European Union

European Union

Among peoples who are geographically grouped together like the peoples of Europe there must exist a sort of federal link. It is this link which I wish to endeavour to establish. Evidently the association will act mainly in the economic sphere. That is the most pressing question. But I am sure also that from a political point of view, and from a social point of view the federal link, without infringing the sovereignty of any of the nations which might take part in such as association, could be beneficial.

No one doubts today that the lack of cohesion in the grouping of the material and moral forces of Europe constitutes, practically, the most serious obstacle to the development and efficiency of all political and Juridical institutions on which it is the tendency to base the first attempts for a universal organisation of peace. The very action of the League of Nations, the responsibilities of which are the greater because it is universal might be exposed in Europe to serious obstacles if such breaking-up of territory were not offset, as soon as possible, by a bond of solidarity permitting European nations to at last become conscious of European geographical unity and to effect, within the framework of the League one of those regional understandings which the covenant formally recommended.

This means that the search for a formula of European cooperation in connection with the League of Nations, far from weakening the authority of this latter must and can only tend to strengthen it, for it is closely connected with its aims.

The European organisation contemplated could not oppose any ethnic group, on other continents or in Europe itself, outside of the League of Nations, any more than it could oppose the League of Nations.

The policy of European union to which the search for a first bond of solidarity between European Governments ought to tend, implies in fact a conception absolutely contrary to that which may have determined formerly, in Europe, the formation of customs unions tending to abolish internal customs houses in order to erect on the boundaries of the community a more rigorous barrier against States situated outside of those unions.

(1) A European understanding can be achieved only within the framework of the League of Nations, as a part of the League, and marking a stage in its development.

(2) Since the League Covenant permits regional agreements within a comment it follows 'a fortiori' that it cannot oppose the agreement of a whole continent.

(3) A European understanding must take account both of international and of national alignments.

(4) It must be open to all the nations of Europe which are willing to enter.

(5) It is rendered necessary by the laws of economic evolution by industrial amalgamations, and by the necessity of defending the European market.

(6) It must be sufficiently comprehensive to admit nations like Great Britain, which have both European and world-wide interests

(7) The nations must be represented on absolutely equal terms.

(8) It might very well seek inspiration from the form taken by the Pan-American Union, its method of procedure would be the holding of periodical conferences with a permanent secretariat.

(9) It must be flexible, prudent and patient.

(10) It must regard the suppression of tariff barriers as the end, not the beginning, of an economic organisation of Europe

(11) It can achieve stability only by a European organisation of credit

(12) Its durability will depend upon a fixed system of arbitration, disarmament, and security.

Wherever we look in the present world situation we see nothing but deadlock - whether it be the increasing acceptance of a war that is thought to be inevitable, the problem of Germany, the continuation of French recovery, the organisation of Europe, the very place of France in Europe and in the world.

From such a situation there is only one way of escape: concrete action on a limited but decisive point, bringing about on this point a fundamental change and gradually modifying the very terms of all the problems.

The continuation of France's recovery will be halted if the question of German industrial production and its competitive capacity is not rapidly solved.

Already Germany is asking to increase her production from 11 to 14 million tons. We shall refuse, but the Americans will insist. Finally, we shall state our reservations but we shall give in. At the same time, French production is levelling off or even falling.

Merely to state these facts makes it unnecessary to describe in great detail what the consequences will be: Germany expanding, German dumping on export markets; a call for the protection of French industries; the halting or camouflage of trade liberalisation; the reestablishment of prewar cartels; perhaps an orientation of German expansion towards the East, a prelude to political agreements; France fallen back into the rut of limited, protected production.

The USA do not want things to take this course. They will accept an alternative solution if it is dynamic and constructive, especially if it is proposed by France.

At the present moment, Europe can be brought to birth only by France. Only France can speak and act.

But if France does not speak and act now, what will happen? A group will form around the United States, but in order to wage the Cold War with greater force. The obvious reason is that the countries of Europe are afraid and are seeking help. Britain will draw closer and closer to the United States; Germany will develop rapidly, and we shall not be able to prevent her being rearmed. France will be trapped again in her former Malthusianism, and this will lead inevitably to her being effaced.

Blankenhorn handed me the letters in the cabinet room. One was a handwritten, personal letter by Robert Schuman. The other was an official covering letter for the project laid down in a memorandum which later became known as the Schuman Plan.

In essence Robert Schuman proposed to place the entire French and German production of coal and steel under a common High Authority within the framework of an organization that should be open to other European countries as well. Schuman explained that the pooling of coal and steel production would immediately provide for the first stage of a European federation, the immediate creation of a common basis for economic development, and for a comprehensive change in their development. The merger of the basic production of coal and steel and the establishment of an authority whose decisions would be binding for France, Germany, and the other member countries, would create the first firm foundations for the European federation which was indispensable for the preservation of peace.

In his personal letter to me Schuman wrote that the purpose of his proposal was not economic, but eminently political. In France there was a fear that once Germany had recovered, she would attack France. He could imagine that the corresponding fears might be present in Germany. Rearmament always showed first in an increased production of coal, iron, and steel. If an organization such as he was proposing were to be set up, it would enable each country to detect the first signs of rearmament, and would have an extraordinarily calming effect in France.

Schuman's plan corresponded entirely with the ideas I had been advocating for a long time concerning the integration of the key industries of Europe. I informed Robert Schuman at once that I accepted his proposal whole-heartedly.

World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.

The contribution which an organised and living Europe can bring to civilisation is indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. In taking upon herself for more than 20 years the role of champion of a united Europe, France has always had as her essential aim the service of peace. A united Europe was not achieved and we had war.

Europe will not be made all at once or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action which must be taken in the first place must concern these two countries.

With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point. It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe.

The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible. The setting up of this powerful productive unit, open to all countries willing to take part and bound ultimately to provide all the member countries with the basic elements of industrial production

on the same terms, will lay a true foundation for their economic unification.

It is my opinion and belief that the parliaments of the six European countries which will have to deal with this European Coal and Steel Community realise exactly what it is all about and that in particular they realise that the political goal, the political meaning of the European Coal and Steel Community, is infinitely larger than its economic purpose.

Something further has resulted during the negotiations, I believe that for the first time in history, certainly in the history of the last centuries, countries want to renounce part of their sovereignty, voluntarily and without compulsion, in order to transfer the sovereignty to a supranational structure.

It is my opinion and belief that the parliaments of the six European countries which will have to deal with this European Coal and Steel Community realise exactly what it is all about and that in particular they realise that the political goal, the political meaning of the European Coal and Steel Community, is infinitely larger than its economic purpose.

Something further has resulted during the negotiations, I believe that for the first time in history, certainly in the history of the last centuries, countries want to renounce part of their sovereignty, voluntarily and without compulsion, in order to transfer the sovereignty to a supranational structure.

Article 1:

By this Treaty, the High Contracting Parties establish among themselves a European Coal and Steel Community, founded upon a common market, common objectives and common institutions.

Article 2:

The European Coal and Steel Community shall have as its task to contribute, in harmony with the general economy of Member States and through the establishment of a common market as provided in Article 4, to economic expansion, growth of employment and a rising standard of living in the Member States. .

Article 4:

The following are recognised as incompatible with the common market for coal and steel and shall accordingly be abolished and prohibited within the Community, as provided in this Treaty:

(a) import and export duties, or charges having equivalent effect, and quantitative restrictions on the movement of products;

(b) measures or practices which discriminate between producers, between purchasers or between consumers, especially in prices and delivery terms or transport or transport rates and conditions, and measures or practices which interfere with the purchaser's free choice of supplier;

(c) subsidies or aids granted by States, or special charges imposed by States, in any form whatever;

(d) restrictive practices which tend towards the sharing or exploiting of markets.

The Governments of the Federal German Republic, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands believe that the time has come to make a fresh advance towards the building of Europe. They are of the opinion that this must be achieved, first of all, in the economic field.

They consider that it is necessary to work for the establishment of a united Europe by the development of common institutions, the progressive fusion of national economies, the. creation of a common market and the progressive harmonisation of their social policies.

Such a policy seems to them indispensable if Europe is to maintain her position in the world, regain her influence and prestige and achieve a continuing increase in the standard of living of her population.

In my opinion the European nation states had a past but no future. This applied in the political and economic as well as in the social sphere. No single European country could guarantee a secure future to its people by its own strength. I regarded the Schuman Plan and the European Defence Community as preliminary steps to a political unification of Europe. In the EDO Treaty there was a specific provision for a controlling body, the so-called Parliamentary Assembly - incidentally the same assembly that exercised the parliamentary controlling function in the Coal and Steel Community - to examine the questions arising from the parallelism of diverse existing or future organisations for European cooperation, with a view to securing their coordination in the framework of a federal or confederate structure.

The military aspect was only one dimension of a nascent Europe, or, more rightly at first, Western Europe. If a perfect partnership was to be achieved within Western Europe, one could not stop with defence.

After twelve years of National Socialism there simply were no perfect solutions for Germany and certainly none for a divided Germany. There was very often only the policy of the lesser evil.

We were a small and very exposed country. By our own strength we could achieve nothing. We must not be a no-man's-land between East and West for then we would have friends nowhere and a dangerous neighbour in the East. Any refusal by the Federal Republic to make common cause with Europe would have been German isolationism, a dangerous escape into inactivity. There was a cherished political illusion in the Federal Republic in those years: many people believed that America was in any case tied to Europe or even to the Elbe. American patience, however, had its limits. My motto was 'Help yourself and the United States will help you'. .

There were those in Germany who thought that for us the choice was either a policy for Europe or a policy for German unity. I considered this 'either/or' a fatal error. Nobody could explain how German unity in freedom was to be achieved without a strong and united Europe. When I say 'in freedom' I mean freedom before, during and above all after all- German elections. No policy is made with wishes alone and even less from weakness. Only when the West was strong might there be a genuine point of departure for peace negotiations to free not only the Soviet zone but all of enslaved Europe east of the iron curtain, and free it peacefully. To take the road that led into the European Community appeared to me the best service we could render the Germans in the Soviet zone.

Article 1: By the present Treaty, the High Contracting Parties (Belgium, West Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands) establish among themselves a European Economic Community.

Article 2: It shall be the aim of the Community, by establishing a Common Market and progressively approximating the economic policies of Member States to promote throughout the Community a harmonious development of economic activities, a continuous and balanced expansion, an increased stability, an accelerated raising of the standard of living and closer relations between its Member States.

Article 3: For the purposes set out in the preceding Article, the activities of the Community shall include, under the conditions and with the timing provided for in this Treaty:

(a) the elimination, as between Member States, of customs duties and of quantitative restrictions in regard to the importation and exportation of goods, as well as of all other measures with equivalent effect;

(b) the establishment of a common customs tariff and a common commercial policy towards third countries;

(c) the abolition, as between Member States, of the obstacles to the free movement of persons, services and capital;

(d) the inauguration of a common agricultural policy;

(e) the inauguration of a common transport policy;

(f) the establishment of a system ensuring that competition shall not be distorted in the Common Market;

(g) the application of procedures which shall make it possible to coordinate the economic policies of Member States and to remedy disequilibrium in their balances of payments;

(h) the approximation of their respective municipal law to the extent necessary for the functioning of the Common Market;

(i) the creation of a European Social Fund in order to improve the possibilities of employment for workers and to contribute to the raising of their standard of living;

(j) the establishment of European Investment Bank intended to facilitate the economic expansion of the Community through the creation of new resources; and

(k) the association of overseas countries and territories with the Community with a view to increasing trade and to pursuing jointly their effort towards economic and social development.

