporation of Mayotte in 2014. The most notable territorial reductions of the EU, and its predecessors, were the exit of Algeria upon independence in 1962 and the exit of Greenland in 1985.
As of 2018, accession negotiations are under way with Serbia (since 2014), Montenegro (since 2012) and Turkey (since 2005). Serbia and Montenegro have been described by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn as the front-runner candidates, and projected that they would join by 2025, during the next mandate of the European Commission. Negotiations with Turkey have also been ongoing at a slower pace, particularly since the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt due to objections from the EU to the Turkish government's response. Additionally, the United Kingdom is negotiating its withdrawal from the EU, following a referendum in which a majority voted in favour of leaving the EU.Euro
The euro (sign: €; code: EUR) is the official currency of 19 of the 28 member states of the European Union. This group of states is known as the eurozone or euro area, and counts about 343 million citizens as of 2019. The euro is the second largest and second most traded currency in the foreign exchange market after the United States dollar. The euro is divided into 100 cents.
The currency is also used officially by the institutions of the European Union, by four European microstates that are not EU members, as well as unilaterally by Montenegro and Kosovo. Outside Europe, a number of special territories of EU members also use the euro as their currency. Additionally, 240 million people worldwide as of 2018 use currencies pegged to the euro.The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar.
As of August 2018, with more than €1.2 trillion in circulation, the euro has one of the highest combined values of banknotes and coins in circulation in the world, having surpassed the U.S. dollar.The name euro was officially adopted on 16 December 1995 in Madrid. The euro was introduced to world financial markets as an accounting currency on 1 January 1999, replacing the former European Currency Unit (ECU) at a ratio of 1:1 (US$1.1743). Physical euro coins and banknotes entered into circulation on 1 January 2002, making it the day-to-day operating currency of its original members, and by March 2002 it had completely replaced the former currencies. While the euro dropped subsequently to US$0.83 within two years (26 October 2000), it has traded above the U.S. dollar since the end of 2002, peaking at US$1.60 on 18 July 2008. In late 2009, the euro became immersed in the European sovereign-debt crisis, which led to the creation of the European Financial Stability Facility as well as other reforms aimed at stabilising and strengthening the currency.European Commission
The European Commission (EC) is an institution of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU. Commissioners swear an oath at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg City, pledging to respect the treaties and to be completely independent in carrying out their duties during their mandate. Unlike in the Council of the European Union, where members are directly and indirectly elected, and the European Parliament, where members are directly elected, the Commissioners are proposed by the Council of the European Union, on the basis of suggestions made by the national governments, and then appointed by the European Council after the approval of the European Parliament.
The Commission operates as a cabinet government, with 28 members of the Commission (informally known as "commissioners"). There is one member per member state, but members are bound by their oath of office to represent the general interest of the EU as a whole rather than their home state. One of the 28 is the Commission President (currently Jean-Claude Juncker) proposed by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament. The Council of the European Union then nominates the other 27 members of the Commission in agreement with the nominated President, and the 28 members as a single body are then subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament. The current Commission is the Juncker Commission, which took office in late 2014, following the European Parliament elections in May of the same year.
The term Commission is variously used, either in the narrow sense of the 28-member College of Commissioners (or College) or to also include the administrative body of about 32,000 European civil servants who are split into departments called directorates-general and services. The procedural languages of the Commission are English, French and German.
The Members of the Commission and their "cabinets" (immediate teams) are based in the Berlaymont building in Brussels.European Economic Area
The European Economic Area (EEA), which was established via the EEA Agreement in 1992, is an international agreement which enables the extension of the European Union (EU)'s single market to non-EU member parties. The EEA links the European Union member states and three European Free Trade Association states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) into an internal market governed by the same basic rules. These rules aim to enable free movement of labour, goods, services, and capital within the European Single Market, including the freedom to choose residence in any country within this area. The EEA was established on 1 January 1994 upon entry into force of the EEA Agreement. The contracting parties are the European Union (EU), its member states, and three EFTA member states.However, the EEA Treaty is a commercial treaty and differs from the EU Treaties in certain key respects. The EFTA members do not participate in the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy. According to Article 1 its purpose is to "promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relation." Unlike the EU Treaties, there is no mention of "ever closer union".
