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European Union

Economic and political union of 27 states mostly located in Europe

Top 10 European Union related articles

European Union
Motto: "In Varietate Concordia" (Latin)
"United in Diversity"
Anthem: "Anthem of Europe" (instrumental)
Globe projection with the EU in green
Institutional seatsBrussels

Luxembourg City


Largest metropolisParis
Official languages
Official scripts
TypeSupranational union
Member states
Ursula von der Leyen
David Sassoli
Charles Michel
LegislatureLegislative procedure
1 January 1958
1 July 1987
1 November 1993
1 December 2009
1 July 2013 (Croatia)
31 January 2020 (United Kingdom)
• Total
4,233,262 km2 (1,634,472 sq mi)
• Water (%)
• 2020 estimate
• Density
106/km2 (274.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2020 estimate
• Total
$19.397 trillion[6]
• Per capita
GDP (nominal)2020 estimate
• Total
$14.926 trillion[7]
• Per capita
Gini (2018)  30.7[8]
HDI (2019)  0.911[9]
very high · 14th
CurrencyEuro (EUR; ; in eurozone) and
9 others
Time zoneUTC to UTC+2 (WET, CET, EET)
• Summer (DST)
(see also Summer Time in Europe)[b]
Internet TLD.eu[c]

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe.[10] Its members have a combined area of 4,233,255.3 km2 (1,634,469.0 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 447 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;[11] enact legislation in justice and home affairs; and maintain common policies on trade,[12] agriculture,[13] fisheries and regional development.[14] Passport controls have been abolished for travel within the Schengen Area.[15] A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency. The EU has often been described as a sui generis political entity (without precedent or comparison).[16][17]

The EU and European citizenship were established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993.[18] The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established, respectively, by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome. The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. The Communities and their successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to their remit. The United Kingdom became the first member state to leave the EU[19] on 31 January 2020. Before this, three territories of member states had left the EU or its forerunners. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

Containing some 5.8% of the world population in 2020,[d] the EU had generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of around US$15.5 trillion in 2019,[7] constituting approximately 18% of global nominal GDP.[21] Additionally, all EU countries have a very high Human Development Index according to the United Nations Development Programme. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[22] Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the union has developed a role in external relations and defence. It maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Due to its global influence, the European Union has been described by some scholars as an emerging superpower.[23][24][25]

European Union Intro articles: 143


Since the end of World War II, sovereign European countries have entered into treaties and thereby co-operated and harmonised policies (or pooled sovereignty) in an increasing number of areas, in the so-called European integration project or the construction of Europe (French: la construction européenne). The following timeline outlines the legal inception of the European Union (EU)—the principal framework for this unification. The EU inherited many of its present responsibilities from the European Communities (EC), which were founded in the 1950s in the spirit of the Schuman Declaration.

  S: signing
  F: entry into force
  T: termination
  E: expiry
    de facto supersession
  Rel. w/ EC/EU framework:
   de facto inside
                  European Union (EU) [Cont.]  
European Communities (EC) (Pillar I)
European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) [Cont.]      
/ / / European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC)  
    European Economic Community (EEC)    
            Schengen Rules European Community (EC)
'TREVI' Justice and Home Affairs (JHA, pillar II)  
  North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) [Cont.] Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC, pillar II)