Economic integration can take several forms that represent varying degrees of integration. These are a free-trade area, a customs union, a common market, an economic union, and complete economic integration. In a free trade area, tariffs (and quantitative restrictions) between the participating countries are abolished, but each country retains its own tariffs against non-members. Establishing a customs union involves, besides the suppression of discrimination in the field of commodity movements within the union, the equalisation of tariffs in trade with non-member countries. A higher form of economic integration is attained in a common market, where not only trade restrictions but also restrictions on factor movements are abolished. An economic union, as distinct from a common market, combines the suppression of restrictions on commodity and factor movements with some degree of harmonisation of national economic policies, in order to remove discrimination that was due to disparities in these policies. Finally, total economic integration presupposes the unification of monetary, fiscal, social, and countercyclical policies and requires the setting-up of a supranational authority whose decisions are binding for the Member States.

Adopting the definition given above, the theory of economic integration will be concerned with the economic effects of integration in its various forms and with problems that arise from divergences in national monetary, fiscal, and other policies. The theory of economic integration can be regarded as a part of international economics, but it also enlarges the field of international trade theory by exploring the impact of a fusion of national market on growth and examining the need for the coordination of economic policies in a union. Finally, the theory of economic integration should, incorporate elements of location theory, too. The integration of adjacent countries amounts to the removal of artificial barriers that

obstruct continuous economic activity through national frontiers, and the ensuing relocation of production and regional agglomerative and deglomerative tendencies cannot be adequately discussed without making use of the tools of locational analysis.

The Community's institutions consist of a Council of Ministers, a European Economic Commission, an Assembly, which is a kind of Parliament, and a Court of Justice, which is an embryo Supreme Court. What we have is a system of checks and balances similar to that in most constitutions.

The Council of Ministers is designed to bring together national views, the views of the six governments. It meets at intervals. Each government is represented in the Council by its Foreign Minister or by one or more other Ministers, such as the Finance, Transport or Agricultural Ministers, as the subject matter requires.

The continuing, day-to-day executive work of the Community is handled by the nine-member European Economic commission. The Commission is responsible to the Assembly of the Community. It defends the common interests of the Community and represents the Community viewpoint, rather than national views. It acts by majority vote in all things.

The Commission has numerous real powers, specified in the Treaty, which it exercises on its own authority. Where general rules have to be set, the Council of Ministers makes the decisions. But it must do so on the proposals of the Commission. It cannot amend the Commission's proposals except by unanimous vote.

What sort of government is the government which we see in embryo in the European Economic Community? It is not, as I said, a further development of normal diplomatic methods of consultation and co-operation as seen in traditional international organisations. Instead, the fusion of interests in the European Community is being achieved through a new

mechanism of institutions which it is only a slight exaggeration to call a constitutional framework.

Of course, the European Community is not just a new power-bloc or a new coalition, although it has its pride, it is not a swollen version of 19th century nationalism, taking a continent rather than a country as its basis. In fact, it is the concrete embodiment of a new approach to the relations between states. It is not merely international: it is not yet fully federal. But

it is an attempt to build on the federal pattern a democratically constituted Europe - what I have called elsewhere a federation in the making.

No practical statesman would I think be prepared to endorse unreservedly the doctrine of the separation of powers: but classical democratic theory, with its division of the organs of government into executive, legislative and judiciary, certainly underlines the constitutional structure of the European Economic Community. The Executive is the Commission - nine men, many of them former ministers in national governments, who are now no longer national, but European, responsible to the Community as a whole. They are not permitted to take national instructions, and once appointed for their term of office by common agreement of the member governments, they can only be removed by a vote of no confidence from the Community Parliament, of which I shall speak in a moment. The Commission has broadly three main tasks. First, it draws up proposals to be decided by the Council of Ministers. Secondly, it watches over the execution of the Treaty and may call firms and governments to account. Thirdly, it mediates between the governments and seeks to reconcile national interests with the Community interests; and a fourth task, whose importance is growing, is that of executing those decisions of detail which for the sake of rapid and impartial treatment it is empowered to take itself.

Therefore, after long and earnest consideration, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that it would be right for Britain to make a formal application under Article 237 of the Treaty for negotiations with a view to joining the Community if satisfactory arrangements can be made to meet the special needs of the United Kingdom, of the Commonwealth and of the European Free Trade Association.

If, as I earnestly hope, our offer to enter into negotiations with the European Economic Community is accepted, we shall spare no efforts to reach a satisfactory agreement. These negotiations must inevitably be of a detailed and technical character, covering a very large number of the most delicate and difficult matters. They may, therefore, be protracted and there can, of course, be no guarantee of success. When any negotiations are brought to a conclusion then it will be the duty of the Government to recommend to the House what course we should pursue.

The Treaty of Rome was concluded between six continental States - States which are, economically speaking, one may say, of the same nature. Indeed, whether it be a matter of their industrial or agricultural production, their external exchanges, their habits or their commercial clientele, their living or working conditions, there is between them much more resemblance than difference. Moreover, they are adjacent, they inter-penetrate, they prolong each other through their communications. It is therefore a fact to group them and to link them in such a way that what they have to produce, to buy, to sell, to consume - well, they do produce, buy, sell, consume, in preference in their own ensemble. Doing that is conforming to realities.

Moreover, it must be added that from the point of view of their economic development, their social progress, their technical capacity, they are, in short, keeping pace. They are marching in similar fashion. It so happens, too, that there is between them no kind of political grievance, no frontier question, no rivalry in domination or power. On the contrary, they are joined in solidarity, especially and primarily, from the aspect of the consciousness they have, of defining together an important part of the sources of our civilisation; and also as concerns their security, because they are continentals and have before them one and the same menace from one extremity to the other of their territories; finally, they are in solidarity through the fact that not one among them is bound abroad by any particular political or military accord.

Thus, it was psychologically and materially possible to make an economic community of the Six, though not without difficulties. When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, it was after long discussions; and when it was concluded, it was necessary in order to achieve something that we French put in order our economic, financial, and monetary affairs and that was done in 1959.

Thereupon Great Britain posed her candidature to the Common Market. She did it after having earlier refused to participate in the communities we are now building, as well as after creating a free trade area with six other States, and, finally, after having - I may well say it, the negotiations held at such length on this subject will be recalled - after having put some pressure on the Six to prevent a real beginning being made in the application of the Common Market. If England asks in turn to enter, but on her own conditions, this poses without doubt to each of the six States, and poses to England, problems of a very great dimension.

England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her exchanges, her markets, her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings very marked and very original habits and traditions.

A new political event of extreme importance was in the making: General de Gaulle had torpedoed our negotiations without having warned either his partners or the British. He had acted with a lack of consideration unexampled in the history of the EEC, showing utter contempt for his negotiating partners, allies and opponents alike. He had brought to a halt negotiations which he himself put in train in full agreement with his partners, and had done so on the flimsiest of pretexts.

What had happened? There is every reason to believe that it was the attitude adopted by Macmillan at his meeting with Kennedy in Bermuda which so upset the President of the French Republic. Macmillan's crime was to have reached agreement with the President of the United States on Britain's nuclear, weaponry. He had in fact arranged for the purchase of Polaris missiles from the United States. In General de Gaulle's eyes the cooperation with the Americans was tantamount to treason against Europe's interests and justified his refusal to allow Britain into the Common Market. The General's resentment was all the greater because a few days before the Bermuda meeting he had received Macmillan at Rambouillet. The British Prime Minister, he claimed, had told him nothing of his nuclear plans. On the other hand, de Gaulle gave Macmillan no warning that he was about to torpedo the negotiations in Brussels. I think the full truth about these events still remains to be told. The French and British versions which have been circulating in the chancelleries differ, but what is certain is that France, without consulting her partners, unilaterally withdrew from negotiations to which she had earlier agreed and that she did so, moreover, after first insisting that the Six must present a united front.

We were faced with a complete volte-face. Stunned and angry, our first reaction was to ignore what had been said in Paris and to continue the negotiation as if nothing had happened. The British showed extraordinary sang-froid. Though, deep down, they were greatly shocked, they gave no outward sign of this and continued to present their arguments at the negotiating table with imperturbable calm.

I should like to speak particularly about the objection to integration. People counter this by saying: "Why not merge the six states together into a single supranational entity? That would be very simple and practical". But such an entity is impossible to achieve in the absence in Europe today of a federator who has the necessary power, reputation and ability. Thus one has to fall back on a sort of hybrid arrangement under which the six states agree to submit to the decisions of a qualified majority. At the same time, although there are already six national Parliaments as well as the

European Parliament and, in addition the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe ... it would be necessary to elect over and above this, yet a further Parliament, described as European, which would lay down the law to the six states.

These are ideas that might appeal to certain minds but I entirely fail to see how they could be put into practice, even with six signatures at the foot of a document. Can we imagine France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg being prepared on a matter of importance to them in the national or international sphere, to do something that appeared wrong to them, merely because others had ordered them to do so? Would the peoples of France, of Germany, of Italy, of the Netherlands, of Belgium or of Luxembourg ever dream of submitting to laws passed by foreign parliamentarians if such laws ran counter to their deepest convictions? Clearly not. It is impossible nowadays for a foreign majority to impose their will on reluctant nations. It is true, perhaps, that in this 'integrated' Europe as it is called there might be no policy at all. This would simplify a great many things. Indeed, once there was no France, no Europe; once there was no policy - since one could not be imposed on each of the six states, attempts to formulate a policy would cease. But then, perhaps, these peoples would follow in the wake of some outsider who had a policy. There would, perhaps, be a federator, but he would not be European. And Europe would not be an integrated Europe but something vaster by far and, I repeat, with a federator. Perhaps to some extent it is this that at times inspires the utterances of certain advocates of European integration. If so, then it would be better to say so.

I became the Labour Party's spokesman in the House of Commons on defence, and this got me more and more involved with European colleagues, in NATO, in the Western European Union, and in an American-European consultative body called the NATO Parliamentarians. Quite without planning I became a main spokesman for the Labour Party in all these various bodies, and I began thinking of Europe on a much wider basis than at Strasbourg. I began to think deeply about European defence, and about European and American relationships. Gradually my views changed and I became a convinced 'European'. That is something much more than being merely a Common Market man. My belief that Britain should join the Common Market developed out of my thinking on European integration. Important as it is, the Common Market in my view is only part of the wider process of creating a politically integrated Europe, capable of standing up both to the Russians and the Americans.

Geographically, historically and in every other way the British are among the leading nations of Western Europe. I have always quarrelled with Dean Acheson's much-repeated remark about Britain's having lost an empire and not found a role. We have a role; our role is to lead Europe. We are, and have been for eleven centuries since the reign of King Alfred, one of the leaders of Europe. It may be that Britain is destined to become the leader of Europe, of Western Europe in the first place, and of as much of Europe as will come together later on. The little bit of water that comes between us and the mainland is a help in the sense that it provides a point from which you can stand back and observe without getting too involved in the passions of States in the centre of the Continent, but it is no longer a barrier because wars will never again be fought in a way that makes the Channel a barrier.

Membership of the EEC brings us great economic advantages, but the European Community is not a matter of accountancy. There are two basic ideas behind the formation of the Common Market; first, that having nearly destroyed themselves by two great European civil wars, the European nations should make a similar war impossible in future; and, secondly, that only through unity could the western European nations recover control over their destiny - a control which they had lost after two wars, the division of Europe and the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union.

We must . work out with the trade unions and the employers a fair and effective policy for prices and incomes ... if after all our efforts we fail to get a comprehensive voluntary policy we shall need to support the voluntary restraint that 15 achieved with the back-up of the law. It would be irresponsible and dishonest totally to rule this out ... In the absence of an effective prices and incomes policy and Government would have to take harsher financial and economic measures than would otherwise be necessary.

