European Union

اتحادیه اروپا

EU, E.U.

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Updated:Sunday 12th October 2014

European Union ?

European Union Definition

The European Union is a federation of European countries which acts as a group to protect their interests. EU was created by the Maastricht Treaty and ratified by all members of the European Community (EC) providing a framework for unified action by member countries. EU established the Euro, a common currency to replace the national currencies of 12 of the 15 EU members in 2002. EU did not achieve its goals after becoming a Christian club and it never reached its primary colonial goals to become the United States of Europe after dreams of exploiting cheap Eastern Europe labor were shattered. (Wikipedia) - European Union "EU" redirects here. For other uses, see EU (disambiguation).European Union
Bulgarian: Croatian: Czech: Danish: Dutch: Estonian: Finnish: French: German: Greek: Hungarian: Irish: Italian: Latvian: Lithuanian: Maltese: Polish: Portuguese: Romanian: Slovak: Slovene: Spanish: Swedish:
Европейски съюз
Europska unija
Evropská unie
Den Europæiske Union
Europese Unie
Euroopa Liit
Euroopan unioni
Union européenne
Europäische Union
Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση
Európai Unió
An tAontas Eorpach
Unione europea
Eiropas Savienība
Europos Sąjunga
Unjoni Ewropea
Unia Europejska
União Europeia
Uniunea Europeană
Európska únia
Evropska unija
Unión Europea
Europeiska unionen
Motto: "United in diversity" Anthem: "Ode to Joy" (orchestral)Sorry, your browser either has JavaScript disabled or does not have any supported player. You can download the clip or download a player to play the clip in your browser. Location of the European Union Capital Brussels (de facto) Largest cities London and Paris Official languages 24 languages
    • Bulgarian
    • Croatian
    • Czech
    • Danish
    • Dutch
    • English
    • Estonian
    • Finnish
    • French
    • German
    • Greek
    • Hungarian
    • Irish
    • Italian
    • Latvian
    • Lithuanian
    • Maltese
    • Polish
    • Portuguese
    • Romanian
    • Slovak
    • Slovene
    • Spanish
    • Swedish
Demonym European Member states 28 states Leaders  -  President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy  -  President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso  -  President-elect of the European Council Donald Tusk  -  President-designate of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker Legislature of the European Union  - Council of the European Union  - European Parliament Formation  -  Treaty of Paris 23 July 1952   -  Treaty of Rome 1 January 1958   -  Merger Treaty 1 July 1967   -  Treaty of Maastricht 1 November 1993   -  Treaty of Lisbon 1 December 2009  Area  -  Total 4,381,376 km2 (7tha) 1,691,658 sq mi  -  Water (%) 3.08 Population  -  2013 estimate 505,665,739 (3rda)  -  Density 116.2/km2 300.9/sq mi GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate  -  Total $16.773 trillion (1sta)  -  Per capita $33,084 (17tha) GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate  -  Total $18.451 trillion (1sta)  -  Per capita $36,393 (16tha) Gini (2010) 30.4 medium HDI (2011)  0.876 very high · 13th / 25tha Currency
  • Euro (EUR; Eurozone)
  • 11 others
    • Lev (BGN; Bulgaria)
    • Kuna (HRK; Croatia)
    • Koruna (CZK; Czech Republic)
    • Krone (DKK; Denmark)
    • Forint (HUF; Hungary)
    • Litas (LTL; Lithuania)
    • Złoty (PLN; Poland)
    • Leu (RON; Romania)
    • Krona (SEK; Sweden)
    • Pound sterling (GBP; United Kingdom)
    • Pound (GIP; Gibraltar)
Time zone WET (UTC) CET (UTC+1) EET (UTC+2)  -  Summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1) CEST (UTC+2) EEST (UTC+3) Calling code 28 codes +4x +3x Internet TLD .eu Website a. If considered as a single entity.

The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are primarily located in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens.

The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. In the intervening years, the community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993 and introduced the European Citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, and regional development.

The monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002. It is currently composed of 18 member states that use the euro as their legal tender. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the WTO, the G8, and the G-20.

With a combined population of over 500 million inhabitants, or 7.3% of the world population, the EU in 2012 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 16.584 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 23% of global nominal GDP and 20% when measured in terms of purchasing power parity, which is the largest economy by nominal GDP and the second largest economy by GDP (PPP) in the world. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Structural evolution
  • 2 Geography
    • 2.1 Member states
  • 3 Politics
    • 3.1 Constitutional nature
    • 3.2 Governance
      • 3.2.1 European Council
      • 3.2.2 Commission
      • 3.2.3 Parliament
      • 3.2.4 Council
    • 3.3 Budget
    • 3.4 Competences
  • 4 Legal system
    • 4.1 Courts of Justice
    • 4.2 Fundamental rights
    • 4.3 Acts
  • 5 Justice and home affairs
  • 6 Foreign relations
    • 6.1 Military
    • 6.2 Humanitarian aid
  • 7 Economy
    • 7.1 Internal market
    • 7.2 Competition
    • 7.3 Monetary union
    • 7.4 Financial supervision
    • 7.5 Energy
    • 7.6 Infrastructure
    • 7.7 Agriculture
    • 7.8 Environment
  • 8 Education and science
  • 9 Health care
  • 10 Demographics
    • 10.1 Languages
    • 10.2 Religion
  • 11 Culture and sport
  • 12 See also
  • 13 Notes
    • 13.1 Footnotes
    • 13.2 Citations
  • 14 References
  • 15 External links
History Main articles: History of the European Union and History of EuropePlay mediaRobert Schuman proposing the Coal and Steel Community on 9 May 1950.

