The European Union                          Travel The World           Home

European Union at a Glance and  Why European Union

European Union at a Glance
The European Union (EU) is a union of twenty-five independent states based on the European Communities and founded
to enhance political, economic and social co-operation. Formerly known as European Community (EC) or European
Economic Community (EEC).
Date of foundation: 1st November, 1993. New members since 1st January, 1995: Austria, Finland, Sweden. For the
ten new members as of 1st May, 2004, see below.
Member states (EUR: Euro currency):  
Austria (EUR)
Belgium (EUR)
Finland (EUR)
France (EUR)
Germany (EUR)
Greece (EUR)
Ireland (EUR)
Italy (EUR)
Luxembourg (EUR)
Netherlands (EUR)
Portugal (EUR)
Spain (EUR)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
It is not a State intended to replace existing states, but it is more than any other international organisation.
The EU is, in fact, unique. Its Member States have set up common institutions to which they delegate some of their
sovereignty so that decisions on specific matters of joint interest can be made democratically at European level.
This pooling of sovereignty is also called "European integration".
There are five EU institutions:
European Parliament (elected by the peoples of the Member States);
Council of the European Union (representing the governments of the Member States);
European Commission (driving force and executive body);
Court of Justice (ensuring compliance with the law);
Court of Auditors (controlling sound and lawful management of the EU budget).
Other important bodies:
European Economic and Social Committee (expresses the opinions of organised civil society on economic and
social issues);Committee of the Regions (expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities);
European Central Bank (responsible for monetary policy and managing the euro);
European Ombudsman (deals with citizens' complaints about maladministration by any EU institution or body);
European Investment Bank (helps achieve EU objectives by financing investment projects);
Much of the co-operation between EU countries was about trade and the economy, but now the EU also deals with
many other subjects of direct importance for our everyday life, such as citizens' rights; ensuring freedom, security
and justice; job creation; regional development; environmental protection; making globalisation work for everyone.
The European Union has delivered half a century of stability, peace and prosperity.
It has helped to raise living standards, built a single Europe-wide market, launched the single European currency,
the euro, and strengthened Europe's voice in the world.
Unity in diversity: Europe is a continent with many different traditions and languages,
but also with shared values. The EU defends these values. It fosters co-operation
among the peoples of Europe, promoting unity while preserving diversity and ensuring that decisions are taken as
close as possible to the citizens.
In the increasingly interdependent world of the 21st century, it will be even more necessary for every European citizen
to co-operate with people from other countries in a spirit of curiosity, tolerance and solidarity.
The euro is the name of the single European currency that was put into circulation on 1 January 2002.
The symbol of the euro is .
The euro has replaced the old national currencies in 12 European Union countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France,
Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Having a single currency makes it easier to travel and to compare prices, and it provides a stable environment for
European business, stimulating growth and competitiveness.
You can travel, study and work wherever you want in the 15 European Union countries, if you are an EU citizen.
The EU is working constantly to give its citizens greater freedom of movement as a fundamental right and to get rid
of all discrimination based on nationality.
In most of the EU you can travel without carrying a passport and without being stopped for checks at the borders.
With very few exceptions, you may buy anything you want anywhere you want and take it all back home with you.
The EU does not decide what you learn in school, but it does work to ensure that your educational and professional
qualifications are properly recognised in other EU countries. The EU is working to provide access to learning oppor-
tunitiesfor everyone, at home and abroad, through partnerships and exchange schemes and by removing bureaucratic
Over a million young people have taken advantage of EU programmes, such as "ERASMUS", to pursue their studies
and personal development in another European country.
European industry will not be able to provide more jobs unless the economic conditions are right. And the right
conditions are exactly what the Union is working to achieve.
By creating a frontier-free single market and a single currency, the euro, the EU has already given a significant
boost to trade and employment in Europe. It has an agreed strategy for stimulating growth and generating more
and better jobs. Tomorrow's jobs will be created through research, training and education, a spirit of
entrepreneurship, adaptability to new working methods and equal opportunities for everybody.
A third of the entire EU budget is taken up by the Structural Funds which promote growth and jobs in less
well-off regions, in order to ensure that wealth in Europe is more evenly distributed.
Number of votes in Council/Number of members of Parliament:
Belgium 12/24
Cyprus 4/6
Czech Republic 12/24
Denmark 7/14
Germany 29/99
Greece 12/24
Spain 27/54
Estonia 4/6
France 29/78
Hungary 12/24
Ireland 7/13
Italy 29/78
Latvia 4/9
Lithuania 7/13
Luxembourg 4/6
Malta 3/5
Netherlands 13/27
Austria 10/18
Poland 27/54
Portugal 12/24
Slovakia 7/14
Slovenia 4/7
Finland 7/14
Sweden 10/19
United Kingdom 29/78
TOTAL 321/732