I think Brandt decided that the right way of helping us was for the Federal Republic to seek a more equal voice with France in the affairs of the Common Market, then put our case in a down-to-earth way. He had no dreams about an ideal form of European political unity. He was purely pragmatic and practical about what could be done for Europe. He was helped by the 1968 student riots in France - they actually began while Brandt and I were having talks. They made the West Germans realize they need not be quite so dutiful to the French - de Gaulle's regime was not, after all, omnipotent. German self-confidence vis-a-vis France rose as a result. This was something quite different from that terrible and disgusting German contempt in the past for the French, and it was all to the good - this was the right time for the Germans to stand up for themselves, especially with so sensible and civilized a man as Brandt to represent them.

(A) Economic and monetary union is an objective realisable in the course of the present decade provided only that the political will of the Member States to realise this objective, as solemnly declared at the Conference at the Hague, is present. The union will make it possible to ensure growth and stability within the Community and reinforce the contribution it can make to economic and monetary equilibrium in the world and make it a pillar of stability.

(B) Economic and monetary union means that the principal decisions of economic policy will be taken at Community level and therefore that the necessary powers will be transferred from the national plane to the Community plane. These transfers of responsibility and the creation of the corresponding Community institutions represent a process of fundamental political significance which entails the progressive development of political cooperation. The economic and monetary union thus appears as a leaven for the development of political union which in the long run it will be unable to do without.

(C) A monetary union implies, internally, the total and irreversible convertibility of currencies, the elimination of margins of fluctuation in rates of exchange, the irrevocable fixing of parity ratios and the total liberation of movements of capital. It may be accompanied by the maintenance of national monetary symbols, but considerations of a psychological and political order militate in favour of the adoption of a single currency which would guarantee the irreversibility of the undertaking.

(D) On the institutional plane, in the final stage, two Community organs are indispensable: a centre of decision for economic policy and a Community system for the central banks. These institutions, while safeguarding their own responsibilities, must be furnished with effective powers of decision and must work together for the realisation of the same objectives. The centre of economic decision will be politically responsible to a European Parliament.

(E) Throughout the process, as progress is achieved Community instruments will be created to carry out or complete the action of the national instruments. In all fields the steps to be taken will be interdependent and will reinforce one another; in particular the development of monetary unification will have to be combined with parallel progress towards the harmonization and finally the unification of economic policies.

Not only was the EEC launched as part of the cold war policy that had produced NATO. Its constitution, the Rome Treaty, was framed under the influence of the great cartels, combines, monopolies and holding companies which have dominated the life of the Six since the war. The Rome Treaty allows planning and even rationalization for greater economic efficiency, provided there is no interference with free competition, but rules out planning and public ownership geared to social purposes. In short, that in the EEC it is 'yes' to State capitalism and 'no' to Socialism.

Despite the rage in Whitehall, and the angry disappointment of most Europeans, I saw Charles de Gaulle's veto as a blessing in disguise. "The nation can no longer delude itself," I wrote, "into thinking that the painful changes in both domestic and external policy required to invigorate its flagging economy will automatically be imposed by entry into the EEC.' On the other hand, if we could meet this economic challenge, I foresaw another attempt by Britain to join the Common Market. This might come when de Gaulle had disappeared, after turning it into an organisation which might be more compatible with British interests, when Willy Brandt and the SPD held power in Western Germany, and when the other members might be ready to override opposition from Paris. So in fact it proved.

This Conference declares its opposition to entry to the Common Market on the terms negotiated by the Tories and calls on a future Labour Government to reverse any decision for Britain to join unless new terms have been negotiated including the abandonment of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Value Added Tax, no limitations on the freedom of a Labour Government to carry out economic plans, regional development, extension of the Public Sector, control of Capital Movements, and the preservation of the power of the British Parliament over its legislation and taxation, and, meanwhile to halt immediately the entry arrangements, including all payments to the European Communities, and participation in their Institutions, in particular the European Parliament, until such terms have been negotiated and the assent of the British electorate has been given.

It makes good sense for our jobs and prosperity. It makes good sense for world peace. It makes good sense for the Commonwealth. It makes good sense for our children's future. Being in does not in itself solve our problems. No one pretends it could. It doesn't guarantee us a prosperous future. Only our own efforts will do that. But it offers the best framework for success, the best protection for our standard of living, the best foundation for greater prosperity. All the original six members have found that. They have done well - much better than we have - over the past 15 years. .

Our friends want us to stay in. If we left we would not go back to the world as it was when we joined, still less to the old world of Britain's imperial heyday. The world has been changing fast. And the changes have made things more difficult and more dangerous for this country. It is a time when we need friends. What do our friends think? The old Commonwealth wants us to stay in, Australia does, Canada does. New Zealand does. The new Commonwealth wants us to stay in. Not a single one of their 34 governments wants us to leave. The United States wants us to stay in. They want a close Atlantic relationship (upon which our whole security depends) with a Europe of which we are part; but not with us alone. The other members of the European Community want us to stay in. That is why they have been flexible in the recent re-negotiations and so made possible the improved terms which have converted many former doubters. Outside, we should be alone in a harsh, cold world, with none of our friends offering to revive old partnerships.

Why can't we go it alone? To some this sounds attractive,.Mind our own business. Make our own decisions. Pull up the drawbridge. In the modern world it just is not practicable. It wasn't so even 40 or 60 years ago. The world's troubles, the world's wars inevitably dragged us in. Much better to work together to prevent them happening. Today we are even more dependent on what happens outside. Our trade, our jobs, our food, our defence cannot be wholly within our own control. That is why so much of the argument about sovereignty is a false one. It's not a matter of dry legal theory. The real test is how we can protect our own interests and exercise British influence in the world. The best way is to work with our friends and neighbours. If we came out, the Community would go on taking decisions which affect us vitally - but we should have no say in them. We would be clinging to the shadow of British sovereignty while its substance flies out of the window. The European Community does not pretend that each member nation is not different. It strikes a balance between the wish to express our own national personalities and the need for common action. All decisions of any importance must be agreed by every member. Our traditions are safe. We can work together and still stay British. The Community does not mean dull uniformity. It hasn't made the French eat German food or the Dutch drink Italian beer. Nor will it damage our British traditions and way of life. The position of the Queen is not affected. She will remain Sovereign of the United Kingdom and Head of the Commonwealth. Four of the other Community countries have monarchies of their own.

English Common Law is not affected. For a few commercial and industrial purposes there is need for Community Law. But our criminal law, trial by jury, presumption of innocence remain unaltered. So do our civil rights. Scotland, after 250 years of much closer union with England, still keeps its own legal system.

Re-negotiation. The present Government, though it tried, has on its own admission failed to achieve the 'fundamental re-negotiation' it promised at the last two General Elections. All it has gained are a few concessions for Britain, some of them only temporary. The real choice before the British peoples has been scarcely altered by re-negotiation.

What did the pro-Marketers say? Before we joined the Common Market the Government forecast that we should enjoy - A rapid rise in our living standards; A trade surplus with the Common Market; Better productivity; Higher investment; More employment; Faster industrial growth. In every case the opposite is now happening, according to the Government's figures.

Our legal right to come out. It was agreed during the debates which took us into the Common Market that the British Parliament had the absolute right to repeal the European Communities Act and take us out. There is nothing in the Treaty of Rome which says a country cannot come out.

The right to rule ourselves. The fundamental question is whether or not we remain free to rule ourselves in our own way. For the British people, membership of the Common Market has already been a bad bargain. What is worse, it sets out by stages to merge Britain with France, Germany, Italy and other countries into a single nation. This will take away from us the right to rule ourselves which we have enjoyed for centuries.

Your food, your jobs, our trade. We cannot afford to remain in the Common Market because: it must mean still higher food prices. Before we joined, we could buy our food at the lowest cost from the most efficient producers in the world. Since we joined, we are no longer allowed to buy all our food where it suits us best.

Your jobs at risk. If we stay in the Common Market, a British Government can no longer prevent the drift of industry southwards and increasingly to the Continent. This is already happening.

If it went on, it would be particularly damaging to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of the North and West of England, which have suffered so much from unemployment already.

If we stay in the Common Market, our Government must increasingly abandon to them control over this drift of industry and employment. Far reaching powers of interference in the control of British industry, particularly iron and steel, are possessed by the Market authorities.

Interference with the oil around our shores has already been threatened by the Brussels Commission.

Huge trade deficit with Common Market. The Common Market pattern of trade was never designed to suit Britain. Taxes to keep prices up. The Common Market's dear food policy is designed to prop up inefficient farmers on the Continent by keeping food prices high.

Agriculture. It would be far better for us if we had our own national agricultural policy suited to our own country, as we had before we joined.

Commonwealth links. Our Commonwealth links are bound to be weakened much further if we stay in the Common Market. We are being forced to tax imported Commonwealth goods. And as we lose our national independence, we shall cease, in practice, to be a member of the Commonwealth.

Britain a mere province of the Common Market? The real aim of the Market is, of course, to become one single country in which Britain would be reduced to a mere province. The plan is to have a Common Market Parliament by 1978 or shortly thereafter.

What is the alternative? A far better course is open to us. If we withdraw from the Market, we could and should remain members of the wider Free Trade Area which now exists between the Common Market and the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) - Norway, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal and Iceland. These countries are now to enjoy free entry for their industrial exports into the Common Market without having to carry the burden of the Market's dear food policy or suffer rule from Brussels. Britain already enjoys industrial free trade with these countries. If we withdrew from the Common Market, we should remain members of the wider group and enjoy, as the EFTA countries do, free or low-tariff entry into the Common Market countries without the burden of dear food or the loss of the British people's democratic rights.

Through its unification Germany became the bearer of hope for East Europe, and precisely for this reason we must be conscious of our responsibility in connection with the integration of the East European states. That applies above all to our Polish neighbours. After a year of unity we have proved that we can live as good neighbours, that we Germans are Europeans. European Germans.

Thereby, the question arises: how, in a climate of uncertainty about the new European order, can the collapse of the compulsory associations in the East and the emergence of European Union in the West be brought into harmony. The answer lies in federalism, regionalism and in the principle of subsidiarity.

German federalism can be a very useful model for cooperation within the European Community and for the progressive integration of the European states. It has proved itself as a dynamic system, open to development and varied changes.

The 'Yes' to a federal Europe also means incorporating the Lander and regions as a 'third level' in the shaping of a political union. Crossborder cooperation between all the regions of Europe, especially in the political, economic, cultural and environmental fields is therefore a presupposition (of union). Failure to incorporate the Lander and regions into the process of European integration would mean automatically increasing centralisation of decision making and legal norms for ever more men.

The long repressed aspirations for autonomy in Central and Eastern Europe must not flow into a persistent nationalism. I see there, rather, the, perhaps necessary, first step on the way to a new European order, the first step under a common European roof.

What can Czechoslovakia do to ensure its security? Proceeding from our historical experiences, from our geographical situation, our vulnerability caused by a shortage of raw materials and energy and from the moral profile of our foreign policy. We have two possibilities to choose from. Either Central Europe will be fully included in conceptual considerations developing today at the most representative levels in connection with the shaping of a new European defence and security identity, or at least three Central European countries will have to start considering a closer cohesion of their security interests.

In the first case, the fact that advanced Europe includes in its defence and security identity the Central European area should be expressed by at least a minimum degree of concrete guarantees given to the states existing in this area. If we had to choose the other possibility as a result of lack of understanding of our position, i.e. the linking of our security interests with some of our former allies in the Warsaw Pact, which a certain part of the political forces in my country is in favour of, then such a solution could rather contribute to suspicion and tension in the former Soviet bloc. Quite logically the question would arise not 'why' such a solution but 'against whom' such a solution. We are naturally aware that all our efforts to fully integrate in the European integration processes lead above all through the economic sphere.

This is why after our very first foreign political step, which was the starting of negotiations with the Soviet government on the speedy withdrawal of Soviet occupation troops from Czechoslovakia, we immediately made the second one which was the message the Czechoslovak Prime Minister sent to Brussels expressing our decision to become as soon as possibles full-fledged member of the European Communities.

