European Union

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Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background
Motto: "In Varietate Concordia" (Latin)
"United in Diversity"
Anthem: "Ode to Joy" (orchestral)
Globe projection with the European Union in green
CapitalBrussels (de facto)[1]
Largest cityLondon
Official languages
Official scripts[3]
Religion
Demonym(s)European
TypePolitical and economic union
Member states
GovernmentSupranational and intergovernmental
Charles Michel
David Sassoli
Ursula von der Leyen
Legislaturesee "Politics" section below
Formation[5]
1 January 1958
1 July 1987
1 November 1993
1 December 2009
1 July 2013
Area
• Total
4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) (7th)
• Water (%)
3.08
Population
• 2019 estimate
Increase 513,481,691[6] (3rd)
• Density
117.2/km2 (303.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2018 estimate
• Total
Increase $22.0 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $43,150[7]
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
Increase $18.8 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $36,580
Gini (2017)Positive decrease 30.7[8]
medium
HDI (2017)Increase 0.899[c]
very high
CurrencyEuro (EUR; ; in eurozone) and
Time zoneUTC 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 formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD/CE)
See also: Date and time notation in Europe
Internet TLD.eu[e]
Website
europa.eu

The European Union (abbreviation: EU) is a confederation[1] of 28 member countries in Europe established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992-1993. The EU grew out of the European Economic Community (EEC) which was established by the Treaties of Rome in 1957. It has created a common economic area with Europe-wide laws allowing the citizens of EU countries to move and trade in other EU countries almost the same as they do in their own. Nineteen of these countries also share the same type of money: the euro.

The Treaty of Lisbon is the most recent treaty that says how the Union is run. Every member state signed to say that they each agreed with what it says. Most importantly, it says which jobs (’powers’) the Union should do for the members and which jobs they should do themselves. The members decide how the Union should act by voting for or against proposals.

The objective of the EU is to bring its member states closer together with respect of human rights and democracy. It does this with a common style of passport, common rules about fair trading with each other, common agreements about law enforcement, and other agreements. Most members share a common currency (the euro) and most allow people to travel from one country to another without having to show a passport.

History[change | change source]

Quai d'Orsay (Paris). Robert Schuman gave the speech starting the plan for a European Coal and Steel Community in 1950

After World War II, the countries in Europe wanted to live peacefully together and help one another's economies. Instead of fighting each other for coal and steel, the first member countries (West) Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg created one European Coal and Steel Community in 1952.

In 1957 in the Italian city of Rome, the member countries signed another treaty and made the European Economic Community. Now it was a community for coal, steel and for trade. Later it changed the name to the European Community.

In 1993, with the Treaty of Maastricht it changed its name to the European Union. Now the member countries work together not only in politics and economy (coal, steel and trade), but also in money, justice (laws), and foreign affairs. With the Schengen Agreement, 22 member countries of the EU opened their borders to each other, so people can now travel from one country to the other without a passport or identity card. Now already 16 member countries have replaced their national currencies with the euro. 10 new countries became members of the EU in 2004, 2 more became members in 2007, and 1 more in 2013. Today there are 28 member countries altogether.

Free movement[change | change source]

A person who is a citizen of the European Union can live and work in any of the 28 member states without needing a work permit or visa. For example, a French person can move to Greece to work there, or just to live there, and he or she does not need permission from an authority in Greece.

In the same way, products made in one member country can be sold in any other member country without any special permissions or extra taxes. For this reason, the members agree rules on product safety - they want to know that a product made in another country will be as safe as it would be if it had been made in their own.

Main institutions[change | change source]

Institutions of the European Union [10][11][12]
Europarl logo.svg
European Parliament

- Legislative (lower house) -

Previous logo of European Council.svg
European Council

- Sets impetus and direction -

Former logo of the European Council and Council of the European Union (2009).svg
Council of the European Union

