About the EU
Introduction to the EU
The European Union, commonly known simply as the EU is an economic and political union which has currently 27 member states. It functions through a series of supranational institutions such as the European Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Court of Auditors and the European Central Bank. But a great deal of decisions is also made through intergovernmental negotiations.
Foundation of the EU
The foundation of the EU is traditionally associated with the creation of the European Steel and Coal Community (ESCS) in 1951 by France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux states, and the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) by the same states in 1958. Over the following decades, the founding members of the ESCS and EEC were joined by other European countries and with each year, the ESCS and EEC resembled more to the modern EU.
The Schengen Area and Single Market
22 members states and 4 non-member states that are within the so-called Schengen Area (named after the Treaty of Schengen, Luxembourg where it was signed) don’t have boarder controls. These have been abandoned in the mid-1990s by all member states with the exception of Ireland and the UK. Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania also aren’t within the Schengen Area but they are obliged to implement the Schengen rules according to their accession treaties.
Unlike the Schengen rules, the single market applies for all member states of the EU and ensures free circulation of people, services, goods and capital.
The eurozone is a monetary and economic union which, however, doesn’t encompass all member states. Currently, the eurozone consists of 17 member states that adopted the euro as their currency. The UK and Denmark refused to join the monetary union and give up their currencies. The euro also hasn’t been adopted by the majority of member states that were admitted after 2004 and Sweden. But all have obliged themselves in their accession treaties to adopt the EU currency once they will meet the criteria.
The EU doesn’t have an official capital nor plans to have one in the future. But due to the large concentration of the EU Institutions in Brussels, the Belgian capital is considered an unofficial capital of the Union. It is home to the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Commission and a number of EU agencies.
The EU has over half billion inhabitants who live in 27 states and speak in 23 different languages. But due to the low birth rates, most member states are expected to experience population decline in the following decades. The most populous member state is Germany with over 82 million inhabitants, while the least populous EU member is Malta with about 0.4 million people. Christianity, mainly Roman Catholicism followed by Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy is the predominant religion.