I would like you to understand that the system which existed for more than forty years in my country was a system that was functioning, functioning badly but functioning. Only when we manage to build again an administrative and economic structure compatible with advanced Europe, only then shall we have the right to say - we are again back in Europe. And for this we need the broadest possible collaboration on the part of this advanced Europe.

It seems to me that it is easier to speak in big declarations about the need for cooperation with the states of the former Soviet bloc than to start concrete negotiations on details. We negotiated our association agreements with the EC for more than eight months. When the talks reached the final stage we suddenly realised how many conditions and restrictions were put before us. We suddenly realised that the tough rules of the market and competition were being applied everywhere where solidarity should rule in the first place. And when we eventually reached compromises on our exports of textiles, steel and meat, the extent of which absolutely cannot threaten the EC markets, we had to face another condition - either you will allow the transit across your territory of a quite unbearable number of tractor trailers or one of the twelve participants will not sign the association agreement.

Within the economic renaissance of the Central European area we have decided to follow the path of even partial projects for the implementation of which regional groupings can be set up. These are projects exceeding the boundaries of individual states and aiming at a speedier modernisation of transport, the telecommunication network and power supplies, and improvement of the environment, and created a grouping, which we call the Hexagonal and which may be renamed the Central European Initiative. To some degree we are thus creating another axis of cooperation, that of North-South, but not a new bloc.

In conceptualising our new Czechoslovak foreign policy, we clearly set out on the path leading to European integration, to those European institutions which are currently preparing and forming the basis of this integration. We have made this

choice because we regard it as the only one which can save the nations of Europe from becoming bogged down in old disputes and intolerances.

History of the European Communities (1958–1972)

The history of the European Communities between 1958 and 1972 saw the early development of the European Communities. The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) had just been joined by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the European Economic Community (EEC), the latter of which soon became the most important. In 1967 the EEC's institutions took over the other two with the EEC's Commission holding its first terms under Hallstein and Rey. [1]

In 1958 the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) was established. On 19 March the Parliamentary Assembly (replacing the Common Assembly) met for the first time for all three communities and elected Robert Schuman as its President. On 13 May members sat according to political, rather than national, allegiance for the first time.

1939 to 1945 &ndash The Second World War

In 1939, the second global war started between the Allies and the Axis. It was considered as the most widespread war, participated by more than 100 million people from over 30 different countries. According to records, the war caused over 85 million deaths making it the deadliest conflict in the human history. In conclusion, the Allied powers (United Kingdom, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and China primarily) had stopped the aggression of Germany, Japan, and Italy.

The war greatly caused economic depression in Europe. Further, it has resulted in the division of people in the continent &ndash communists, eastern bloc, democratic western nations, and Soviet-dominated. There was a huge that Europe will never recover.

European Union

The evolution of what is today the European Union (EU) from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today's hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization of 27 countries across the European continent stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history. Dynastic unions for territorial consolidation were long the norm in Europe on a few occasions even country-level unions were arranged - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were examples. But for such a large number of nation-states to cede some of their sovereignty to an overarching entity is unique.

Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is far more than a free-trade association such as ASEAN or Mercosur, and it has certain attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, currency (for some members), and law-making abilities, as well as diplomatic representation and a common foreign and security policy in its dealings with external partners.

Thus, inclusion of basic intelligence on the EU has been deemed appropriate as a separate entity in The World Factbook. However, because of the EU's special status, this description is placed after the regular country entries.


Following the two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century, a number of far-sighted European leaders in the late 1940s sought a response to the overwhelming desire for peace and reconciliation on the continent. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed pooling the production of coal and steel in Western Europe and setting up an organization for that purpose that would bring France and the Federal Republic of Germany together and would be open to other countries as well. The following year, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members - Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands - signed the Treaty of Paris.

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

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

A new currency, the euro, was launched in world money markets on 1 January 1999 it became the unit of exchange for all EU member states except Denmark, Sweden, and the UK. In 2002, citizens of those 12 countries began using euro banknotes and coins. Ten new countries joined the EU in 2004 - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 and Croatia in 2013, but the UK withdrew in 2020. Current membership stands at 27. (Seven of the new countries - Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia - have now adopted the euro, bringing total euro-zone membership to 19.)

In an effort to ensure that the EU could function efficiently with an expanded membership, the Treaty of Nice (concluded in 2000 entered into force in 2003) set forth rules to streamline the size and procedures of EU institutions. An effort to establish a "Constitution for Europe," growing out of a Convention held in 2002-2003, foundered when it was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. A subsequent effort in 2007 incorporated many of the features of the rejected draft Constitutional Treaty while also making a number of substantive and symbolic changes. The new treaty, referred to as the Treaty of Lisbon, sought to amend existing treaties rather than replace them. The treaty was approved at the EU intergovernmental conference of the then 27 member states held in Lisbon in December 2007, after which the process of national ratifications began. In October 2009, an Irish referendum approved the Lisbon Treaty (overturning a previous rejection) and cleared the way for an ultimate unanimous endorsement. Poland and the Czech Republic ratified soon after. The Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009 and the EU officially replaced and succeeded the EC. The Treaty's provisions are part of the basic consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) now governing what remains a very specific integration project.

UK citizens on 23 June 2016 narrowly voted to leave the EU the formal exit took place on 31 January 2020. The EU and UK have negotiated and ratified a Withdrawal Agreement that includes a status quo transition period through December 2020, which can be extended if both sides agree.


Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.


During the centuries that followed 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. [e] 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"), [27] either in the forms of the Reichsidee ("imperial idea") [28] or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum ("christian empire"). [29] [30] Medieval Christendom and the political power of the Papacy have been cited as conducive to European integration and unity. [31] [32] [33] [34] [ relevant? ]

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. [35] 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, [36] [37] [38] and would be eventually widened again by the Iron Curtain (1945–1991) before the enlargement of the European Union towards Eastern Europe since 2004 onward. [39] [40] [ relevant? ]

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 (1804–1815). In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, [41] ideals of European unity flourished across the continent, especially in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1799–1882) [42] or Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872). [43] The term United States of Europe (French: États-Unis d'Europe) was used at that time by Victor Hugo (1802–1885) 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. [44]

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. [45] 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." [46] 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. [47] His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among whom was 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. [48] 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. [49] [50]

Preliminary (1945–1957)

After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated parts of the continent. [51] 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. [52] 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. [53]

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. 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". [54] This community helped to economically integrate and coordinate the large number of Marshall Plan funds from the United States. [55] 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. [56] These men and others are officially credited as the founding fathers of the European Union.

Treaty of Rome (1957–1992)

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. [56]

The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC and 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. [57] [58]

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. [59] [60] Jean Rey presided over the first merged commission (Rey Commission). [61]

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. [62] 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. [63]

Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986. [64] 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. [65] In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC [66] 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. [67]

Maastricht Treaty (1992–2007)

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. [17] [68] 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. [69] 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. [70]

Lisbon Treaty (2007–present)

In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. Later that year, Slovenia adopted the euro, [70] followed by Cyprus and Malta in 2008, Slovakia in 2009, Estonia in 2011, Latvia in 2014, and 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. [71] [72]

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." [73] [74] In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member. [75]

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 Africa and Asia, and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU. [76] A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held in 2016, with 51.9 per cent of participants voting to leave. [77] 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 following extensions to the process, the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, though most areas of EU law continued to apply to the UK for a transition period which lasted until 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020. [78]


As of 1 February 2020 [update] , the population of the European Union was about 447 million people (5.8 per cent of the world population). [79] [80] 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. [81] For comparison, the EU-28 birth rate had stood at 10.6 in 2000, 12.8 in 1985 and 16.3 in 1970. [82] Its population growth rate was positive at an estimated 0.23 per cent in 2016. [83]

In 2010, 47.3 million people who lived in the EU were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4 per cent of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3 per cent) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2 per cent) 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). [84] In 2017, approximately 825,000 people acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union. The largest groups were nationals of Morocco, Albania, India, Turkey and Pakistan. [85] 2.4 million immigrants from non-EU countries entered the EU in 2017. [86] [87]


The EU contains about 40 urban areas with populations of over 1 million. With a population of over 13 million, [88] Paris is the largest metropolitan area and the only megacity in the EU. [89] Paris is followed by Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, the Ruhr, Rome, and Milan, all with a metropolitan population of over 4 million. [90]


Official languages by percentage of speakers (as of February 2020, [92] based on 2012 survey [93] )
Language Native speakers [f] [94] Total [g] [95]
German 18% 32%
French 13% 26%
Italian 12% 16%
Spanish 8% 15%
Polish 8% 9%
Romanian 5% 5%
Dutch 4% 5%
Greek 3% 4%
Hungarian 3% 3%
Portuguese 2% 3%
Czech 2% 3%
Swedish 2% 3%
Bulgarian 2% 2%
English 1% 51%
Slovak 1% 2%
Danish 1% 1%
Finnish 1% 1%
Lithuanian 1% 1%
Croatian 1% 1%
Slovene <1% <1%
Estonian <1% <1%
Irish <1% <1%
Latvian <1% <1%
Maltese <1% <1%

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. [96] [97]

Due to the high number of official languages, 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. [1] Similarly, the Court of Justice of the European Union uses French as the working language, [98] while the European Central Bank conducts its business primarily in English. [99] [100]

Even though language policy is the responsibility of member states, EU institutions promote multilingualism among its citizens. [h] [101] In 2012, English was the most widely spoken language in the EU, being understood by 51 per cent of the EU population when counting both native and non-native speakers. However, following the UK's exit from the block in early 2020 the percentage of the EU population who spoke English as their native language fell from 13 per cent to 1 per cent. [102] German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (18 per cent of the EU population), and the second most widely understood foreign language, followed by French (13 per cent of the EU population). In addition, both are official languages of several EU member states. More than half (56 per cent) of EU citizens are able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue. [103]

A total of twenty official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, represented by the Balto-Slavic, [i] the Italic, [j] the Germanic, [k] the Hellenic, [l] and the Celtic [m] branches. Only four languages, namely Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian (all three Uralic), and Maltese (Semitic), are not Indo-European languages. [104] The three official alphabets of the European Union (Cyrillic, Latin, and modern Greek) all derive from the Archaic Greek scripts. [2] [105]

Luxembourgish (in Luxembourg) and Turkish (in Cyprus) are the only two national languages that are not official languages of the EU. On 26 February 2016 it was made public that Cyprus has asked to make Turkish an official EU language, in a "gesture" that could help solve the division of the country. [106] Already in 2004, it was planned that Turkish would become an official language when Cyprus reunites. [107]

Besides the 24 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people. [104] Catalan, Galician and Basque are not recognised official languages of the European Union but have official status in one member state (Spain): therefore, official translations of the treaties are made into them and citizens have the right to correspond with the institutions in these languages. [108] [109] 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. [110]


The EU has no formal connection to any religion. Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [111] recognises the "status under national law of churches and religious associations" as well as that of "philosophical and non-confessional organisations". [112]

The preamble to the Treaty on European Union mentions the "cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe". [112] Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon included proposals to mention Christianity or a god, or both, in the preamble of the text, but the idea faced opposition and was dropped. [113]

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, [114] and an estimated Jewish population of over a million. [115] 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 per cent of the EU population. Catholics are the largest Christian group, accounting for 45.3 per cent of the EU population, while Protestants make up 11.1 per cent, Eastern Orthodox make up 9.6 per cent, and other Christians make up 5.6 per cent. [3]

Eurostat's Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52 per cent of EU citizens believed in a god, 27 per cent in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18 per cent had no form of belief. [116] Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years. [117] The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16 per cent) and the Czech Republic (19 per cent). [116] The most religious countries were Malta (95 per cent, predominantly Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90 per cent of citizens professing a belief in their respective 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". [116]

Through successive enlargements, the European Union has grown from the six founding states (Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) to 27 members. 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". [118] [119]

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. [120] Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty provides the basis for a member to leave the EU. Two territories have left the union: Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985 [121] the United Kingdom formally invoked Article 50 of the Consolidated Treaty on European Union in 2017, and became the only sovereign state to leave when it withdrew from the EU in 2020.