Why European Union
The European Union has been built to achieve political goals, but its dynamism and success spring from its economic
foundations  the 'single market' formed by all the EU member states, and the single currency (the euro) used by 12
of them.
The EU countries account for an ever smaller percentage of the world's population. They must therefore continue
pulling together if they are to ensure economic growth and be able to compete on the world stage with other major
No individual EU country is strong enough to go it alone in world trade. To achieve economies of scale and to find new
customers, European businesses need to operate in a bigger market than just their home country. That is why the EU
has worked so hard to open up the single European market - removing the old obstacles to trade and cutting away the
red tape that entangles economic operators.
But Europe-wide free competition must be counterbalanced by Europe-wide solidarity, expressed in practical help for
ordinary people. When European citizens become the victims of floods and other natural disasters, they receive
assistance from the EU budget. Furthermore, the continent-wide market of 450 million consumers must benefit as
many people as possible.
The 'structural funds', managed by the European Commission, encourage and back up the efforts of the EU's national
and regional authorities to close the gap between different levels of development in different parts of Europe. Both the
EU budget and money raised by the European Investment Bank are used to improve Europe's transport infrastructure
(for example, to extend the network of motorways and high-speed railways), thus providing better access to outlying
regions and boosting trans-European trade.
Europe's post-industrial societies are becoming increasingly complex. Standards of living have risen steadily, but there
are still gaps between rich and poor and they may widen as former Communist countries join the EU. That is why it is
important for EU member states to work more closely together on tackling social problems.
In the long run, every EU country benefits from this cooperation. Half a century of European integration has shown
that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The EU as a unit has much more economic, social, technological,
commercial and political 'clout' than the individual efforts of its member states, even when taken together. There is
added value in acting as one and speaking with a single voice as the European Union.
Why? Because the EU is the world's leading trading power and thus plays a key role in international negotiations.
It brings all its trading and agricultural strength to bear within the World Trade Organisation, and in implementing the
Kyoto Protocol on action to reduce air pollution and prevent climate change. It launched important initiatives at the
August 2002 Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development. It takes a clear position on sensitive issues that
concern ordinary people - issues such as the environment, renewable energy resources, the 'precautionary principle'
in food safety, the ethical aspects of biotechnology and the need to protect endangered species.
The old saying "strength in unity" is as relevant as ever to today's Europeans. Europe's strength springs from its
ability to take united action on the basis of decisions made by democratic institutions - the European Council, the
European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors.
The EU wants to promote human values and social progress. Europeans see globalisation and technological change
revolutionising the world, and they want people everywhere to be masters - not victims - of this process of change.
People's needs cannot be met simply by market forces or by the unilateral action of one country.
So the EU stands for a view of humanity and a model of society that the vast majority of its citizens support.
Europeans cherish their rich heritage of values that includes a belief in human rights, social solidarity, free enterprise,
a fair sharing of the fruits of economic growth, the right to a protected environment, respect for cultural, linguistic and
religious diversity and a harmonious yoking of tradition and progress.
The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, proclaimed in Nice on 7 December 2000, sets out all the rights recognised today
by the EU's 25 member states and their citizens. Europeans have a wealth of national and local cultures that distinguish
them from one another, but they are united by their common heritage of values that distinguishes Europeans from the
rest of the world.