After World War II, moves towards European integration were seen by many as an escape from the extreme forms of nationalism that had devastated the continent. The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and also of the College of Europe, a place where Europe''s future leaders would live and study together. 1952 saw the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe", starting with the aim of eliminating the possibility of further wars between its member states by means of pooling the national heavy industries. The founding members of the Community were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. The originators and supporters of the Community include Alcide De Gasperi, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, and Paul-Henri Spaak.

The continental territories of the member states of the European Union (European Communities pre-1993), coloured in order of accession.

In 1957, the six countries signed the Treaty of Rome, which extended the earlier co-operation within the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and created the European Economic Community (EEC), establishing a customs union. They also signed another treaty on the same day creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958.

The EEC and Euratom were created separately from ECSC, although they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly. The executives of the new communities were called Commissions, as opposed to the "High Authority". The EEC was headed by Walter Hallstein (Hallstein Commission) and Euratom was headed by Louis Armand (Armand Commission) and then Étienne Hirsch. Euratom would integrate sectors in nuclear energy while the EEC would develop a customs union between members.

Throughout the 1960s, tensions began to show with France seeking to limit supranational power. However, in 1965, an agreement was reached and hence in 1967, the Merger Treaty was signed in Brussels. It came into force on 1 July 1967 and created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities (EC), although commonly just as the European Community. Jean Rey presided over the first merged Commission (Rey Commission).

In 1989, the Iron Curtain fell, enabling the union to expand further. (Berlin Wall)

In 1973, the Communities enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Community in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct, democratic elections to the European Parliament were held.

Greece joined in 1981; Portugal and Spain in 1986. In 1985, the Schengen Agreement led the way toward the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states. In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the Community and the Single European Act was signed.

The euro was introduced in 2002, replacing 12 national currencies. Six countries have since joined; the latest entrant, Latvia, in 2014.

In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Community as part of a reunited Germany. With further enlargement planned for former communist states, Cyprus, and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993.

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. 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 18 countries. 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.

Europe Day in Warsaw, Poland, a celebration of the European integration and peace between the European nations, awarded with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

On 1 January 2007, Romania and Bulgaria became EU members. In the same year, Slovenia adopted the euro, followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, by Slovakia in 2009, by Estonia in 2011 and by Latvia in 2014. In June 2009, the European Parliament elections were held, leading to the second Barroso Commission, and by July, Iceland formally applied for EU membership, but has since suspended negotiations.

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 High Representative, Catherine Ashton.

The European Union received the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe." On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member. The 8th European Parliament election in May 2014 saw euroskeptic parties gain a larger voteshare than previous elections.

Structural evolution Main article: Treaties of the European Union
Signed In force Document 1948 1948 Brussels Treaty 1951 1952 Paris Treaty 1954 1955 Modified Brussels Treaty 1957 1958 Rome treaties 1965 1967 Merger Treaty 1975 N/A European Council conclusion 1985 1985 Schengen Treaty 1986 1987 Single European Act 1992 1993 Maastricht Treaty 1997 1999 Amsterdam Treaty 2001 2003 Nice Treaty 2007 2009 Lisbon Treaty  
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities:  
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)
        Schengen Rules   European Community (EC)
    TREVI Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)  
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
          European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Unconsolidated bodies Western European Union (WEU)    
Treaty terminated in 2011  
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Geography Main article: Geography of the European UnionThe EU''s climate is influenced by its 65,993 km (41,006 mi) coastline (Cyprus).Mont Blanc in the Alps is the highest peak in the EU.

The EU''s member states cover an area of 4,423,147 square kilometres (1,707,787 sq mi). The EU''s highest peak is Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps, 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level. The lowest point(s) in the EU is Lammefjorden (Denmark) and Zuidplaspolder (Netherlands), at 7 m (23 ft) below sea level. 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 of 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 Guyana), 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).

The EU''s population is highly urbanised, with some 75% of inhabitants (and growing, projected to be 90% in seven member states by 2020) living in urban areas. Cities are largely spread out across the EU, although with a large grouping in and around the Benelux. An increasing percentage of this is due to low density urban sprawl which is extending into natural areas. In some cases, this urban growth has been due to the influx of EU funds into a region.

Member states Main article: Member state of the European Union

The following 28 sovereign states (of which the map only shows territories situated in and around Europe) constitute the union:

IrelandUnited KingdomFranceNetherlandsGermanyDenmarkPolandLithuaniaLatviaEstoniaFinlandSwedenCzech RepunlicAustriaHungaryRomaniaBulgariaGreeceSlovakiaSloveniaCroatiaItalyBelgiumLuxembourgPortugalSpainMaltaCyprus Name Capital Accession Population Area (km2)
Austria Vienna 01995-01-01-00001 Jan 1995 70068451900000000008,451,900 700483855000000000083,855
Belgium Brussels 01957-03-25Founder 700711161600000000011,161,600 700430528000000000030,528
Bulgaria Sofia 02007-01-01-00001 Jan 2007 70067284600000000007,284,600 7005110994000000000110,994
Croatia Zagreb 02013-07-01-00001 Jul 2013 70064262100000000004,262,100 700456594000000000056,594
Cyprus Nicosia 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 7005865900000000000865,900 70039251000000000009,251
Czech Republic Prague 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 700710516100000000010,516,100 700478866000000000078,866
Denmark Copenhagen 01973-01-01-00001 Jan 1973 70065602600000000005,602,600 700443075000000000043,075
Estonia Tallinn 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70061324800000000001,324,800 700445227000000000045,227
Finland Helsinki 01995-01-01-00001 Jan 1995 70065426700000000005,426,700 7005338424000000000338,424
France Paris 01957-03-25Founder 700765633200000000065,633,200 7005674843000000000674,843
Germany Berlin 01957-03-25Founder 700780523700000000080,523,700 7005357021000000000357,021
Greece Athens 01981-01-01-00001 Jan 1981 700711062500000000011,062,500 7005131990000000000131,990
Hungary Budapest 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70069908800000000009,908,800 700493030000000000093,030
Ireland Dublin 01973-01-01-00001 Jan 1973 70064591100000000004,591,100 700470273000000000070,273
Italy Rome 01957-03-25Founder 700759685200000000059,685,200 7005301338000000000301,338
Latvia Riga 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70062023800000000002,023,800 700464589000000000064,589
Lithuania Vilnius 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70062971900000000002,971,900 700465200000000000065,200
Luxembourg Luxembourg 01957-03-25Founder 7005537000000000000537,000 70032586000000000002,586
Malta Valletta 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 7005421400000000000421,400 7002316000000000000316
Netherlands Amsterdam 01957-03-25Founder 700716779600000000016,779,600 700441543000000000041,543
Poland Warsaw 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 700738533300000000038,533,300 7005312685000000000312,685
Portugal Lisbon 01986-01-01-00001 Jan 1986 700710487300000000010,487,300 700492390000000000092,390
Romania Bucharest 02007-01-01-00001 Jan 2007 700720057500000000020,057,500 7005238391000000000238,391
Slovakia Bratislava 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70065410800000000005,410,800 700449035000000000049,035
Slovenia Ljubljana 02004-05-01-00001 May 2004 70062058800000000002,058,800 700420273000000000020,273
Spain Madrid 01986-01-01-00001 Jan 1986 700746704300000000046,704,300 7005504030000000000504,030
Sweden Stockholm 01995-01-01-00001 Jan 1995 70069555900000000009,555,900 7005449964000000000449,964
United Kingdom London 01973-01-01-00001 Jan 1973 700763730100000000063,730,100 7005243610000000000243,610

Through successive enlargements, the Union has grown from the six founding states — Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands — to the current 28. 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".

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. No member state has ever left the Union, although Greenland (an autonomous province of Denmark) withdrew in 1985. The Lisbon Treaty now contains a clause providing for a member to leave the EU.

There are six countries which are recognized as candidates for membership: Albania, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. However, on 13 June 2013, Iceland''s Foreign Minister, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, informed the European Commission that the newly elected government intended to "put negotiations on hold". Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are officially recognised as potential candidates, but none have submitted a membership application. Due to the lack of recognition by five of the 28 EU member states, the European Commission refers only to "Kosovo*", with an asterisked footnote containing the text agreed to by the Belgrade–Pristina negotiations: "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence."

Four countries forming the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) (that are not EU members) have partly committed to the EU''s economy and regulations: Iceland (a candidate country for EU membership), 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. The relationships of the European microstates, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican include the use of the euro and other areas of co-operation.

Politics Main article: Politics of the European Union

The EU operates within those competencies conferred on it by the treaties and according to the principle of subsidiarity (which dictates that action by the EU should only be taken where an objective cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states alone). Laws made by the EU institutions are passed in a variety of forms. Generally speaking, they can be classified into two groups: those which come into force without the necessity for national implementation measures and those which specifically require national implementation measures.

Constitutional nature Further information: Treaties of the European Union

The classification of the European Union in terms of international or constitutional law has been much debated, often in the light of the degree of integration that is perceived, desired, or expected. Historically, at least, the EU is an international organisation, and by some criteria, it could be classified as a confederation; but it also has many attributes of a federation, so some would classify it as a (de facto) federation of states. For this reason, the organisation has, in the past, been termed sui generis (incomparable, one of a kind), though it is also argued that this designation is no longer true.

The organisation itself has traditionally used the terms "community", and later "union". The difficulties of classification involve the difference between national law (where the subjects of the law include natural persons and corporations) and international law (where the subjects include sovereign states and international organisations); they can also be seen in the light of differing European and American constitutional traditions. Especially in terms of the European constitutional tradition, the term federation is equated with a sovereign federal state in international law; so the EU cannot be called a federal state or federation—at least, not without qualification. Though not, strictly, a federation, it is more than a free-trade association. It is, however, described as being based on a federal model or federal in nature. Walter Hallstein, in the original German edition of Europe in the Making called it "an unfinished federal state". The German Constitutional Court refers to the European Union as an association of sovereign states and affirms that making the EU a federation would require replacement of the German constitution. Others claim that it will not develop into a federal state but has reached maturity as an international organisation.

Governance Main articles: Institutions of the European Union and Legislature of the European Union

The European Union has seven institutions: the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the European Council, the European Central Bank, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Auditors. Competencies in scrutinising and amending legislation are divided between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union while executive tasks are carried out 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 governed 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.

European Union

This article is part of a series on the politics and government of the European Union

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European Council
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European CouncilThe President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy

The European Council gives direction to the EU, and convenes at least four times a year. It comprises the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and one representative per member state; either its head of state or head of government. The European Council has been described by some as the Union''s "supreme political authority". It is actively involved in the negotiation of the 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).