There are six countries that are recognised as candidates for membership: Albania, Iceland, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey, [122] though Iceland suspended negotiations in 2013. [123] Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates, [122] with Bosnia and Herzegovina having submitted a membership application. Georgia and Ukraine are preparing to formally apply for EU membership in 2024, in order to join the European Union in the 2030s. [124] [125] [126]

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. [127] [128] 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. [129]

List of member states
State Capital Accession Population (2019) [79] Area Population density MEPs
Austria Vienna 19950101 1 January 1995 8,858,775 83,855 km 2
(32,377 sq mi)
106/km 2
(270/sq mi)
Belgium Brussels 19570325 Founder 11,467,923 30,528 km 2
(11,787 sq mi)
376/km 2
(970/sq mi)
Bulgaria Sofia 20070101 1 January 2007 7,000,039 110,994 km 2
(42,855 sq mi)
63/km 2
(160/sq mi)
Croatia Zagreb 20130701 1 July 2013 4,076,246 56,594 km 2
(21,851 sq mi)
72/km 2
(190/sq mi)
Cyprus Nicosia 20040501 1 May 2004 875,898 9,251 km 2
(3,572 sq mi)
95/km 2
(250/sq mi)
Czech Republic Prague 20040501 1 May 2004 10,649,800 78,866 km 2
(30,450 sq mi)
135/km 2
(350/sq mi)
Denmark Copenhagen 19730101 1 January 1973 5,806,081 43,075 km 2
(16,631 sq mi)
135/km 2
(350/sq mi)
Estonia Tallinn 20040501 1 May 2004 1,324,820 45,227 km 2
(17,462 sq mi)
29/km 2
(75/sq mi)
Finland Helsinki 19950101 1 January 1995 5,517,919 338,424 km 2
(130,666 sq mi)
16/km 2
(41/sq mi)
France Paris 19570325 Founder 67,028,048 640,679 km 2
(247,368 sq mi)
105/km 2
(270/sq mi)
Germany Berlin 19570325 Founder [n] 83,019,214 357,021 km 2
(137,847 sq mi)
233/km 2
(600/sq mi)
Greece Athens 19810101 1 January 1981 10,722,287 131,990 km 2
(50,960 sq mi)
81/km 2
(210/sq mi)
Hungary Budapest 20040101 1 May 2004 9,797,561 93,030 km 2
(35,920 sq mi)
105/km 2
(270/sq mi)
Ireland Dublin 19730101 1 January 1973 4,904,226 70,273 km 2
(27,133 sq mi)
70/km 2
(180/sq mi)
Italy Rome 19570325 Founder 60,359,546 301,338 km 2
(116,347 sq mi)
200/km 2
(520/sq mi)
Latvia Riga 20040501 1 May 2004 1,919,968 64,589 km 2
(24,938 sq mi)
30/km 2
(78/sq mi)
Lithuania Vilnius 20040501 1 May 2004 2,794,184 65,200 km 2
(25,200 sq mi)
43/km 2
(110/sq mi)
Luxembourg Luxembourg City 19570325 Founder 613,894 2,586 km 2
(998 sq mi)
237/km 2
(610/sq mi)
Malta Valletta 20040501 1 May 2004 493,559 316 km 2
(122 sq mi)
1,562/km 2
(4,050/sq mi)
Netherlands Amsterdam 19570325 Founder 17,282,163 41,543 km 2
(16,040 sq mi)
416/km 2
(1,080/sq mi)
Poland Warsaw 20040501 1 May 2004 37,972,812 312,685 km 2
(120,728 sq mi)
121/km 2
(310/sq mi)
Portugal Lisbon 19860101 1 January 1986 10,276,617 92,390 km 2
(35,670 sq mi)
111/km 2
(290/sq mi)
Romania Bucharest 20070101 1 January 2007 19,401,658 238,391 km 2
(92,043 sq mi)
81/km 2
(210/sq mi)
Slovakia Bratislava 20040501 1 May 2004 5,450,421 49,035 km 2
(18,933 sq mi)
111/km 2
(290/sq mi)
Slovenia Ljubljana 20040501 1 May 2004 2,080,908 20,273 km 2
(7,827 sq mi)
103/km 2
(270/sq mi)
Spain Madrid 19860101 1 January 1986 46,934,632 504,030 km 2
(194,610 sq mi)
93/km 2
(240/sq mi)
Sweden Stockholm 19950101 1 January 1995 10,230,185 449,964 km 2
(173,732 sq mi)
23/km 2
(60/sq mi)
27 total 446,834,579 4,233,262 km 2
(1,634,472 sq mi)
106/km 2
(270/sq mi)

The European Union's member states cover an area of 4,233,262 square kilometres (1,634,472 sq mi). [o] The EU's highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level. [130] The lowest points in the EU are Lammefjorden, Denmark and Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands, at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level. [131] 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). [132]

The EU's population is highly urbanised, with some 75 per cent of inhabitants living in urban areas as of 2006. Cities are largely spread out across the EU with a large grouping in and around the Benelux. [133]

Several overseas territories and dependencies of various member states are also formally part of the EU. [134]

The European Union operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making, [135] [136] 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. [137] 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). [138]

Constitutionally, the EU bears some resemblance to both a confederation and a federation, [139] [140] 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. [141] [142] 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 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. [143]


European Council Council of the European Union European Parliament European Commission
Provides impetus and direction Legislative Legislative Executive
Based in Brussels, Belgium Based in Brussels, Belgium Based in Strasbourg, France Based in Brussels, Belgium
Sets the general political directions and priorities of the Union by gathering together its member states' heads of state/government (elected chief executives). The conclusions of its summits (held at least quarterly) are adopted by consensus. Brings together ministers of member states governments' departments. It serves to represent the various governments directly and its approval is required for any proposal to enter into law. Consists of 705 directly elected representatives. It shares with the Council of the EU equal legislative powers to amend, approve or reject Commission proposals for most areas of EU legislation. Its powers are limited in areas where member states' view sovereignty to be of primary concern (i.e. defence). It elects the commission's president, must approve the College of Commissioners, and may vote to remove them collectively from office. The only institution empowered to propose legislation, serves as the "Guardian of the Treaties". It consists of an executive cabinet of public officials, led by an indirectly elected President. This College of Commissioners manages and directs the commission's permanent civil service. It turns the consensus objectives of the European Council into legislative proposals.

European Council

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 (presently Charles Michel), 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 (presently Josep Borrell) also takes part in its meetings. It has been described by some as the union's "supreme political authority". [144] 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). [145]

Tasks for the president of the European Council are ensuring the external representation of the EU, [146] 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.

European Commission

The European Commission acts both as the EU's executive arm, responsible for the day-to-day running of the EU, and also the legislative initiator, with the sole power to propose laws for debate. [147] [148] [149] The commission is 'guardian of the Treaties' and is responsible for their efficient operation and policing. [150] It operates de facto as a cabinet government, [ citation needed ] with 27 European 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 27 is the president of the European Commission (presently Ursula von der Leyen for 2019–2024), appointed by the European Council, subject to the Parliament's approval. 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 European Commission and is also chosen by the European Council. [151] The other 26 commissioners are subsequently appointed by the Council of the European Union in agreement with the nominated president. The 27 commissioners as a single body are subject to approval (or otherwise) by vote of the European Parliament.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the European Union (also called the Council [152] and the "Council of Ministers", its former title) [153] forms one half of the EU's legislature. It consists of a representative from each member state's government and meets in different compositions depending on the policy area being addressed. Notwithstanding its different configurations, it is considered to be one single body. [154] In addition to its legislative functions, the council also exercises executive functions in relations to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

In some policies, there are several member states that ally with strategic partners within the union. Examples of such alliances include the Visegrad Group, Benelux, the Baltic Assembly, the New Hanseatic League, the Weimar Triangle, the Lublin Triangle, EU Med Group, the Craiova Group and Bucharest Nine.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is one of three legislative institutions of the EU, which together with the Council of the European Union is tasked with amending and approving the European Commission's proposals. 705 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years on the basis of proportional representation. MEPs are elected on a national basis and 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. [155]

In the ordinary legislative procedure, the European Commission proposes legislation, which requires the joint approval of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to pass. This process applies to nearly all areas, including the EU budget. The parliament is the final body to approve or reject the proposed membership of the commission, and can attempt motions of censure on the commission by appeal to the Court of Justice. The president of the European Parliament (presently David Sassoli) 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. [156]


The European Union had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013, [158] representing 1.10 per cent and 1.05 per cent of the EU-27's GNI forecast for the respective periods. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03 per cent of GDP. [159]

In the 2010 budget of €141.5 billion, the largest single expenditure item is "cohesion & competitiveness" with around 45 per cent of the total budget. [160] Next comes "agriculture" with approximately 31 per cent of the total. [160] "Rural development, environment and fisheries" takes up around 11 per cent. [160] "Administration" accounts for around 6 per cent. [160] The "EU as a global partner" and "citizenship, freedom, security and justice" bring up the rear with approximately 6 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. [160]

The Court of Auditors is legally obliged to provide the parliament and the council (specifically, the Economic and Financial Affairs Council) with "a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions". [161] The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions. [162] 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. [163] [164] In their report on 2009 the auditors found that five areas of Union expenditure, agriculture and the cohesion fund, were materially affected by error. [165] The European Commission estimated in 2009 that the financial effect of irregularities was €1,863 million. [166]

In November 2020, members of the union, Hungary and Poland, blocked approval to the EU's budget at a meeting in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), citing a proposal that linked funding with adherence to the rule of law. The budget included a COVID-19 recovery fund of €750 billion. The budget may still be approved if Hungary and Poland withdraw their vetos after further negotiations in the council and the European Council. [167] [168]


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. [169]

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:

  • the customs union
  • the establishing of the competition rules necessary for the functioning of the internal market
  • monetary policy for the Member States whose currency is the euro
  • the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy
  • conclusion of certain international agreements
  • the internal market
  • social policy, for the aspects defined in the Consolidated Treaty
  • economic, social and territorial cohesion and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources
  • consumer protection
  • the area of freedom, security and justice
  • common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in this Treaty
  • the protection and improvement of human health
  • industry
  • tourism , youth, sport and vocational training
  • civil protection (disaster prevention)
  • administrative cooperation

The European Union is based on a series of treaties. These first established the European Community and the EU, and then made amendments to those founding treaties. [171] 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 [p] which can directly affect all member states and their inhabitants. [q] The EU has legal personality, with the right to sign agreements and international treaties. [172]

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. [r]

The direct effect and supremacy doctrines were not explicitly set out in the European Treaties but were developed by the Court of Justice itself over the 1960s, apparently under the influence of its then most influential judge, Frenchman Robert Lecourt [173]

Court of Justice of the European Union

The judicial branch of the European Union is formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union and consists of two courts: the Court of Justice and the General Court. [174] 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. [175] Because of the doctrines of direct effect and supremacy, many judgments of the Court of Justice are automatically applicable within the internal legal orders of the member states.

The General Court mainly deals with cases taken by individuals and companies directly before the EU's courts, [176] and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal adjudicates in disputes between the European Union and its civil service. [177] Decisions from the General Court can be appealed to the Court of Justice but only on a point of law. [178]

Fundamental rights

The treaties declare that the European Union 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." [179]

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." [180] 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. [181]

Signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership. [s] Previously, the EU itself could not accede to the convention as it is neither a state [t] nor had the competence to accede. [u] 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.