The right to free movement of persons between EEA member states and the relevant provisions on safeguard measures are identical to those applying between members of the European Union. The right and rules applicable in all EEA member states, including those which are not members of the EU, are specified in Directive 2004/38/EC and in the Agreement on the European Economic Area. The EEA Agreement specifies that membership is open to member states of either the European Union or European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA states which are party to the EEA Agreement participate in the EU's internal market without being members of the EU or the European Union Customs Union. They adopt most EU legislation concerning the single market, with notable exclusions including laws regarding the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. The EEA's "decision-shaping" processes enable EEA EFTA member states to influence and contribute to new EEA policy and legislation from an early stage. Third country goods are excluded for these states on rules of origin.
When entering into force in 1994, the EEA parties were 17 states and two European Communities: the European Community, which was later absorbed into the EU's wider framework, and the now defunct European Coal and Steel Community. Membership has grown to 31 states as of 2016: 28 EU member states, as well as three of the four member states of the EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The Agreement is applied provisionally with respect to Croatia—the remaining and most recent EU member state—pending ratification of its accession by all EEA parties. One EFTA member, Switzerland, has not joined the EEA, but has a series of bilateral agreements with the EU which allow it also to participate in the internal market.European Economic Community
The European Economic Community (EEC) was a regional organisation which aimed to bring about economic integration among its member states. It was created by the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Upon the formation of the European Union (EU) in 1993, the EEC was incorporated and renamed as the European Community (EC). In 2009 the EC's institutions were absorbed into the EU's wider framework and the community ceased to exist.
The Community's initial aim was to bring about economic integration, including a common market and customs union, among its six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany. It gained a common set of institutions along with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) as one of the European Communities under the 1965 Merger Treaty (Treaty of Brussels). In 1993, a complete single market was achieved, known as the internal market, which allowed for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people within the EEC. In 1994, the internal market was formalised by the EEA agreement. This agreement also extended the internal market to include most of the member states of the European Free Trade Association, forming the European Economic Area covering 15 countries.
Upon the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, the EEC was renamed the European Community to reflect that it covered a wider range than economic policy. This was also when the three European Communities, including the EC, were collectively made to constitute the first of the three pillars of the European Union, which the treaty also founded. The EC existed in this form until it was abolished by the 2009 Treaty of Lisbon, which incorporated the EC's institutions into the EU's wider framework and provided that the EU would "replace and succeed the European Community".
The EEC was also known as the Common Market in the English-speaking countries and sometimes referred to as the European Community even before it was officially renamed as such in 1993.European Parliament
The European Parliament (EP) is the only parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU) that is directly elected by EU citizens aged 18 or older. Together with the Council of the European Union (also known as the 'Council'), which should not be confused with the European Council and the Council of Europe, it exercises the legislative function of the EU. The Parliament is composed of 751 members (MEPs), that will become 705 starting from the 2019–2024 legislature (because of specific provisions adopted about Brexit), who represent the second-largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world (375 million eligible voters in 2009).Since 1979, it has been directly elected every five years by European Union citizens, using universal suffrage. However, voter turnout at European Parliament elections has fallen consecutively at each election since that date, and has been under 50% since 1999. Voter turnout in 2014 stood at 42.54% of all European voters.Although the European Parliament has legislative power, as does the Council, it does not formally possess legislative initiative (which is the prerogative of the European Commission), as most national parliaments of European Union member states do. The Parliament is the "first institution" of the EU (mentioned first in the treaties, having ceremonial precedence over all authority at European level), and shares equal legislative and budgetary powers with the Council (except in a few areas where the special legislative procedures apply). It likewise has equal control over the EU budget. Finally, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU (it exercises executive powers, but no legislative ones other than legislative initiative), is accountable to Parliament. In particular, Parliament elects the President of the Commission, and approves (or rejects) the appointment of the Commission as a whole. It can subsequently force the Commission as a body to resign by adopting a motion of censure.The President of the European Parliament (Parliament's speaker) is Antonio Tajani (EPP), elected in January 2017. He presides over a multi-party chamber, the two largest groups being the Group of the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). The last union-wide elections were the 2014 elections.
The European Parliament has three places of work – Brussels (Belgium), Luxembourg City (Luxembourg) and Strasbourg (France).
Luxembourg City is home to the administrative offices (the "General Secretariat"). Meetings of the whole Parliament ("plenary sessions") take place in Strasbourg and in Brussels. Committee meetings are held in Brussels.European Single Market
The European Single Market, Internal Market or Common Market is a single market which seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and labour – the "four freedoms" – within the European Union (EU). The market encompasses the EU's 28 member states, and has been extended, with exceptions, to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the Agreement on the European Economic Area and to Switzerland through bilateral treaties.
