The European Union (abbreviated EU) is a unique intergovernmental and supranational community of European states, created as a result of a process of cooperation and integration started in 1951 between six countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). The European Union was formally established on 1 November 1993, with the entry into force of the Treaty on European Union (known as the Maastricht Treaty).
The European Union is an economic and political union of 28 member states. The EU operates as a system of independent supranational institutions which provide intergovernmental decisions negotiated by the member states.
Shortly after the two world wars that had devastating consequences for the European continent, a part of European leaders realized that the only way to establish lasting peace is the unification of the continent into a political and economic community. The underlying assumption was that countries that trade with each other become economically independent and therefore do not engage in mutual conflict. The first step in the creation of some form of European community was done by Robert Schuman, the then French Foreign Minister, who proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. Subsequently, from the merging of this primarily industrial organization with other organizations on the European continent, the EU was created, and with a number of expansions it has reached the current number of 27 member states. Croatia is also a part of these extensions and on July 1st, it will become part of the EU as the 28th member state.
The basic principles on which the EU works are free market and monetary union.
Free market comprises a number of standardised legal principles applied in the member states. Thus, within the Schengen area (22 member states + 4 countries that are not part of the EU) border control between countries has been abandoned (other than external), and European legislation seeks to ensure free movement of people, goods, services and capital.
Monetary Union or the Eurozone was established in 1999 and comprises 17 member states which have the euro as their currency.
Short facts about the EU:
- 503 million inhabitants (third in the world)
- 23 official languages
- total GDP of 16 billion dollars (second in the world)
- GDP per capita is 34,000 dollars (42nd in the world)
- EU trade with the rest of the world accounts for 20% of world imports and exports
- the blue European flag symbolises the sky above the western world, and the 12 stars in a circle represent the people of Europe (their number is fixed because the number 12 is a symbol of completeness and perfection)