The EU is independent from the Council of Europe, although they share purpose and ideas, especially on the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Furthermore, the European Convention on Human Rights and European Social Charter, as well as the source of law for the Charter of Fundamental Rights are created by the Council of Europe. The EU has 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. [182]

On 19 October 2020, the European Union revealed new plans to create a legal structure to act against human rights violations worldwide. The new plan was expected to provide the European Union with greater flexibility to target and sanction those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses around the world. [183]

The main legal acts of the European Union 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, [v] and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions. [p] 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. [w] 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. [184]

European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty. The ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament for the length of the parliament's term, and the position is renewable. [185] Any EU citizen or entity may appeal to the ombudsman to investigate an EU institution on the grounds of maladministration (administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information or unnecessary delay). [186] Emily O'Reilly has been the ombudsman since 2013. [187]

Since the creation of the European Union 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, [188] family law, [189] asylum law, [190] and criminal justice. [191] Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties. [x] In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation. [y] By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination. [z]

The EU has also established agencies to co-ordinate police, prosecutorial and immigrations controls across the member states: Europol for co-operation of police forces, [192] Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, [193] and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. [194] The EU also operates the Schengen Information System [14] 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.

The borders inside the Schengen Area between Germany and Austria

Europol Headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands

Eurojust Headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands

Seat of Frontex in Warsaw, Poland

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. [195] 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. In 1987 the 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. [196]

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. [197] 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. [198]

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 [199] 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. [200] The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union. [201]

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. [202] : 762 This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power". [203]

Switzerland was called to vote on whether to end the agreement with European Union on the free movement of people, in September 2020. [204] The demand of Swiss People's Party (SPP) was, however, turned down, as the voters rejected SPP's demand for taking back immigration control. [205]

Security and defence

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. [206] 21 EU members are members of NATO [207] while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality. [208] 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. [209]

Since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, France is the only member officially recognised as a nuclear weapon state and the sole holder of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Possessing the EU's largest armed forces and the largest national defence budget of the bloc, [210] France is also the only EU country that has power projection capabilities outside of Europe. [211]

Most EU member states opposed the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty. [212]

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. [213]

EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from middle and northern Africa to the western Balkans and western Asia. [214] 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. [215] 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 27 members, substantial security and defence co-operation is increasingly relying on collaboration among all member states. [216]

Humanitarian aid

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 per cent of the budget went to Africa and 20 per cent to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific, and 20 per cent to the Middle East and Mediterranean. [217]

Humanitarian aid is financed directly by the budget (70 per cent) as part of the financial instruments for external action and also by the European Development Fund (30 per cent). [218] The EU's external action financing is divided into 'geographic' instruments and 'thematic' instruments. [218] The 'geographic' instruments provide aid through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI, €16.9 billion, 2007–2013), which must spend 95 per cent of its budget on official development assistance (ODA), and from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which contains some relevant programmes. [218] 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 per cent target and allow the European Parliament greater oversight. [218] [219]

In 2016, the average among EU countries was 0.4 per cent and five had met or exceeded the 0.7 per cent target: Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom. [220] If considered collectively, EU member states are the largest contributor of foreign aid in the world. [221] [222]

International cooperation and development partnerships

The European Union 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.

International recognition of sustainable development as a key element is growing steadily. Its role was recognized in three major UN summits on sustainable development: the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa and the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) in Rio de Janeiro. Other key global agreements are the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2015). The SDGs recognize that all countries must stimulate action in the following key areas – people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership – in order to tackle the global challenges that are crucial for the survival of humanity.

EU development action is based on the European Consensus on Development, which was endorsed on 20 December 2005 by EU Member States, the council, the European Parliament and the commission. [223] It is applied from the principles of Capability approach and Rights-based approach to development.

Partnership and cooperation agreements are bilateral agreements with non-member nations. [224]

Partnership and Cooperation Agreements
Non-EU Member state PCA Name Date Signed Agreement Supersedes (if any)
Armenia EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement [225] 2018 EU-Armenia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, [226] 1999
Kyrgyz Republic EU and Kyrgyz Republic Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [227] 2019


The European Union is the largest exporter in the world [228] and as of 2008 the largest importer of goods and services. [229] [230] Internal trade between the member states is aided by the removal of barriers to trade such as tariffs and border controls. In the eurozone, trade is helped by not having any currency differences to deal with amongst most members. [231]

The European Union Association Agreement does something similar for a much larger range of countries, partly as a so-called soft approach ('a carrot instead of a stick') to influence the politics in those countries. The European Union represents all its members at the World Trade Organization (WTO), and acts on behalf of member states in any disputes. When the EU negotiates trade related agreement outside the WTO framework, the subsequent agreement must be approved by each individual EU member state government. [231]

The European Union has concluded free trade agreements (FTAs) [232] and other agreements with a trade component with many countries worldwide and is negotiating with many others. [233]

The European Union's services trade surplus rose from $16 billion in 2000 to more than $250 billion in 2018. [234]

In 2020, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, China became the EU's largest trading partner, displacing the United States. [235]

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$105 trillion) net wealth in the world, equal to around 20 per cent (

€60 trillion) of the US$360 trillion (

€300 trillion) [236] global wealth. [237]

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. [238] The euro is the second largest reserve currency as well as the second most traded currency in the world after the United States dollar. [239] [240] [241]

Of the top 500 largest corporations in the world measured by revenue in 2010, 161 had their headquarters in the EU. [242] In 2016, unemployment in the EU stood at 8.9 per cent [243] while inflation was at 2.2 per cent, and the account balance at −0.9 per cent of GDP. The average annual net earnings in the European Union was around €24,000 ( US$30,000 ) [244] in 2015.

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 31 per cent (Severozapaden, Bulgaria) of the EU28 average (€30,000) to 253 per cent (Luxembourg), or from €4,600 to €92,600. [245]

Internal market

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, [238] 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. [127] Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU. [246]

Free movement of capital is intended to permit movement of investments such as property purchases and buying of shares between countries. [247] 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. [248]

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 per cent to 70 per cent of GDP, legislation in the area is not as developed as in other areas. This lacuna has been addressed by the Services in the Internal Market Directive 2006 which aims to liberalise the cross border provision of services. [249] According to the treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.

A European identity card, to be issued starting from 2 August 2021. (German version pictured)

A European passport, displaying the name of the member state, the national arms and the words "European Union" given in their official language(s). (Irish version pictured)

A European vehicle registration plate, consisting of a blue strip on the left side with the EU flag symbol, along with the country code of the member state in which the vehicle is registered. (Slovak version pictured)

Monetary union and financial services

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. [250] [aa]

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). [251] 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 27 EU member states. [252]

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 central bank. The aim of this financial control system is to ensure the economic stability of the EU. [253]

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.

Industry and digital economy

The European Commission working sectors are: aeronautics, automotive, biotechnology, chemicals, construction, cosmetics, defense, electronics, firearms, food and drink, gambling, healthcare, maritime, mechanics, medical, postal, raw materials, space, textile, tourism, toys and social economy (Societas cooperativa Europaea).


In 2006, the EU-27 had a gross inland energy consumption of 1,825 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe). [255] Around 46 per cent of the energy consumed was produced within the member states while 54 per cent was imported. [255] 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 per cent is produced in the EU. [256]

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. [257]

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 [258] and North Africa use existing energy supplies more efficiently while increasing renewable energy commercialisation and finally increase funding for new energy technologies. [257]

In 2007, EU countries as a whole imported 82 per cent of their oil, 57 per cent of their natural gas [259] and 97.48 per cent of their uranium [256] demands. The three largest suppliers of natural gas to the European Union are Russia, Norway and Algeria, that amounted for about three quarters of the imports in 2019. [260] There is a strong dependence on Russian energy that the EU has been attempting to reduce. [261]


The European Union is working to improve cross-border infrastructure, 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. [262] [263]

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. [264] The Polish road network was upgraded such as the A4 autostrada. [265]

Telecommunications and space

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. [266]

Agriculture and fisheries

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the long lasting policies of the European Community. [267] 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. [ac] It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s, the policy accounted for over 60 per cent of the then European Community's annual budget, and as of 2013 [update] accounts for around 34 per cent. [268]

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. [269] Supporters of CAP argue that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living. [269]

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. [267] 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. [270]


The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market. [ad]

The European commissioner for competition (presently 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. [ citation needed ] For example, in 2001 the commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (General Electric and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority. [271] Another high-profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action. [272]

Labour market

The EU seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent in September 2018. [273] The euro area unemployment rate was 8.1 per cent. [273] Among the member states, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Czech Republic (2.3 per cent), Germany and Poland (both 3.4 per cent), and the highest in Spain (14.9 per cent) and Greece (19.0 in July 2018). [273]

EU member states by social expenditure [ clarification needed ] in 2019 [274]
Nation Social expenditure
( per cent of GDP)
France 31.0
Finland 29.1
Belgium 28.9
Denmark 28.3
Italy 28.2
Austria 26.9
Germany 25.9
Sweden 25.5
Spain 24.7
Greece 24.0
Portugal 22.6
Luxembourg 21.6
Poland 21.3
Slovenia 21.1
Czech Republic 19.2
Hungary 18.1
Slovakia 17.7
Estonia 17.7
Lithuania 16.7
Latvia 16.4
Netherlands 16.1
Ireland 13.4

The European Union 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. Social security main legislation is found in the Equal Treatment in Occupational Social Security Directive 86/378, the Equal Treatment in Social Security Directive 79/7/EEC, the Social Security Regulation 1408/71/EC and 883/2004/EC and the Directive 2005/36/EC

The European Social Charter is the main body that recognizes the social rights of European citizens.

A European unemployment insurance has been proposed among others by the commissioner of Jobs Nicolas Schmit. [275] A European Directive about Minimum Wage has also been discussed [276]

Since 2019 there has been a European commissioner for equality and the European Institute for Gender Equality has existed since 2007.

In 2020, the first ever European Union Strategy on LGBTIQ equality was approved under Helena Dalli mandate. [277]

Housing, youth, childhood, Functional diversity or elderly care are supportive competencies of the European Union and can be financed by the European Social Fund.

Regional and local policy

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. [278] [279] 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.

Demographic transition to a society of aging population, low fertility-rates and depopulation of non-metropolitan regions is tackled within this policies.

Environment and climate

In 1957, when the European Economic Community was founded, it had no environmental policy. [280] 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. [280] 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. [281]

European policy-makers originally increased the EU's capacity to act on environmental issues by defining it as a trade problem. [280] Trade barriers and competitive distortions in the Common Market could emerge due to the different environmental standards in each member state. [282] 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. [281]

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, [283] 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. [280] 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. [281]

Mitigating climate change is one of the top priorities of EU environmental policy. In 2007, member states agreed that, in the future, 20 per cent of the energy used across the EU must be renewable, and carbon dioxide emissions have to be lower in 2020 by at least 20 per cent compared to 1990 levels. [284] The EU has adopted an emissions trading system to incorporate carbon emissions into the economy. [285] 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.