- Legislative (upper house) -

European Commission Logo.gif
European Commission

- Executive -

European Parliament
Members of the European Council 2011
EU Council room
European Commission building
  • acts together with the Council as a legislator
  • is elected by the people
  • sits for five years between elections
  • shares with the Council the budgetary power and decides in the last instance on the general budget of the EU
  • exerts the democratic control over EU institutions including the European Commission and appoints the Commission members
  • based and plenary sessions in Strasbourg, General Secretariat in Luxembourg, primarily meets in Brussels
  • consists of government ministers from member states
  • acts together with the Parliament as a legislator
  • exerts together with the Parliament the budgetary power
  • ensures coordination of the broad economic and social policy and sets out guidelines for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
  • conclude international agreements
  • based in Brussels
  • is the "government"
  • has one member from each member state
  • submits proposals for new legislation to the Parliament and to the Council
  • implements EU policy and administers the budget
  • ensures compliance with EU law
  • negotiates international treaties
  • based in Brussels
No image wide.svg Court of Justice of the European Union

- Judiciary -

CURIA RATIONUM logo.svg
European Court of Auditors

- Financial auditor -

Logo European Central Bank.svg
European Central Bank

- Monetary executive (central bank) -

No image wide.svg
ECJ room
ECA building
European Central Bank
  • ensure uniformity of interpretation of European law
  • has the power to decide legal disputes between EU member states, EU institutions, businesses and individuals
  • based in Luxembourg
  • shall examine the proper use of revenue and expenditure of the EU institutions
  • based in Luxembourg
  • forms together with the national central banks the European System of Central Banks and thereby determining the monetary policy of the EU
  • ensures price stability of the Euro by controlling the money supply of participating countries
  • based in Frankfurt am Main

Council of the European Union[change | change source]

Political system of the European Union. The union has seven organs (in blue).

The Council of the European Union is the main decision-making group. The cabinet ministers of the member countries meet (Ministers for Foreign affairs, for Agriculture, for Justice, etc...) and discuss issues that are important to them.

Before the Treaty of Lisbon (written in 2007, implemented in 2008) each member state takes a turn at being President of the Council for six months. For example, from January 2007 until July 2007, Germany held the presidency. The six months before that, Finland held the presidency. Now the President of the European Union chairs the council summits. The President of the Council is the organiser and manager and is voted into office for a duration of two and a half years. He or she does not have the power to make decisions about the European Union like the President of the United States does for that country.

Member countries with a large population (Germany, France, United Kingdom, etc.) have more votes than countries with small populations (Luxembourg, Malta, etc.) but a decision cannot be made if enough countries vote against the decision.

Twice a year, the heads of government (Prime Ministers) and/or the heads of state (Presidents) meet to talk about the main issues and make decisions on different issues. This meeting is different and not as formal. It is known as a European Council.

Note: This is not the same thing as the Council of Europe, which is not part of the European Union.

European Commission[change | change source]

The European Commission runs the day-to-day running of the EU and writes laws, like a government. Laws written by the Commission are discussed and changed by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

The Commission has one President and 27 Commissioners, selected by the European Council. The Commission President is appointed by the European Council with the approval of the European Parliament.[13]

The Commission operates like a cabinet government. There is one Commissioner per member state, though Commissioners are bound to represent the interests of the EU as a whole rather than their home state.

European Parliament[change | change source]

The Parliament is the only directly elected body
See also: European Union budget

The Parliament has a total of 785 members (called Members of the European Parliament, or MEP). They are elected in their countries every five years by the citizens of the European Union member countries. The Parliament can approve, reject or change proposed laws. It can also sack the European Commission. In that case, the entire commission would have to give up their jobs.

Politics[change | change source]

There are many discussions in the EU about how it should develop and change in the future.

The main reasons why European countries came together are political and economic:

Member States[change | change source]

In 1951, six countries made the European Coal and Steel Community, a basic version of what the EU is now. These six then went further and in 1957 they made the European Economic Community and the European Coal and Steel Community. The UK and others decided not to join, and then when the UK changed its mind it was stopped from joining by French President Charles de Gaulle. When he was no longer President, the UK and others started to join. Today there are 28 members but the idea that more should join is not seen as a good one by everyone.

The member states of the European Union highlighted in light brown.
Founders in 1957
Joined in 1973
Joined in 1981
Left in 1985
Joined in 1986
Joined in 1995
Joined in 2004
Joined in 2007
Joined in 2013
  1. East Germany and West Germany became one country in 1990. Since then the whole of Germany is an EU member country.
  2. Greenland joined as part of Denmark, but was given some power to rule itself afterwards. With this power, it decided to leave the EEC.
  3. Although Northern Cyprus is officially part of Cyprus (and the EU), it is not actually controlled by the Government of Cyprus and its passports are not accepted by EU members.