On 19 November 2009, Herman Van Rompuy was chosen as the first permanent President of the European Council. On 1 December 2009, the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force and he assumed office. Ensuring the external representation of the EU, driving consensus and settling divergences among members are tasks for the President both during the convocations of the European Council and in the time periods between them. The European Council should not be mistaken for the Council of Europe, an international organisation independent from the EU.

CommissionThe Commission President, José Manuel Barroso

The European Commission acts as the EU''s executive arm and is responsible for initiating legislation and the day-to-day running of the EU. The Commission is also seen as the motor of European integration. It operates as a cabinet government, with 28 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 28 is the Commission President (currently José Manuel Durão Barroso) appointed by the European Council. After the President, the most prominent Commissioner is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who is ex-officio Vice-President of the Commission and is chosen by the European Council too. The other 26 Commissioners are subsequently appointed by the Council of the European Union in agreement with the nominated President. The 28 Commissioners as a single body are subject to a vote of approval by the European Parliament.

ParliamentThe European Parliament building in Brussels.

The European Parliament forms one half of the EU''s legislature (the other half is the Council of the European Union, see below). The 736 (soon to be 751) Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are directly elected by EU citizens every five years on the basis of proportional representation. Although MEPs are elected on a national basis, 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.

The ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union.

The Parliament and the Council of the European Union pass legislation jointly in nearly all areas under the ordinary legislative procedure. This also applies to the EU budget. Finally, the Commission is accountable to Parliament, requiring its approval to take office, having to report back to it and subject to motions of censure from it. The President of the European Parliament carries out the role of speaker in parliament and represents it externally. The EP President and Vice-Presidents are elected by MEPs every two and a half years.


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

Budget Main article: Budget of the European Union

The 2011 EU budget (€141.9 bn. in total; commitment appropriations):

  Cohesion and competitiveness for growth and employment (45%)   Citizenship, freedom, security and justice (1%)   The EU as a global partner (6%)   Rural development (11%)   Direct aids and market related expenditures (31%)   Administration (6%)

The EU had an agreed budget of €120.7 billion for the year 2007 and €864.3 billion for the period 2007–2013, representing 1.10% and 1.05% of the EU-27''s GNI forecast for the respective periods. By comparison, the United Kingdom''s expenditure for 2004 was estimated to be €759 billion, and France was estimated to have spent €801 billion. In 1960, the budget of the then European Economic Community was 0.03% of GDP.

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

The Court of Auditors aims to ensure that the budget of the European Union has been properly accounted for. The court provides an audit report for each financial year to the Council and the European Parliament. The Parliament uses this to decide whether to approve the Commission''s handling of the budget. The Court also gives opinions and proposals on financial legislation and anti-fraud actions.

The Court of Auditors is legally obliged to provide the Parliament and the Council with "a statement of assurance as to the reliability of the accounts and the legality and regularity of the underlying transactions". The Court has refused to do so every year since 1993, qualifying their report of the Union''s accounts every year since then. In their report on 2009 the auditors found that five areas of Union expenditure, agriculture and the cohesion fund, were materially affected by error. The European Commission estimated that the financial impact of irregularities was €1,863 million.


EU 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.

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:

As outlined in Title I of Part I of the consolidated Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
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Exclusive competence
Shared competence
Supporting competence
"The Union has exclusive competence to make directives and conclude international agreements when provided for in a Union legislative act."
  • 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
  • common commercial policy
  • conclusion of certain international agreements
"Member States cannot exercise competence in areas where the Union has done so."
  • the internal market
  • social policy, for the aspects defined in this Treaty
  • economic, social and territorial cohesion
  • agriculture and fisheries, excluding the conservation of marine biological resources
  • environment
  • consumer protection
  • transport
  • trans-European networks
  • energy
  • the area of freedom, security and justice
  • common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined in this Treaty
"Union exercise of competence shall not result in Member States being prevented from exercising theirs in" …
  • research, technological development and (outer) space
  • development cooperation, humanitarian aid
"The Union coordinates Member States policies or implements supplemental to theirs common policies, not covered elsewhere"
  • coordination of economic, employment and social policies
  • common foreign, security and defence policies
"The Union can carry out actions to support, coordinate or supplement Member States'' actions in" …
  • the protection and improvement of human health
  • industry
  • culture
  • tourism
  • education, youth, sport and vocational training
  • civil protection (disaster prevention)
  • administrative cooperation
Legal system Further information: European Union law, Treaties of the European Union and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European UnionThe last amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU came into force in 2009 and was the Lisbon Treaty.

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

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.

Courts of Justice

The judicial branch of the EU—formally called the Court of Justice of the European Union—consists of three courts: the Court of Justice, the General Court, and the European Union Civil Service Tribunal. Together they interpret and apply the treaties and the law of the EU.

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

Fundamental rightsThe awarding ceremony of the 1990 Sakharov Prize awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi (here by Martin Schulz) inside the Parliament''s Strasbourg hemicycle, in 2013. Suu Kyi could not collect it before as she had been political prisoner for years.

The treaties declare that the EU 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."

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." 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. The Charter of Fundamental Rights was drawn up in 2000. Although originally not legally binding the Charter was frequently cited by the EU''s courts as encapsulating rights which the courts had long recognised as the fundamental principles of EU law. Although signing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a condition for EU membership, previously, the EU itself could not accede to the Convention as it is neither a state nor had the competence to accede. 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.

Although, the EU is independent from Council of Europe, they share purpose and ideas especially on rule of law, human rights and democracy. Further European Convention on Human Rights and European Social Charter, the source of law of Charter of Fundamental Rights are created by Council of Europe. The EU 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.