In the 2019 elections to the European Parliament, the green parties increased their power, possibly because of the rise of post materialist values. [286]

Proposals to reach a zero carbon economy in the European Union by 2050 were suggested in 2018 – 2019. Almost all member states supported that goal at an EU summit in June 2019. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, and Poland disagreed. [287]

In 2017, the EU emitted 9.1 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. [288] The EU has a target of zero GHG emission by 2050. [289]

Education and research

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. [290]

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. [291] [292] 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. [293] 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. [294]

Health care and food safety

The EU has no major competences in the field of health care and 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. [295] [296] [297]

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. [298] 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. [299] [300] [301]

The EU has some of the highest levels of life expectancy in the world, with Spain, Italy, Sweden, France, Malta, Ireland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Greece all among the world's top 20 countries with the highest life expectancy. [302] In general, life expectancy is lower in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe. [303] In 2018, the EU region with the highest life expectancy was Madrid, Spain at 85.2 years, followed by the Spanish regions of La Rioja and Castilla y León both at 84.3 years, Trentino in Italy at 84.3 years and Île-de-France in France at 84.2 years. The overall life expectancy in the EU in 2018 was 81.0 years, higher than the World average of 72.6 years. [304]

Cultural co-operation between member states has been an interest of the European Union since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty. [305] Actions taken in the cultural area by the EU include the Culture 2000 seven-year programme, [305] the European Cultural Month event, [306] and orchestras such as the European Union Youth Orchestra. [307] The European Capital of Culture programme selects one or more cities in every year to assist the cultural development of that city. [308]


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, basketball, swimming, athletics, golf, gymnastics, equestrian sports, handball, volleyball and sailing. [309]

Sport is mainly the responsibility of the member states or other international organisations, rather than of the EU. 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. [310]

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. [311] 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. [312] The EU does fund a programme for Israeli, Jordanian, Irish, and British football coaches, as part of the Football 4 Peace project. [313]


The flag of Europe consists of a circle of 12 golden stars on a blue background. Originally designed in 1955 for the Council of Europe, the flag was adopted by the European Communities, the predecessors of the present European Union, in 1986. The Council of Europe gave the flag a symbolic description in the following terms, [314] though the official symbolic description adopted by the EU omits the reference to the "Western world": [315]

Against the blue sky of the Western world, the stars symbolise the peoples of Europe in a form of a circle, the sign of union. The number of stars is invariably twelve, the figure twelve being the symbol of perfection and entirety.

United in Diversity was adopted as the motto of the union in 2000, having been selected from proposals submitted by school pupils. [316] 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 EU 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. [317] 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 EU'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. [318]

Charles the Great, also known as Charlemagne (Latin: Carolus Magnus) and later recognised as Pater Europae ("Father of Europe"), [319] [320] [321] 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. [322] Since 2008, the organisers of this prize, in conjunction with the European Parliament, have awarded the Charlemagne Youth Prize in recognition of similar efforts led by young people. [323]


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. [324] : 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". [325]

The majority of media in the European Union are national-oriented, although some EU-wide media focusing on European affairs have emerged since the early 1990s, such as Euronews, Eurosport, EUobserver, EURACTIV or Politico Europe. [326] [327] ARTE is a public Franco-German TV network that promotes programming in the areas of culture and the arts. 80 per cent 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. [328]

The MEDIA Programme of the European Union has supported 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. [329]

The European Union has had a significant positive economic impact on most member states. [330] According to a 2019 study of the member states who joined from 1973 to 2004, "without European integration, per capita incomes would have been, on average, approximately 10 per cent lower in the first ten years after joining the EU." [330] Greece was the exception reported by the study, which analysed up to 2008, "to avoid confounding effects from the global financial crisis". [330]

The European Union has contributed to peace in Europe, in particular by pacifying border disputes, [331] [332] and to the spread of democracy, especially by encouraging democratic reforms in aspiring Eastern European member states after the collapse of the USSR. [333] [334] Scholar Thomas Risse wrote in 2009, "there is a consensus in the literature on Eastern Europe that the EU membership perspective had a huge anchoring effects for the new democracies." [334] However, R. Daniel Kelemen argues that the EU has proved beneficial to leaders who are overseeing democratic backsliding, as the EU is reluctant to intervene in domestic politics, gives authoritarian governments funds which they can use to strengthen their regimes, and because freedom of movement within the EU allows dissenting citizens to leave their backsliding countries. At the same time, the union provides an external constraint that prevents soft authoritarian regimes from progressing into hard dictatorships. [335]

European Union (EU): History, Members, Aims and Achievements of EEC

The European Union (EU) is supranational and intergovernmental union of 27 states in Europe. It was established in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union (The Maastricht Treaty) and is the de facto successor to the six-member European Economic Community founded in 1957.

Since then new accessions have raised its number of member states and competencies have expanded. The EU is the current stage of a continuing open-ended process of European integration.

The EU is one of the largest economic and political entities in the world, with 494 million peoples and a combined nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of £11.6 ($14.5) trillion in 2006. The Union is the single market with a common trade policy, a Common Agriculture/Fisheries Policy and a Regional Policy to assist underdeveloped regions.

It introduced a single currency, the euro, adopted by 13 member states. The EU imitated a limited Common Foreign and Security Policy and a limited Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters.

Important EU institutions and bodies include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament.

Citizens of EU member states are also EU citizens they directly elect the European Parliament, once every five years. They can live, travel, work and invest in other members states (with some restrictions on new member states). Passport control and customs checks at most internal borders were abolished by the Schengen Agreement.


The EU has evolved from a western European trade body into the supranational and intergovernmental body. After the Second World War, an impetus grew in western European for institutional forms of cooperation (through social, political and economic integration) between states, driven by the determination to rebuild European and eliminate the possibility of another war between Germany and France. Eastern European, on the other hand, was largely within the soviet sphere of influence and only in the 1990s did was the EU see central and eastern European states as potential members.

In 1976 Winston Church-chill called for a “United States of European” (though without the inclusion of the UK). On 9 May 1950 the French foreign minister Robert Schuman presented a proposal for the joint management if France’s and West Germany’s coal and steel industries.

The proposal, known as the “Schuman Declaration”, envisaged the scheme as “the first concrete step towards a European federation”. It is considered to be the beginning of the creation of what in now the European Union and led to the formation of the European Coal and steel community by West Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries. This was accomplished by the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1951. The founding nations singing the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

The first full customs union, the European Economic Community, was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and implemented on 1st January 1958. This later changed to the European Community, which is now the “first pillar” European Union created by the Maastricht treaty.

On 29 October 2004, EU member state heads of government and state signed the Treaty establishing the Constitution for European. This was later ratified by 17 member states. However, in most cases ratification was based on parliamentary action, rather than popular vote and the process faltered on 29 May, 2005 when French voters rejected the constitution by 55% to 45%. The French rejection was followed three days later by a Dutch one, in which 62% of voters rejected the constitution as well.

European Economic Community (EEC):

A prominent policy goal of the European Union is the development and maintenance of an effective single market. Significant efforts have been made to create harmonized standards claimed by their proponents to bring economic benefits through creating larger, more efficient markets.

Since the Treaty of Rome, policies have implemented free trade of goods and services among member states and continue to do so. This policy goal was further extended to three of the four European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states by the European Economic Area, (EEA).

Common EU competition law restricts anti­competitive activities of companies (through antitrust law and merger control) and member states (through the State Aids regime). The EU promotes free movement of capital between member states (and other EEA states). The members have a common system of indirect taxation, the Value Added Tax (VAT), as well as common customs duties and excises on various products.

From 2007-13 new member states expect investments financed with EU Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds, (new motorway near Poznan, Poland) they have a Common Agriculture Policy (with the Common Fisheries Policy) and the structural and cohesion funds, which improve infrastructure and assist disadvantaged regions. Together they are known as the cohesion polices.

The EU also has funds for emergency financial aid, for instance after natural disaster. The funding extends to programmes in candidate countries and other East European countries, as well as aid to many developing countries, through programmes. The EU also funds research and technological development, thorough four-year Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

In a more political sense, the EU attempts to create with much controversy a sense of European citizenship and European political life. That includes freedom for citizens of the EU to vote and to stand as candidates in local government and European Parliament elections in any member state.

Members of EEC:

The six states that founded the EEC and the other two Communities were known as the “inner six” (the “outer seven” were those countries who formed the European Free Trade Association). The six were France, West Germany, Italy and the three Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

The first enlargement was in 1973, with the accession of Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Greece, Spain and Portugal joined throughout in the 1980s. Following the creation of the EU in 1993, it has enlarged to include a further fifteen countries by 2007.

Aims and Achievements of EEC:

The main aim of the EEC, as stated in its preamble, was to “preserve peace and liberty and to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. Calling for balanced economic growth, this was to be accomplished through, (1) the establishment of a customs union with a common external tariff (2) common policies for agriculture, transport and trade (3) enlargement of the EEC to the rest of Europe.

For the customs union, the treaty provided for a 10 % reduction in custom duties and up to 20 % of global import quotas. Progress on the customs union proceeded much faster than the twelve years planned, however France faced some setbacks due to their war with Algeria.

Euro Currency:

Euro currency was created by the Economics and Monetary Union (EMU). It was established on 1 January 1999 and based on the Maastricht treaty from 1992. 12 countries are members of the Euro area also known as the Euroland. Every other member of the EU can join this group provided that certain conditions (regulating the level of inflation and the condition of public money etc.) are fulfilled.

But not all the EU have introduced the Euro-currency, some haven’t met the requirements (Sweden isn’t member of the EMU and Greece has met the requirement in 2000 and since then it has been a member of the Euro-land) and other decided that maybe they introduce Euro sometime later (UK and Denmark). Countries which jointed the EU in 2004 aren’t in the Euro area.

What did they Need Euro for?

In the beginning of 1999 member countries of EMU have lost the right to release their national currency giving this right to the European Central Bank. But why they gave this right, one of the most important privileges of sovereign countries, you may ask. The answer is simple and not clarifying anything because of political reasons.

European countries wanted to establish a new federation structure which would ensure peace and provide good economic conditions. The most important thing was to establish such, connections between Germany and other countries that no more was could outbreak.

Economic reasons were also very important in the creation of the Euro area. Since 1993 all EU countries function as a uniform market where services and products and man-power flow freely.

The process of eliminating borders between countries took a few decades and after it has finished it became obvious that what economy need was unification of currency. EU’s members would no longer have to pay for exchanging national currencies and it would allow companies to save money (according to the European Council the savings would be of about 40 billion USD annually).

What Influences The Euro Exchange Rate?

Only the European Systems of Central Bank (ESCB), which works similarly as German central bank, the Bundes bank. Bundes bank is known for excellent ant-inflation policies can release Euro currency. ESCB is divided into central unit (European Central Bank (ECB) which was created on 1 June 1998) and national central banks.

The main ECB’s task is take care of monetary politics and national banks realize these politics in member countries. The aim of the aforementioned politics is to maintain price stability that means keeping the inflation level below 2%. EMU’s central bank can support economical growth as long as it doesn’t collide with its anti-inflation ESCB’s politics has to be the same in the whole Euro-land.

These politics could lead to a rise of unemployment level and escalate social conflicts. In this case the creators of Maastricht treaty have added in this treaty a few points assuring that countries’ politics and economical situation would not influence bank’s decisions.

The bank has the sovereignty needed to resist political pressure and to concentrate on keeping the inflation level low. All this is to make Euro currency the second (after the American dollar) one in the world.

Stages of Introduction Euro:

The process of the Euro currency introduction was three and a half years long. There are many reasons for this. Technical aspects are the most important it takes a while to print 12 billion green backs and to produce 70 billion coins.

But 300 million people and many companies would also have to get used to the new Euro Currency (you don’t change a currency every day, you know). The magnitude of this undertaking caused that it was decided that it would be best to introduce Euro step-by-step.

This process is divided into two parts: transitional part from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001, where there aren’t any Euro notes or coins. National currencies aren’t independent they have became parts of Euro. The exchange rate (1 Euro Currency = x National Currency) has been accepted by the Council of the European Union and it does not change.

From the beginning of 1999 only Euro currency does exist in the Euro-land but it is divided into certain particles. National currencies disappear from the international currency market and Euro is put in their place. Final part: from 1 January 2002 to 30 June 2002, national currencies are withdrawn from public usage and Euro greenbacks and coins are introduced.

On 1 January 2002 all savings in national currencies in banks are converted into Euro. Prices displayed only in Euro. National currencies can be used only until the end of the final part from 1 July 2002 Euro is the only legal currency in the Euro-land.

The introduction of Euro is one of the most important events not only in the history of Europe but also in the history of the World. A dozen European countries, altogether a huge economic potential, take part in it.

