The European Union (EU)
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 member states which are located primarily in Europe. Committed to regional integration, the EU was established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1993 upon the foundations of the European Communities. With over 500 million citizens, the EU generated an estimated 28% share (US$ 16.5 trillion) of the nominal and about 21% (US$14.8 trillion) of the PPP gross world product in 2009.
The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws which apply in all member states, and ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, including the abolition of passport controls by the Schengen Agreement between 22 EU states. It enacts legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development. Sixteen member states have adopted a common currency, the euro, constituting the eurozone.
The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism. In certain areas, decisions are taken by independent supranational institutions, while in others; they are made through negotiation between 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 European Central Bank. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens.
The European Union is composed of 27 sovereign Member States
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus the Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta the Netherlands Poland Portugal Republic of Ireland Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden and the United Kingdom
The Union's membership has grown from the original six founding states—Belgium, France, (then-West) Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands—to the present day 27 by successive enlargements as countries acceded to the treaties and by doing so, pooled their sovereignty in exchange for representation in the institutions.