Anglo-French alliance
[Defence arm handed to NATO] European Political Co-operation (EPC)   Common Foreign and Security Policy
(CFSP, pillar III)
Western Union (WU) / Western European Union (WEU) [Tasks defined following the WEU's 1984 reactivation handed to the EU]
[Social, cultural tasks handed to CoE] [Cont.]                
    Council of Europe (CoE)
Dunkirk Treaty¹
S: 4 March 1947
F: 8 September 1947
E: 8 September 1997
Brussels Treaty¹
S: 17 March 1948
F: 25 August 1948
T: 30 June 2011
London and Washington treaties¹
S: 5 May/4 April 1949
F: 3 August/24 August 1949
Paris treaties: ECSC and EDC
S: 18 April 1951/27 May 1952
F: 23 July 1952/—
E: 23 July 2002/—
Rome treaties: EEC² and EAEC
S: 25 March 1957
F: 1 January 1958
WEU-CoE agreement¹
S: 21 October 1959
F: 1 January 1960
Brussels (Merger) Treaty³
S: 8 April 1965
F: 1 July 1967
Davignon report
S: 27 October 1970
Single European Act (SEA)
S: 17/28 February 1986
F: 1 July 1987
Schengen Treaty and Convention
S: 14 June 1985/19 June 1990
F: 26 March 1995
Maastricht Treaty²,
S: 7 February 1992
F: 1 November 1993
Amsterdam Treaty
S: 2 October 1997
F: 1 May 1999
Nice Treaty
S: 26 February 2001
F: 1 February 2003
Lisbon Treaty
S: 13 December 2007
F: 1 December 2009
¹Although not EU treaties per se, these treaties affected the development of the EU defence arm, a main part of the CFSP. The Franco-British alliance established by the Dunkirk Treaty was de facto superseded by WU. The CFSP pillar was bolstered by some of the security structures that had been established within the remit of the 1955 Modified Brussels Treaty (MBT). The Brussels Treaty was terminated in 2011, consequently dissolving the WEU, as the mutual defence clause that the Lisbon Treaty provided for EU was considered to render the WEU superfluous. The EU thus de facto superseded the WEU.
²The treaties of Maastricht and Rome form the EU's legal basis, and are also referred to as the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), respectively. They are amended by secondary treaties.
³The European Communities obtained common institutions and a shared legal personality (i.e. ability to e.g. sign treaties in their own right).
⁴Between the EU's founding in 1993 and consolidation in 2009, the union consisted of three pillars, the first of which were the European Communities. The other two pillars consisted of additional areas of cooperation that had been added to the EU's remit.
⁵The consolidation meant that the EU inherited the European Communities' legal personality and that the pillar system was abolished, resulting in the EU framework as such covering all policy areas. Executive/legislative power in each area was instead determined by a distribution of competencies between EU institutions and member states. This distribution, as well as treaty provisions for policy areas in which unanimity is required and qualified majority voting is possible, reflects the depth of EU integration as well as the EU's partly supranational and partly intergovernmental nature.
⁶Plans to establish a European Political Community (EPC) were shelved following the French failure to ratify the Treaty establishing the European Defence Community (EDC). The EPC would have combined the ECSC and the EDC.


The Spanish and Austrian Habsburg European lands, c. 1700

During the centuries that followed the fall of Rome in 476, several European states viewed themselves as translatio imperii ("transfer of rule") of the defunct Roman Empire: the Frankish Empire (481–843) and the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) were thereby attempts to resurrect Rome in the West.[e] This political philosophy of a supra-national rule over the continent, similar to the example of the ancient Roman Empire, resulted in the early Middle Ages in the concept of a renovatio imperii ("restoration of the empire"),[28] either in the forms of the Reichsidee ("imperial idea")[29] or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum ("christian empire").[30][31] Medieval Christendom and the political power of the Papacy have been cited as conducive to European integration and unity.[32][33][34][35]

In the oriental parts of the continent, the Russian Tsardom, and ultimately the Empire (1547–1917), declared Moscow to be Third Rome and inheritor of the Eastern tradition after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.[36] The gap between Greek East and Latin West had already been widened by the political scission of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the Great Schism of 1054,[37][38][39] and would be eventually widened again by the Iron Curtain (1945–1991) before the enlargement of the European Union towards Eastern Europe since 2004 onward.[40][41]

Pan-European political thought truly emerged during the 19th century, inspired by the liberal ideas of the French and American Revolutions after the demise of Napoléon's Empire (1804–1815). In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna,[42] ideals of European unity flourished across the continent, especially in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski (1799–1882)[43] or Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872).[44] The term United States of Europe (French: États-Unis d'Europe) was used at that time by Victor Hugo (1802–1885) during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849:

