What is European Union (EU)?
The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
Each of the countries within the Union are independent but they agree to trade under the agreements made between the nations.
Why was the EU created?
After the Second World War there was a new movement to create unity between Germany and France, which would ultimately lay the foundations for the European Union four decades later.
When was the EU formed?
The EU can trace its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed in 1951 and 1958 respectively by the Inner Six countries of Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
French foreign minister Robert Schuman led the formation of the ECSC with the Schuman Declaration in May 1950. The organisation was a forerunner of several other European Communities and what is now the European Union.
The European Union was established under its current name in 1993 following the Maastricht Treaty.
Since then the community has grown in size because of the accession of new member states.
The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.
Which countries are in the EU?
Twenty two of the member states belong to the Schengen Area, which is comprised of 26 European countries that have abolished passport and border controls at their common borders.
Of the countries that are not part of it, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania all intend to join, while the United Kingdom and Ireland have opted out.
The 28 countries within the European Union include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The European Economic Area (EEA) includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market.
Note: Switzerland is neither an EU or EEA member but is part of the single market – this means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.
What is the purpose of the EU?
The European Union operates a single market which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.
How big is the European Union’s economy?
The economy of the EU generates a GDP (nominal) of around €14.303 trillion according to the International Monetary Fund.
It has been argued that this makes it the largest economy in the world if treated as the economy of a single country.
When is Europe Day?
Europe Day is celebrated on May 9 because the ideas behind the European Union were first put forward on that date in 1950 by French foreign minister Robert Schuman.