The European Union or the EU
is an intergovernmental and supranational union of 25 European countries, known
as member states. The European Union was established under that name in 1992 by
the Treaty on European Union, the Maastricht Treaty. However, many aspects of
the Union existed before that date through a series of predecessor
relationships, dating back to 1951.
The European Union's
activities cover all areas of public policy, from health and economic policy to
foreign affairs and defence.« However, the extent of its powers differs greatly
between areas. Depending on the area, the EU may therefore resemble a
federation, for example, on monetary affairs, agricultural, trade and
environmental policy or a confederation, for example, on social and economic policy,
consumer protection, home affairs, or even an international organization, for
example, in foreign affairs.
A key activity of the EU is
the establishment and administration of a common single market, consisting of a
customs union, a single currency adopted by 12 of the 25 member states, a
Common Agricultural Policy, a common trade policy, and a Common Fisheries
The most important EU
institutions are the Council of the European Union, the European Commission,
the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice.
As to the enlargement of the
EU there were five successive enlargements, with the largest occurring on May
1,2004, when 10 new member states joined.
doesn't enter the EU because it was granted home rule by Denmark in 1979 and
left the European Community in 1985, following a referendum.
Romania and Bulgaria will join
the EU on 1 January 2007, so European Union will have 27 member states but if
Croatia enter the EU by the year 2008 it will have 28 member-states. In time
the European Union may grow to 30 member states. The process of enlargement is
sometimes referred to as European integration.
In order to join the European
Union, a state needs to fulfill the economic and political conditions generally
known as the Copenhagen criteria, after the Copenhagen summit in June 1993.
Also, according to the EU Treaty, each current member state and the European
Parliament have to agree.
The European Union has 25
member states, an area of 3,892,685 km2 and approximately 460 million EU
citizens as of December 2004. If it were a country, it would be the seventh
largest in the world by area and the third largest by population after China
The European Union has land
borders with 20 nations and sea borders with 31.