Serbia, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Turkey and Iceland are "candidate countries"; they are being considered for membership. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are expected to follow.

However, since there have been many political problems happening in Turkey recently, especially with President Erdogan's arresting of tens of thousands of political rivals since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, it is unlikely that it would be allowed to part of the EU anytime soon because EU members believe that the current Turkish government is not respecting human rights, rule of law, or democracy.[15]

Motto[change | change source]

United in diversity (or together with many types of people in Simple English), is the motto of the European Union.

The motto in other languages:[16]

  • Bulgarian: Обединен в многообразието
  • Croatian: Ujedinjeni u različitosti
  • Czech: Jednotná v rozmanitosti
  • Danish: Forenet i mangfoldighed
  • Dutch: In verscheidenheid verenigd
  • Estonian: Ühinenud mitmekesisuses
  • Finnish: Moninaisuudessaan yhtenäinen
  • French: Unie dans la diversité
  • German: In Vielfalt geeint
  • Greek: Ενωμένοι στην πολυμορφία
  • Hungarian: Egység a sokféleségben
  • Irish: Ní ceart go cur le chéile
  • Italian: Uniti nella diversità
  • Latvian: Vienota dažādībā
  • Lithuanian: Suvienijusi įvairovę
  • Maltese: Magħquda fid-diversità

Brexit[change | change source]

On June 23, 2016, the UK held a referendum on whether it should stay in the EU or leave it. The majority [52% to 48%] favoured leaving.[17] Britain leaving the EU is commonly known as Brexit.

The government of the UK triggered "Article 50" of the Treaty of European Union (the Treaty of Lisbon) on 29 March 2017.[18] This began negotiations with fellow members of the EU on the terms of exit. The timetable for these negotiations is two years, which meant that the UK would remain a member of the EU until at least March 2019. However this deadline was later extended to October 31st 2019 at the request of the British Government.

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. The 24 languages are equally official and accepted as working languages. However, only three of them – English, French and German – have the higher status of procedural languages and are used in the day-to-day workings of the European institutions.[2]
  2. Currently undergoing exit procedures known as Brexit.
  3. Calculated using UNDP data for the member states with weighted population.[9]
  4. Martinique, Guadeloupe (UTC−4); French Guiana (UTC−3); Azores (UTC−1 / UTC); Mayotte (UTC+3); and La Réunion (UTC+4); which, other than the Azores, do not observe DST.
  5. .eu is representative of the whole of the EU; member states also have their own TLDs.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Cybriwsky, Roman Adrian (2013). Capital Cities around the World: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of Geography, History, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-61069-248-9. Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is considered to be the de facto capital of the EU
  2. "European Commission – Frequently asked questions on languages in Europe". europa.eu.
  3. Leonard Orban (24 May 2007). "Cyrillic, the third official alphabet of the EU, was created by a truly multilingual European" (PDF). europe.eu. Retrieved 3 August 2014.
  4. "DISCRIMINATION IN THE EU IN 2015", Special Eurobarometer, 437, European Union: European Commission, 2015, retrieved 15 October 2017 – via GESIS
  5. Current Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union reads: "The Union shall be founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Those two Treaties shall have the same legal value. The Union shall replace and succeed the European Community".
  6. "Eurostat – Population on 1 January 2019". European Commission. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "IMF World Economic Outlook Database, April 2019". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 22 December 2016.
  8. "Gini coefficient of equivalised disposable income (source: SILC)". Eurostat Data Explorer. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  9. "Human Development Report 2018 Summary". The United Nations. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union/Title III: Provisions on the Institutions
  11. "Institutions: The European Commission". Retrieved 2007-06-25.
  12. "Parliament's powers and procedures". European Parliament. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
  13. "Institutions of the EU: The European Commission". Retrieved 2007-06-18.
  14. "Croatia to become EU member 1 July 2013". Croatian Times. May 23, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  15. "Turkey 'backsliding' in bid to join EU, says Commission".
  16. "The EU motto". Europa. European Union. Retrieved 2016-05-30.
  17. "Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU".
  18. Laura Kuenssberg. "'No turning back' on Brexit as Article 50 triggered". BBC News. Retrieved 29 March 2017.

Other websites[change | change source]