National Assembly of Hungary. Since the Lisbon Treaty, national parliaments have relevant legislative powers via subsidiarity principle.Acts

The main legal acts of the EU 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, and automatically override conflicting domestic provisions. 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. 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.

Justice and home affairs Further information: Area of freedom, security and justiceThe borders inside the Schengen Area between Germany and Austria

Since the creation of the EU in 1993, it has developed its competencies in the area of justice and home affairs, initially at an intergovernmental level and later by supranationalism. To this end, agencies have been established that co-ordinate associated actions: Europol for co-operation of police forces, Eurojust for co-operation between prosecutors, and Frontex for co-operation between border control authorities. The EU also operates the Schengen Information System 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.

Furthermore, the Union has legislated in areas such as extradition, family law, asylum law, and criminal justice. Prohibitions against sexual and nationality discrimination have a long standing in the treaties. In more recent years, these have been supplemented by powers to legislate against discrimination based on race, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation. By virtue of these powers, the EU has enacted legislation on sexual discrimination in the work-place, age discrimination, and racial discrimination.

Foreign relations Main articles: Foreign relations of the European Union, Common Foreign and Security Policy and European External Action ServiceThe High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational European organisations and agreements.v • d • e

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 Common Commercial policy. 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. It was not, however, until 1987 when 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.

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. 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.

The EU participates in all G8 and G20 summits. (G20 summit in Seoul)

The coordinator and representative of the CFSP within the EU is the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (currently Catherine Ashton) 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 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. The EEAS will serve as a foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the European Union.

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. This influence on the internal affairs of other countries is generally referred to as "soft power", as opposed to military "hard power".

Military Main article: Military of the European UnionThe Eurofighter Typhoon and Eurocopter Tiger are built by consortia of companies based in EU member states.

The European Union does not have one unified military. The predecessors of the European Union were not devised as a strong military alliance because NATO was largely seen as appropriate and sufficient for defence purposes. 22 EU members are members of NATO while the remaining member states follow policies of neutrality. 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.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), France spent more than €44 billion ($59bn) on defence in 2010, placing it third in the world after the US and China, while the United Kingdom spent almost £38 billion ($58bn), the fourth largest. Together, France and the United Kingdom account for 45 per cent of Europe''s defence budget, 50 per cent of its military capacity and 70 per cent of all spending in military research and development. Britain and France are also officially recognised nuclear weapon states and are the only two European nations to hold permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In 2000, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Germany accounted for 97% of the total military research budget of the then 15 EU member states.

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.

EU forces have been deployed on peacekeeping missions from middle and northern Africa to Western Balkans and western Asia. 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. In an EU consisting of 28 members, substantial security and defence co-operation is increasingly relying on great power co-operation.

Humanitarian aid Further information: ECHO (European Commission)The EU is a large contributor of foreign 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% of the budget went to Africa and 20% to Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific, and 20% to the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Humanitarian aid is financed directly by the budget (70%) as part of the financial instruments for external action and also by the European Development Fund (30%). The EU''s external action financing is divided into ''geographic'' instruments and ''thematic'' instruments. The ''geographic'' instruments provide aid through the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI, €16.9 billion, 2007–2013), which must spend 95% of its budget on overseas development assistance (ODA), and from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which contains some relevant programmes. The European Development Fund (EDF, €22.7 bn, 2008–2013) 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% target and allow the European Parliament greater oversight.

The EU''s aid has previously been criticised by the think-tank Open Europe for being inefficient, mis-targeted and linked to economic objectives. Clare Short, former British International Development Secretary, said the European Commission ran ''the worst development agency in the world'' and branded its operations ''an outrage and a disgrace''. Furthermore, some charities such as ActionAid have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students, and refugees. Under the de-inflated figures, the EU as a whole did not reach its internal aid target in 2006 and is expected not to reach the international target of 0.7% of gross national income until 2015.

However, four countries have reached the 0.7% target: Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark. In 2011, EU aid was 0.42% of the EU''s GNI making it the world''s most generous aid donor. The previous Commissioner for Aid, Louis Michel, has called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect, and on humanitarian principles.

EconomyGross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant, in purchasing power standard (PPS) in EU regions in 2009GDP (PPP) comparison of economies (IMF, 2013, top 10 countries, no particular order)Main articles: Economy of the European Union and Regional policy of the European Union

The EU has established a single market across the territory of all its members. 18 member states have also joined a monetary union known as the eurozone, which uses the Euro as a single currency. In 2012, the EU had a combined GDP of 16.073 trillions international dollars, a 20% share of the global gross domestic product (in terms of purchasing power parity). According to Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report 2012 (September), the EU owns the largest net wealth in the world; it is estimated to equal 30% of the $223 trillion global wealth.

Of the top 500 largest corporations measured by revenue (Fortune Global 500 in 2010), 161 have their headquarters in the EU. In 2007, unemployment in the EU stood at 7% while investment was at 21.4% of GDP, inflation at 2.2%, and current account balance at −0.9% of GDP (i.e., slightly more import than export). In 2012, unemployment in the EU stood, per August 2012, at 11.4%

Madrid is one of the three biggest economic centres of the EU, with Paris and London.