Due to their role in international trade and finances the success of this undertaking would benefit us all. All necessary steps will be taken to ensure Euro’s stability and functionally. Only then will Euro earn international respect.

A decade of further expansion

1 January 2002 - Euro notes and coins arrive. Printing, minting and distributing them in 12 countries is a major logistical operation. More than 80 billion coins are involved. Notes are the same for all countries. Coins have one common face, giving the value, while the other carries a national emblem. All circulate freely. Using Finnish (or any other) euro coin to buy a Madrid metro ticket is something we take for granted.

11 September 2001 becomes synonymous with the 'War on Terror' after hijacked airliners are flown into buildings in New York and Washington. EU countries begin to work much more closely together to fight crime.

31 March 2003 - As part of its foreign and security policy, the EU takes on peace-keeping operations in the Balkans, firstly in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and then in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In both cases, EU-led forces replace NATO units. Internally, the EU agrees to create an area of freedom, security and justice for all citizens by 2010.

1 May 2004 - Eight countries of central and eastern Europe the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia - join the EU, finally ending the division of Europe decided by the Great Powers 60 years earlier at Yalta. Cyprus and Malta also become members.

The political divisions between east and west Europe are finally declared healed when no fewer than 10 new countries join the EU in 2004.

Many people think that it is time for Europe to have a constitution but what sort of constitution is by no means easy to agree, so the debate on the future of Europe rages on.

29 October 2004 - The 25 EU countries sign a Treaty establishing a European Constitution. It is designed to streamline democratic decision-making and management in an EU of 25 and more countries. It also creates the post of a European Foreign Minister. It has to be ratified by all 25 countries before it can come into force. When citizens in both France and the Netherlands voted 'No' to the Constitution in referendums in 2005, EU leaders declared a "period of reflection".

The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to limit global warming and cut emissions of greenhouse gases, comes into force. The EU has consistently taken the lead in efforts to reduce the impact of climate change. The United States is not a party to the protocol.

1 January 2007 - Two more countries from eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania, now join the EU, brining the number of member states to 27 countries. Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey are also candidates for future membership.

13 December 2007 - The 27 EU countries sign the Treaty of Lisbon, which amends the previous Treaties. It is designed to make the EU more democratic, efficient and transparent, and thereby able to tackle global challenges such as climate change, security and sustainable development. Before the Treaty can come into force, it has to be ratified by each of the 27 Member States.

NOTE: The information regarding European Union on this page is re-published from Europa, portal site of the European Union. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of European Union history information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about European Union history should be addressed to Europa, the portal site of the European Union.


EU Member States agree to invest almost €1 billion in key European energy infrastructure projects under the Connecting Europe Facility.

At a special meeting of the European Council in Brussels, EU leaders discuss foreign affairs and the EU economy.

Belarus: the EU imposes sanctions against 40 individuals identified as responsible for repression and intimidation in the wake of the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, and for misconduct of the electoral process.

The Commission presents a comprehensive Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans to boost economic development and recovery of the region.

The Council appoints Mairead McGuinness as Ireland’s new EU Commissioner following the resignation of Phil Hogan in August. The appointment brings the number of female Commissioners to a record 13.

Member States agree on EU-wide coordination on measures restricting free movement related to the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement will provide more clarity and predictability for citizens with a common map and colour code based on common criteria.

The European Commission presents a series of new policies on energy policy to help build a climate neutral Europe. They include Renovation Wave, which aims to double the renovation rate of buildings in Europe by 2030 and an EU strategy to reduce emissions of methane, the second biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. The Commission also announces a new Chemicals Strategy, the first step towards a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment.

The EU imposes sanctions against six individuals and one entity involved in the assassination attempt on Alexei Navalny, who was poisoned with a toxic nerve agent of the “Novichok” group on 20 August 2020 in Russia.

EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss COVID-19, EU-UK relations, climate change and foreign affairs, in particular relations with Africa.

An EU-wide system to link national contact tracing and warning apps, which can help break the chain of coronavirus infections, goes live.

The European Parliament awards the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the democratic opposition in Belarus.

The EU sends Czechia a first batch of 30 ventilators from rescEU - the common European reserve of medical equipment set up earlier in the year to help countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of the EU’s efforts to preserve jobs and livelihoods affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission distributes €17 billion to Italy, Spain and Poland under the SURE programme. SURE can provide up to €100 billion in financial support to all Member States.

EU Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn, first left joins Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, centre, Robert Scharfe, CEO of the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, second right, and deputy CEO Julie Becker, second left, for the “Ring the Bell ceremony”. The event marks the listing of the EU’s first social bond issued under the EU SURE programme on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.

EU leaders discuss strengthening the collective effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic as a second wave of infections hits Europe. They focus on testing and tracing policies and vaccines. Leaders also condemn the terrorist attacks in France and discuss relations with Turkey.

The Council approves new measures to step up the job support available to young people across the EU.

New harmonised procedures to make Europe’s railways more efficient, safe, and competitive become applicable across the EU.

European Union (EU)

The European Union (EU) is a unified international organization that governs the economic, political, and social policies of 27 member states. Originally formed with the desire to achieve peace in Europe, current EU policies are tailored to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital among its member states.


  • The European Union (EU) is a unified organization of 27 member states, with authority over their political, economic, and social policies.
  • The EU aims to ensure peace, encourage free trade, and tailor policies to work towards the benefit of its members.
  • It functions as a single unit in international trade, making it the largest trading power in the world.

Brief History of the European Union

The European Union was built with the aim of ending frequent wars among neighboring countries following the Second World War. In 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) started uniting nations to achieve peace.

The six founding countries of the EU are:

  • Belgium
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands

The Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, creating the European Economic Community, or a &ldquocommon market.&rdquo It was followed by a period of economic growth &ndash a result of lowering trade restrictions among member states.

The EU experienced continued expansion ever since, with the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall supporting a closer-knit Europe. In 1993, the &ldquoSingle Market&rdquo agreement was completed, allowing four types of freedoms &ndash the movement of goods, services, people, and money.

As more members joined the EU, it grew from a community of six member states to 27 member states.

Membership of the European Union

To be a part of the EU, applicant countries must meet certain conditions, known as the &ldquoCopenhagen criteria.&rdquo The key criteria are listed below:

  • Stable institutions guaranteeing the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities
  • A functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with market forces and competition in the EU
  • The ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of economic, political, and monetary union.

Following the exit of the United Kingdom in early 2020, there are now 27 remaining member states of the EU.

Governing Institutions of the European Union

The European Union oversees three main institutions that are involved in legislation:

1. European Parliament

The European Parliament is elected by the EU&rsquos citizens and is responsible for law-making, supervision, and budget establishment.

2. Council of the European Union

Represents the governments of each of the EU&rsquos member states, with one minister from each state. Responsible for coordinating policies, adopting EU laws, and voicing the opinion of member states.

3. European Commission

The EU&rsquos politically independent executive arm, responsible for proposing and enforcing legislation, managing policies, allocating budgets, and representing the EU internationally.

Trade within the European Union

The EU is the largest trading power and the largest single-market area in the world. In 2019, the EU posted a GDP Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Gross domestic product (GDP) is a standard measure of a country&rsquos economic health and an indicator of its standard of living. Also, GDP can be used to compare the productivity levels between different countries. of $15.59 trillion, only behind the United States in terms of economic size.

Free trade within the EU was one of the union&rsquos foundational rules. Trade among member states is completely free, allowing the exchange of goods and services across borders without any tariffs or quotas.

The European Union and International Trade

Besides free trade Free Trade Area A free trade area (FTA) refers to a specific region wherein a group of countries signs a trade agreement that seals the economic cooperation among member states, the EU also promotes the concept of open economies in foreign trade. The EU also signed several trade agreements with a number of countries, including:

  • EU-Canada Agreement (CETA)
  • EU-Japan Agreement
  • EU-Singapore Agreement
  • EU-Australia Agreement

With each trade agreement, the EU aims to either cut or remove tariffs Tariff A tariff is a form of tax imposed on imported goods or services. Tariffs are a common element in international trading. The primary goals of imposing , making the cross-border flow of goods and services easier for exporters and importers.

The EU&rsquos top 10 trading partners:

  • USA
  • China
  • United Kingdom
  • Switzerland
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • South Korea
  • India

In 2019, the EU&rsquos five largest exports were:

  • Machinery and Equipment (276.8bn euros)
  • Automobiles (241.2bn euros)
  • Pharmaceuticals (205.2bn euros)
  • Chemicals (177.7bn euros)
  • Computers, electronics, and optical products (171.7bn euros)

The EU&rsquos five biggest imports were:

  • Computers, electronics, and optical products (260.2bn euros)
  • Crude petroleum and natural gas (249.6bn euros)
  • Chemicals (132.4bn euros)
  • Machinery and equipment (124.8bn euros)
  • Automobiles (114.6bn euros)

In addition, countries in the EU are the largest importers of cocoa beans, which explains the Netherlands and Germany&rsquos prowess in the chocolate industry and the high per-capita chocolate consumption across Europe.

Related Readings

CFI is the official provider of the Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)&trade Program Page - CBCA Get CFI's CBCA&trade certification and become a Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst. Enroll and advance your career with our certification programs and courses. certification program, designed to transform anyone into a world-class financial analyst.

To keep learning and developing your knowledge of financial analysis, we highly recommend the additional resources below:

  • European Community European Community The European Community, also called the European Communities or the European Economic Community, was the predecessor of the European Union and
  • Maastricht Treaty Maastricht Treaty The Treaty of the European Union, which is known as the Maastricht Treaty, is the international agreement that led to the formation of the European Union.
  • Economic Union Economic Union An economic union is one of the different types of trade blocs. It refers to an agreement between countries that allows products, services, and workers to cross borders freely. The union is aimed at eliminating internal trade barriers between the member countries, with the goal of economically benefitting all the member countries.
  • Regional Trading Agreements Regional Trading Agreements Regional trading agreements refer to a treaty that is signed by two or more countries to encourage free movement of goods and services across

Financial Analyst Certification

Become a certified Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® Become a Certified Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® CFI's Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA)® certification will help you gain the confidence you need in your finance career. Enroll today! by completing CFI&rsquos online financial modeling classes!

A short history of Britain and the European Union

Postwar efforts at European reconciliation included the setting up of the European Steel and Coal Community, a forerunner to the EU. Britain was not a member.

The European Economic Community (Common Market) is formed.

Britain applies to join the the Common Market. The application is vetoed by France. The same thing happens in 1967.

Britain enters the European Economic Community and looks for major changes to the Common Agricultural Policy.

In a referendum, 67% of people in the United Kingdom vote to stay in the EEC.

"I want my money back!" Margaret Thatcher wins an EU rebate to recognize how little the UK receives in farm subsidies.

Margaret Thatcher signs the Single European Act, which eventually becomes the world’s largest free trade area.

The UK is ejected from the Exchange Rate Mechanism, a forerunner to the single currency that limits exchange-rate fluctuations among members. It also negotiates an opt-out from the part of the Maastricht Treaty that would have required it to adopt a common currency.

EU bans the sale of British beef for three years during the outbreak of “mad cow” disease.

Twelve EU countries introduce the euro as legal tender. Britain sets out five economic tests to be met before it joins. They are not met.

The collapse of Lehman Brothers triggers a worldwide credit crunch and the launch of a global bailout fund to which the UK contributes.

Fears of a second banking collapse in Europe prompts another international bailout, including Britain.

A European migration crisis triggers anti-EU sentiment in the UK.

Britain's Conservative party is re-elected on a platform promising a referendum on membership of the EU.

In a close-run referendum, the UK votes to leave the EU.

Negotiations will begin on the terms of the UK exit and the nature of the country's subsequent relationship with the EU.

The UK will no longer be bound by existing EU treaties, unless all 27 states agree to extend negotiations.