A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood ... A day will come when we shall see ... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas.[45]

During the interwar period, the consciousness that national markets in Europe were interdependent though confrontational, along with the observation of a larger and growing US market on the other side of the ocean, nourished the urge for the economic integration of the continent.[46] In 1920, advocating the creation of a European economic union, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that "a Free Trade Union should be established ... to impose no protectionist tariffs whatever against the produce of other members of the Union."[47] During the same decade, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to imagine of a modern political union of Europe, founded the Pan-Europa Movement.[48] His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among which then Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 1929, the latter gave a speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations.[49] In a radio address in March 1943, with war still raging, Britain's leader Sir Winston Churchill spoke warmly of "restoring the true greatness of Europe" once victory had been achieved, and mused on the post-war creation of a "Council of Europe" which would bring the European nations together to build peace.[50][51]

Preliminary (1945–1957)

Meeting in the Hall of Knights in The Hague, during the congress (9 May 1948)

After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated parts of the continent.[52] In a speech delivered on 19 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill went further and advocated the emergence of a United States of Europe.[53] The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe's future leaders would live and study together.[54]

It also led directly to the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, the first great effort to bring the nations of Europe together, initially ten of them. The Council focused primarily on values—human rights and democracy—rather than on economic or trade issues, and was always envisaged as a forum where sovereign governments could choose to work together, with no supra-national authority. It raised great hopes of further European integration, and there were fevered debates in the two years that followed as to how this could be achieved.

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But in 1952, disappointed at what they saw as the lack of progress within the Council of Europe, six nations decided to go further and created the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe".[55] This community helped to economically integrate and coordinate the large number of Marshall Plan funds from the United States.[56] European leaders Alcide De Gasperi from Italy, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman from France, and Paul-Henri Spaak from Belgium understood that coal and steel were the two industries essential for waging war, and believed that by tying their national industries together, future war between their nations became much less likely.[57] These men and others are officially credited as the founding fathers of the European Union.

Treaty of Rome (1957–1992)

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

In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and established a customs union. They also signed another pact creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958.[57]

The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC and they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly. The EEC was headed by Walter Hallstein (Hallstein Commission) and Euratom was headed by Louis Armand (Armand Commission) and then Étienne Hirsch. Euratom was to integrate sectors in nuclear energy while the EEC would develop a customs union among members.[58][59]

During the 1960s, tensions began to show, with France seeking to limit supranational power. Nevertheless, in 1965 an agreement was reached and on 1 July 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities.[60][61] Jean Rey presided over the first merged Commission (Rey Commission).[62]

In 1973, the Communities were enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Communities in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom.[63] Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held.[64]

Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986.[65] In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states.[66] In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC[67] and the Single European Act was signed.

In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Communities as part of a reunified Germany.[68]

Maastricht Treaty (1992–2007)

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.[18][69] The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred as such before the treaty. With further enlargement planned to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. The expansion of the EU introduced a new level of complexity and discord.[70] In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.

The euro was introduced in 2002, replacing 12 national currencies. Seven countries have since joined.

In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the eurozone has increased to encompass 19 countries. The euro currency became the second largest reserve currency in the world. 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.[71]

Lisbon Treaty (2007–present)

In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. Later that year, Slovenia adopted the euro,[71] followed by Cyprus and Malta in 2008, Slovakia in 2009, Estonia in 2011, Latvia in 2014, and Lithuania in 2015.

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 position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.[72][73]

In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe."[74][75] In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member.[76]

From the beginning of the 2010s, the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues, including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from Africa and Asia, and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.[77] A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held in 2016, with 51.9% of participants voting to leave.[78] The UK formally notified the European Council of its decision to leave on 29 March 2017, initiating the formal withdrawal procedure for leaving the EU; following extensions to the process, the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, though most areas of EU law continued to apply to the UK for a transition period which lasted until 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020.[79]

European Union History articles: 127