There is a significant variance for GDP (PPP) per capita within individual EU states, these range from €11,300 to €69,800 (about US$15,700 to US$97,000). The difference between the richest and poorest regions (271 NUTS-2 regions of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) ranged, in 2009, from 27% of the EU27 average in the region of Severozapaden in Bulgaria, to 332% of the average in Inner London in the United Kingdom. On the high end, Inner London has €78,000 PPP per capita, Luxembourg €62,500, and Bruxelles-Cap €52,500, while the poorest regions, are Severozapaden with €6,400 PPP per capita, Nord-Est with €6,900 PPP per capita, Severen tsentralen with €6,900 and Yuzhen tsentralen with €7,200.

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. 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 former USSR Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS). TACIS has now become part of the worldwide EuropeAid programme. EU research and technological framework programmes sponsor research conducted by consortia from all EU members to work towards a single European Research Area.

Internal market Main article: Internal marketEU member states have a standardised passport design with the name of the member state, the national arms, and the words "European Union" given in their official language(s). (Irish model)

Two of the original core objectives of the European Economic Community were the development of a common market, subsequently renamed the 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, 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. Half the trade in the EU is covered by legislation harmonised by the EU.

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

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 60–70% of GDP, legislation in the area is not as developed as in other areas. This lacuna has been addressed by the recently passed Directive on services in the internal market which aims to liberalise the cross border provision of services. According to the Treaty the provision of services is a residual freedom that only applies if no other freedom is being exercised.

Competition Further information: European Union competition law and European Commissioner for Competition

The EU operates a competition policy intended to ensure undistorted competition within the single market. The Commission as the competition regulator for the single market is responsible for antitrust issues, approving mergers, breaking up cartels, working for economic liberalisation and preventing state aid.

The Competition Commissioner, currently Joaquín Almunia, is one of the most powerful positions in the Commission, notable for the ability to affect the commercial interests of trans-national corporations. For example, in 2001 the Commission for the first time prevented a merger between two companies based in the United States (GE and Honeywell) which had already been approved by their national authority. Another high-profile case against Microsoft, resulted in the Commission fining Microsoft over €777 million following nine years of legal action.

Monetary union Main articles: Eurozone and Economic and Monetary Union of the European UnionThe eurozone (in darker blue) is constituted by 18 member states adopting the euro as legal tender.The European Central Bank in Frankfurt governs the monetary policy.10 euro note from the new Europa series written in Latin (EURO) and Greek (EYPΩ) alphabets, but also in the Cyrillic (EBPO) alphabet, as a result of Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007.

The creation of a European single currency became an official objective of the European Economic Community in 1969. However, it was only with the advent of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 that member states were legally bound to start the monetary union no later than 1 January 1999. On this date the euro was duly launched by eleven of the then 15 member states of the EU. It remained an accounting currency until 1 January 2002, 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 18 countries, the most recent being Latvia which joined on 1 January 2014.

All other EU member states, except Denmark and the United Kingdom, are legally bound to join the euro when the convergence criteria are met, however only a few countries have set target dates for accession. Sweden has circumvented the requirement to join the euro by not meeting the membership criteria.

The euro is designed to help build a single market by, for example: easing travel of citizens and goods, eliminating exchange rate problems, providing price transparency, creating a single financial market, price stability and low interest rates, and providing a currency used internationally and protected against shocks by the large amount of internal trade within the eurozone. It is also intended as a political symbol of integration and stimulus for more. Since its launch the euro has become the second reserve currency in the world with a quarter of foreign exchanges reserves being in euro. 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).

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 28 EU member states.

The monetary union has been shaken by the European sovereign-debt crisis since 2009.

Financial supervisionThe City of London, one of the largest financial centres in the world

The European System of Financial Supervisors 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 ECB. The aim of this financial control system is to ensure the economic stability of the EU.

Energy Main article: Energy policy of the European Union EU energy production 46% of total EU primary energy use Net imports of energy 54% of total primary EU energy use
Nuclear energy 29.3%
Coal & lignite 21.9%
Gas 19.4%
Renewable energy 14.6%
Oil 13.4%
Other 1.4%
Oil & petroleum products 60.2%
Gas 26.4%
Other 13.4%

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

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.

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

The EU currently imports 82% of its oil, 57% of its natural gas and 97.48% of its uranium demands. There are concerns that Europe''s dependence on Russian energy is endangering the Union and its member countries. The EU is attempting to diversify its energy supply.

Infrastructure Further information: European Commissioner for Transport, European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and European Investment BankThe Öresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden is part of the Trans-European Networks.

The EU is working to improve cross-border infrastructure within the EU, 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 2001 it was estimated that by 2010 the network would cover: 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.

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. The Polish road network in particular was in poor condition: at Poland''s accession to the EU, a number of roads needed to be upgraded, particularly the A4 autostrada, requiring approximately €13 billion.

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), and is to be operational by 2012. 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 far greater accuracy, given the aged nature of the GPS system. It has been criticised by some due to costs, delays, and their perception of redundancy given the existence of the GPS system.

Agriculture Main article: Common Agricultural PolicyVineyards in Romania; EU farms are supported by the CAP, the largest budgetary expenditure.

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one of the oldest policies of the European Community, and was one of its core aims. 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. It was, until recently, operated by a system of subsidies and market intervention. Until the 1990s, the policy accounted for over 60% of the then European Community''s annual budget, and still accounts for around 34%.

The policy''s price controls and market interventions led to considerable overproduction, resulting in so-called butter mountains and wine lakes. These were intervention stores of produce 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 produce outside the Community. This system has been criticised for under-cutting farmers outside of Europe, especially those in the developing world.

