The European Union (EU) is a unique economic and political union of 7 member states which are located primarily in Europe. Its capital is Brussels. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, formed by the Inner Six countries, which were France, Italy, West Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands, in 1951 and 1958 respectively. In the intervening years the community and its successors have grown size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit.
In 1986, in addition to the accession of Spain and Portugal, a flag was adopted. The flag of Europe consists of a circle of 12 golden stars on an azure background. It is often used to indicate Eurozone countries. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Important 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, and the Europe Central Bank.
The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens. The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area (which includes 22 EU and 4 non-EU states) 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. A monetary union, the Eurozone, was established in 1999 and is composed of 17 member states.
Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy the EU has developed a role in external relations and defense. Permanent diplomatic missions have been established around the world.. The EU is represented at the United Nations, the WTO, the G8 and the G-20. Nowadays, the 27 sovereign member states that compose the EU are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the 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. To join
the EU a country must meet the Copenhagen criteria, defined at the 1993 Copenhagen European Council. These require a stable democracy that respects human right and the rule of law; a functional market economy capable of competition within the EU; and the acceptance of the obligations of membership including EU law. Evaluation of a country’s fulfillment 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 provides a clause dealing with how a member leaves the EU.
The EU operates solely within those competencies conferred on it upon 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. There are a lot of advantages of being a part of the European Union.
The single market benefits companies by making it easier & cheaper to do business in other EU countries. No customs tax is charged on goods that are sold or transported between member states. The EU also tries to make each market as similar as possible to ensure fair competition across national borders. The free movement gives the advantage to European citizens to have freedom to live, work, study and travel in any other EU country. Since 1995 alone, about 100,000 young Britons have spent time studying in another European country. Also, it is estimated that the 3.
5 million British jobs are dependent on Britain’s membership of the EU. The EU is working to develop deprived regions of Europe. Such areas might for example have high numbers of people unemployed, or be rural areas without many facilities, like good roads. This development is carried out using European Structural Funs. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Important instituions of the EU include the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, and the European Central Bank.