The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
The EU covers over 4 million km² and has about 513 million inhabitants. By surface area, France is the biggest EU country and Malta the smallest.
The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized 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, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the Euro currency.
The European flag symbolizes both the European Union and, more broadly, the identity and unity of Europe. It features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. They stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe. The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, though the circle is a symbol of unity.
History of the European Union:
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. 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.
- Austria (since 1995)
- Belgium (since 1958)
- Bulgaria (since 2007)
- Croatia (since 2013)
- Cyprus (since 2004)
- Czech Republic (since 2004)
- Denmark (since 1973)
- Estonia (since 2004)
- Finland (since 1995)
- France (since 1958)
- Germany (since 1958)
- Greece (since 1981)
- Hungary (since 2004)
- Ireland (since 1973)
- Italy (since 1958)
- Latvia (since 2004)
- Lithuania (since 2004)
- Luxembourg (since 1958)
- Malta (since 2004)
- Netherlands (since 1958)
- Poland (since 2004)
- Portugal (since 1986)
- Romania (since 2007)
- Slovakia (since 2004)
- Slovenia (since 2004)
- Spain (since 1986)
- Sweden (since 1995)
- United Kingdom (since 1973)
The currency of the 19 European Union countries is the Euro. The status of the rest 9 is:
- Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland are currently preparing to adopt the Euro.
- Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Sweden committed to adopt the euro once they fulfill the necessary conditions.
- Denmark and United Kingdom has negotiated an opt-out from the euro and thus is not obliged to introduce it.
Schengen Area Countries:
22 European Union countries are members of the Schengen Area. The status of the rest 6 is:
- Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are in the process of joining the Schengen area.
- Croatia is not a member of the Schengen area.
- Ireland and United Kingdom have negotiated an opt-out from Schengen area.
For the time being, the United Kingdom remains a full member of the EU and rights and obligations continue to fully apply in and to the UK.