The overproduction has also been criticised for encouraging environmentally unfriendly intensive farming methods. Supporters of CAP say that the economic support which it gives to farmers provides them with a reasonable standard of living, in what would otherwise be an economically unviable way of life. However, the EU''s small farmers receive only 8% of CAP''s available subsidies.

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 (by the McSharry reforms in 1992) 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, while maintaining agricultural income levels. One of these reforms entailed the abolition 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.

Environment Further information: European Commissioner for the Environment and European Climate Change ProgrammeViru Bog in Lahemaa National Park in Estonia, a protected habitat under the Habitats Directive

In 1957, when the EU was founded, it had no environmental policy, no environmental bureaucracy, and no environmental laws. Today, the EU has some of the most progressive environmental policies of any state in the world. The environmental policy of the EU has therefore developed in remarkable fashion in the past four decades. An increasingly dense network of legislation has emerged, which now extends to all areas of environmental protection, including: air pollution control, water protection, waste management, nature conservation, and the control of chemicals, biotechnology and other industrial risks. The Institute for European Environmental Policy estimates the body of EU environmental law amounts to well over 500 Directives, Regulations and Decisions. Environmental policy has thus become a core area of European politics.

The Black Stork, an Annex A protected species under Regulation (EC) No. 338/97

Such dynamic developments are surprising in light of the legal and institutional conditions which existed in the late 1950s and 60s. Acting without any legislative authority, European policy-makers initially increased the EU''s capacity to act by defining environmental policy as a trade problem. The most important reason for the introduction of a common environmental policy was the fear that trade barriers and competitive distortions in the Common Market could emerge due to the different environmental standards. However, in the course of time, EU environmental policy emerged as a formal policy area, with its own policy actors, policy principles and procedures. The legal basis of EU environmental policy was not more explicitly established until the introduction of the Single European Act in 1987.

Initially, EU environmental policy was rather introspective. More recently, however, the Union has demonstrated a growing leadership in global environmental governance. The role of the EU in securing the ratification and entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in the face of US opposition is an example in this regard. This international dimension is reflected in the EU''s Sixth Environmental Action Programme, which recognises that its strategic objectives can only be achieved if a series of key international environmental agreements are actively supported and properly implemented both at an EU level and worldwide. The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty further strengthens the EU''s global environmental leadership ambitions. The vast body of EU environmental law which now exists has played a vital role in improving habitat and species protection in Europe as well as contributed to improvements in air and water quality and waste management. However, significant challenges remain, both to meet existing EU targets and aspirations and to agree new targets and actions that will further improve the environment and the quality of life in Europe and beyond.

One of the top priorities of EU environmental policy is combatting climate change. In 2007, member states agreed that the EU is to use 20% renewable energy in the future and that it has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels. This includes measures that in 2020, 10% of the overall fuel quantity used by cars and trucks in EU 27 should be running on renewable energy such as biofuels. This is considered to be one of the most ambitious moves of an important industrialised region to fight climate change.

Education and science Main articles: Educational policies and initiatives of the European Union and Framework Programmes for Research and Technological DevelopmentErasmus Programme logo, representing the humanist Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Education and science are areas where the EU''s role is limited to supporting national governments. In education, the policy was mainly 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 has supported international exchange opportunities for well over 1.5 million university and college students and has become a symbol of European student life.

There are now 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. 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. EU research and technological framework programmes deal in a number of areas, for example energy where it aims to develop a diverse mix of renewable energy for the environment and to reduce dependence on imported fuels.

Health care Further information: Healthcare in EuropeEuropean Health Insurance Card. (French version pictured)

Although the EU has no major competences in the field of health care, 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". All the member states have either publicly sponsored and regulated universal health care or publicly provided universal health care. 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.

Health care in the EU is provided through a wide range of different systems run at the national level. The systems are primarily publicly funded through taxation (universal health care). Private funding for health care may represent personal contributions towards meeting the non-taxpayer refunded portion of health care or may reflect totally private (non-subsidised) health care either paid out of pocket or met by some form of personal or employer funded insurance.

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. 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.

Demographics Main articles: Demographics of the European Union and Largest population centres in the European Union

The combined population of all member states, excluding Croatia, which joined the EU in 2013, was forecast to be 503,679,730 on 1 January 2012.

  • v
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  • e
Largest population centres of European Union Larger Urban Zones, according to Eurostat Rank City name State Pop.


1  London United Kingdom 11,905,500 Madrid


2  Paris France 11,532,409
3  Madrid Spain 5,804,829
4  Berlin Germany 4,971,331
5  Barcelona Spain 4,440,629
6  Athens Greece 4,013,368
7  Rome Italy 3,457,690
8  Hamburg Germany 3,134,620
9  Milan Italy 3,076,643
10  Katowice Poland 2,710,397

The EU contains 16 cities with populations of over one million, the largest being London.

Besides many large cities, the EU also includes several densely populated regions that have no single core but have emerged from the connection of several cites and now encompass large metropolitan areas. The largest are Rhine-Ruhr having approximately 11.5 million inhabitants (Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf et al.), Randstad approx. 7 million (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht et al.), Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region approx. 5.8 million (Frankfurt, Wiesbaden et al.), the Flemish Diamond approx. 5.5 million (urban area in between Antwerp, Brussels, Leuven and Ghent), Katowice and its Upper Silesian metropolitan area approx. 5.3 million and the Øresund Region approx. 3.7 million (Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden).

In 2010, 47.3 million people lived in the EU, who were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) 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).