A number of potential EU accession candidates have Stabilisation and Association Agreements with the EU, which allow for limited participation in selected sectors of the Single Market, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. In addition, through three individual agreements on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the EU, the post-Soviet countries of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine have also been granted limited access to the Single Market in selected sectors. Turkey has access to the free movement of some goods via its membership in the European Union–Turkey Customs Union.The market is intended to be conducive to increased competition, increased specialisation, larger economies of scale, allowing goods and factors of production to move to the area where they are most valued, thus improving the efficiency of the allocation of resources. It is also intended to drive economic integration whereby the once separate economies of the member states become integrated within a single EU-wide economy. Half the trade in goods within the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU. The creation of the internal market as a seamless, single market is an ongoing process, with the integration of the service industry still containing gaps. It also has an increasing international element, with the market represented as one in international trade negotiations.Luxembourg
Luxembourg ( (listen); Luxembourgish: Lëtzebuerg [ˈlətsəbuə̯ɕ] (listen); French: Luxembourg; German: Luxemburg), officially the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small landlocked country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the three official capitals of the European Union (together with Brussels and Strasbourg) and the seat of the European Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority in the EU. Its culture, people, and languages are highly intertwined with its neighbours, making it essentially a mixture of French and German cultures, as evident by the nation's three official languages: French, German, and the national language, Luxembourgish (sometimes considered a dialect of German). The repeated invasions by Germany, especially in World War II, resulted in the country's strong will for mediation between France and Germany and, among other things, led to the foundation of the European Union.With an area of 2,586 square kilometres (998 sq mi), it is one of the smallest sovereign states in Europe. In 2018, Luxembourg had a population of 602,005, which makes it one of the least-populous countries in Europe, but by far the one with the highest population growth rate. Foreigners account for nearly half of Luxembourg's population. As a representative democracy with a constitutional monarch, it is headed by Grand Duke Henri and is the world's only remaining grand duchy. Luxembourg is a developed country, with an advanced economy and one of the world's highest GDP (PPP) per capita. The City of Luxembourg with its old quarters and fortifications was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to the exceptional preservation of the vast fortifications and the old city.The history of Luxembourg is considered to begin in 963, when count Siegfried I acquired a rocky promontory and its Roman-era fortifications known as Lucilinburhuc, ′little castle′, and the surrounding area from the Imperial Abbey of St. Maximin in nearby Trier.
Siegfried's descendants increased their territory through marriage, war and vassal relations. At the end of the 13th century, the Counts of Luxembourg reigned over a considerable territory.
In 1308, Henry VII, Count of Luxembourg became King of the Germans and Holy Roman Emperor. The House of Luxembourg produced four Holy Roman Emperors during the high Middle Ages. In 1354, Charles IV elevated the County to the Duchy of Luxembourg. Since Sigismund had no male heir, the Duchy became part of the Burgundian Circle and then one of the Seventeen Provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands.
Over the centuries, the City and Fortress of Luxembourg, of great strategic importance situated between the Kingdom of France and the Habsburg territories, was gradually built up to be one of the most reputed fortifications in Europe. After belonging to both the France of Louis XIV and the Austria of Maria Theresia, Luxembourg became part of the First French Republic and Empire under Napoleon.The present-day state of Luxembourg first emerged at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Grand-Duchy, with its powerful fortress, became an independent state under the personal possession of William I of the Netherlands with a Prussian garrison to guard the city against another invasion from France. In 1839, following the turmoil of the Belgian Revolution, the purely French-speaking part of Luxembourg was ceded to Belgium and the Luxembourgish-speaking part (except the Arelerland, the area around Arlon) became what is the present state of Luxembourg.Luxembourg is a founding member of the European Union, OECD, United Nations, NATO, and Benelux. The city of Luxembourg, which is the country's capital and largest city, is the seat of several institutions and agencies of the EU. Luxembourg served on the United Nations Security Council for the years 2013 and 2014, which was a first in the country's history. As of 2018, Luxembourgish citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 186 countries and territories, ranking the Luxembourgish passport 5th in the world, tied with Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States.Maastricht Treaty
The Maastricht Treaty (officially the Treaty on European Union) was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands to further European integration. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty. The treaty founded the European Union and established its pillar structure which stayed in place until the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009. The treaty also greatly expanded the competences of the EEC/EU and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro.
The Maastricht Treaty reformed and amended the treaties establishing the European Communities, the EU's first pillar. It renamed European Economic Community the European Community, to reflect its expanded competences beyond economic matters. The Maastricht Treaty also created two new "pillars" of the EU on Common Foreign and Security Policy and Cooperation in the Fields of Justice and Home Affairs (respectively the second and third pillars), which replaced the former informal intergovernmental cooperation bodies named TREVI and European Political Cooperation on EU Foreign policy coordination.