Languages Main article: Languages of the European Union Language Native speakers Total
English 13% 51%
German 16% 27%
French 12% 24%
Italian 13% 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%
Slovak 1% 2%
Danish 1% 1%
Finnish 1% 1%
Lithuanian 1% 1%
Croatian 1% 1%
Slovenian <1% <1%
Estonian <1% <1%
Irish <1% <1%
Latvian <1% <1%
Maltese <1% <1%

Published in June 2012. Survey conducted in February – March 2012. Native: Native language Total: EU citizens able to hold a conversation in this language

Among the many languages and dialects used in the EU, it has 24 official and working 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. The European Parliament provides translation into all languages for documents and its plenary sessions. Some institutions use only a handful of languages as internal working languages. Catalan, Galician, Basque, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh are not official languages of the EU but have semi-official status in that official translations of the treaties are made into them and citizens of the EU have the right to correspond with the institutions using them.

Language policy is the responsibility of member states, but EU institutions promote the learning of other languages. English is the most spoken language in the EU, being spoken by 51% of the EU population when counting both native and non-native speakers. German is the most widely spoken mother tongue (about 88.7 million people in 2006). 56% of EU citizens are able to engage in a conversation in a language other than their mother tongue. Most official languages of the EU belong to the Indo-European language family, except Estonian, Finnish, and Hungarian, which belong to the Uralic language family, and Maltese, which is an Afroasiatic language. Most EU official languages are written in the Latin alphabet except Bulgarian, written in Cyrillic, and Greek, written in the Greek alphabet. With the accession of Bulgaria to the European Union on 1 January 2007, Cyrillic became the third official script of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek scripts.

Besides the 24 official languages, there are about 150 regional and minority languages, spoken by up to 50 million people. Of these, only the Spanish regional languages (Catalan, Galician, and Basque), Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh can be used by citizens in communication with the main European institutions. Although EU programmes can support regional and minority languages, the protection of linguistic rights is a matter for the individual member states. 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.

Religion Main article: Religion in the European Union

Religiosity in the European Union (2012)

  Catholicism (48%)   Protestantism (12%)   Orthodoxy (8%)   Other Christianity (4%)   Islam (2%)   Atheism / Agnosticism (23%)   Other / Don''t know (3%)

The EU is a secular body with no formal connection to any religion. The Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises the "status under national law of churches and religious associations" as well as that of "philosophical and non-confessional organisations".

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

Christians in the EU are divided among members of Catholicism (both Roman and Eastern Rite), numerous Protestant denominations, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In 2009, the EU had an estimated Muslim population of 13 million, and an estimated Jewish population of over a million. 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 2012 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union. Catholics are the largest Christian group in EU, accounting for 48% EU citizens, while Protestants make up 12%, and Eastern Orthodox make up 8%, and other Christians account for 4% of the EU population.

Eurostat''s Eurobarometer opinion polls showed in 2005 that 52% of EU citizens believed in a God, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force", and 18% had no form of belief. Many countries have experienced falling church attendance and membership in recent years. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were Estonia (16%) and the Czech Republic (19%). The most religious countries are Malta (95%, predominantly Roman Catholic) as well as Cyprus and Romania (both predominantly Orthodox) each with about 90% of the citizens professing a belief in God. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with religious upbringing, those who left school at 15 or 16, and those "positioning themselves on the right of the political scale (57%)."

Culture and sport Main articles: Art of Europe, Western culture, Cultural policies of the European Union and Sport policies of the European UnionAcropolis and Colosseum, symbols of the Graeco-Roman world. Athens (Greece) and Florence (Italy) were the first European Capitals of Culture.

Cultural co-operation between member states has been a concern of the EU since its inclusion as a community competency in the Maastricht Treaty. Actions taken in the cultural area by the EU include the Culture 2000 7-year programme, the European Cultural Month event, the MEDIA Programme, orchestras such as the European Union Youth Orchestra and the European Capital of Culture programme – where one or more cities in the EU are selected for one year to assist the cultural development of that city.

Sport is mainly the responsibility of an individual member states or other international organisations rather than that of the EU. However, there are some EU policies that have had an impact on sport, such as the free movement of workers which was at the core of the Bosman ruling, which prohibited national football leagues from imposing quotas on foreign players with European citizenship. 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. This followed lobbying by governing organisations such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA, due to objections over the applications of free market principles to sport which led to an increasing gap between rich and poor clubs. The EU does fund a programme for Israeli, Jordanian, Irish, and British football coaches, as part of the Football 4 Peace project.

See also
  • Outline of the European Union
  • European Union – Wikipedia book
  • European Year of Intercultural Dialogue
  • List of economic communities
  • Presseurop (news service)
  • Statue of Europe
Notes Footnotes
  • ^ Not including overseas territories
  • ^ .eu is representative of the whole of the EU; member states also have their own TLDs.
  • ^ This figure includes the extra-European territories of member states which are part of the European Union and excludes the European territories of member states which are not part of the Union. For more information see Special member state territories and the European Union.
  • ^ On 01990-10-03-0000October 3, 1990, the constituent states of the former German Democratic Republic acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany, automatically becoming part of the EU.
  • ^ Referred to by the EU as the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".
  • ^ a b See Article 288 (ex Article 249 TEC) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on
  • ^ According to the principle of Direct Effect first invoked in the Court of Justice''s decision in Van Gend en Loos v Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen, Eur-Lex (European Court of Justice 1963). See: Craig and de Búrca, ch. 5.
  • ^ According to the principle of Supremacy as established by the ECJ in Case 6/64, Falminio Costa v. ENEL ECR 585. See Craig and de Búrca, ch. 7.

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