The Maastricht Treaty (TEU) and all pre-existing treaties, has subsequently been further amended by the treaties of Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2001) and Lisbon (2007). Today it is one of two treaties forming the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU), the other being the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.Member state of the European Union
The European Union (EU) consists of 28 member states. Each member state is party to the founding treaties of the union and thereby subject to the privileges and obligations of membership. Unlike members of most international organisations, the member states of the EU are subjected to binding laws in exchange for representation within the common legislative and judicial institutions. Member states must agree unanimously for the EU to adopt policies concerning defence and foreign policy. Subsidiarity is a founding principle of the EU.
In 1957, six core states founded the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany). The remaining states have acceded in subsequent enlargements. On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the newest member state of the EU. To accede, a state must fulfill the economic and political requirements known as the Copenhagen criteria, which require a candidate to have a democratic, free-market government together with the corresponding freedoms and institutions, and respect for the rule of law. Enlargement of the Union is also contingent upon the consent of all existing members and the candidate's adoption of the existing body of EU law, known as the acquis communautaire.
There is disparity in the size, wealth, and political system of member states, but all have de jure equal rights. In practice, certain states are considerably more influential than others. While in some areas majority voting takes place where larger states have more votes than smaller ones, smaller states have disproportional representation compared to their population.
No member state has withdrawn or been suspended from the EU, though some dependent territories or semi-autonomous areas have left. In June 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum on membership of the EU, resulting in 51.89% of votes cast, being in favour of leaving. The UK government invoked Article 50 on 29 March 2017 to formally initiate the withdrawal process.Treaty of Lisbon
The Treaty of Lisbon (initially known as the Reform Treaty) is an international agreement that amends the two treaties which form the constitutional basis of the European Union (EU). The Treaty of Lisbon was signed by the EU member states on 13 December 2007, and entered into force on 1 December 2009. It amends the Maastricht Treaty (1992), known in updated form as the Treaty on European Union (2007) or TEU, and the Treaty of Rome (1957), known in updated form as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (2007) or TFEU. It also amends the attached treaty protocols as well as the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).
Prominent changes included the move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in at least 45 policy areas in the Council of Ministers, a change in calculating such a majority to a new double majority, a more powerful European Parliament forming a bicameral legislature alongside the Council of Ministers under the ordinary legislative procedure, a consolidated legal personality for the EU and the creation of a long-term President of the European Council and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The Treaty also made the Union's bill of rights, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, legally binding. The Treaty for the first time gave member states the explicit legal right to leave the EU, and established a procedure by which to do so.
The stated aim of the treaty was to "complete the process started by the Treaty of Amsterdam  and by the Treaty of Nice  with a view to enhancing the efficiency and democratic legitimacy of the Union and to improving the coherence of its action". Opponents of the Treaty of Lisbon, such as former Danish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jens-Peter Bonde, argued that it would centralize the EU, and weaken democracy by "moving power away" from national electorates. Supporters argue that it brings more checks and balances into the EU system, with stronger powers for the European Parliament and a new role for national parliaments.
Negotiations to modify EU institutions began in 2001, resulting first in the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which would have repealed the existing European treaties and replaced them with a "constitution". Although ratified by a majority of member states, this was abandoned after being rejected by 54% of French voters on 29 May 2005 and then by 61% of Dutch voters on 1 June 2005. After a "period of reflection", member states agreed instead to maintain the existing treaties, but to amend them, salvaging a number of the reforms that had been envisaged in the constitution. An amending "reform" treaty was drawn up and signed in Lisbon in 2007. It was originally intended to have been ratified by all member states by the end of 2008. This timetable failed, primarily due to the initial rejection of the Treaty in June 2008 by the Irish electorate, a decision which was reversed in a second referendum in October 2009 after Ireland secured a number of concessions related to the treaty.Withdrawal from the European Union
Withdrawal from the European Union is the legal and political process whereby an EU member state ceases to be a member of the Union. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) states that "Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements".As of February 2019, no member state has withdrawn from the EU (or the EC); however, the Government of the United Kingdom triggered Article 50 to begin the UK's withdrawal from the EU in March 2017 following a referendum, and the withdrawal was scheduled in law to occur on 29 March 2019. Subsequently, the UK sought and was granted extensions to delay the exit date.
Three territories of EU member states have withdrawn: French Algeria (in 1962, upon independence), Greenland (in 1985, following a referendum) and Saint Barthélemy (in 2012), the latter two becoming Overseas Countries and Territories of the European Union.