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What is the European Union? A summary

November 5, 2018
Read: 4 minutes
The EU is a collection of 27 countries, the majority of the European continent, which commit themselves to a social, political and economic cooperative.
 
This unique union grew out of continent that was divided after the second world war, in order to promote peace and trade with one another so as to become economically interdependent.
 
In 1958 the European Economic Community (ECC) was created to implement the cooperation between Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Years later in 1993, this came to be known as the European Union, with another 22 members joining in the consecutive years.
 
What began as a union focused solely on economic stability, has since evolved to policy creation and implementation, touching upon the climate, environment and health, as well as justice, security,migration and eventually the Schengen Area.
 

What Countries are in the EU?

European_union

What are the Functions of the EU?

The goals and values are at the core of the European Union. As it expanded over the years, the scope progressed from purely economic to a more holistic mission.
 
Currently the goals are aimed at:
 
  • Promoting peace and the well-being of its 512.6 million citizens.
  • Offering freedom, security and justice without internal borders.
  • Maintaining sustainable development based on steady economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress and environmental protection.
  • Combating social exclusion and discrimination.
  • Promoting scientific and technological progress.
  • Enhancing economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries.
  • Respecting its rich cultural and linguistic diversity.
  • Establishing an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.

(Learn more about the EU functions here)

What are the values of the EU?

The core values are an integral part of the EU and the European way of life. All 27-member states hold inclusion, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination as crucial pillars.
 
  • Freedom - freedom of movement bestows upon its citizens the right to freely move and reside in any EU country. Freedoms such as freedom of thought, religion, expression and information are protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
  • Democracy - the EU is built upon the model of representative democracy which means that all EU members enjoy political rights, such as the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament as well as the right to contest as a candidate, vote in their resident country or country of origin.
  • Equality - the principle of equality between men and women is central in all European policies, in all areas. The principle of equal pay became part of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Although inequality is still present, the EU has made significant bounds.
  • Rule of Law - the foundation of the EU, all that the EU does is done through treaties which are voluntary and democratic. Law and justice are independently upheld by a separate judiciary. The European Court of Justice preserves final jurisdiction which has to be respected by all member states.
  • Human Rights - protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, these comprise the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation, the right to the protection of personal data and the right to get access to justice.

What are the benefits of the EU?

  • Throughout the existence of the European Union, we have seen more than half a century or peace, stability and prosperity.
  • With the abolition of border controls between EU member countries a Schengen area was established. It has never been easier to live, work and travel abroad.
  • Every EU country must treat EU citizens equally with regards to employment, social security and tax. By focusing on making its governing institutions increasingly transparent and democratic.
  • The EU runs on a single market economy, which enables most goods, services and people to move freely. It is the largest trading block in the world and biggest exporter of manufactured goods and services, as well as the biggest import market for over 100 countries.
  • The EU supports over 120 million people each year who are victims of man-made or natural disasters worldwide, making it the world’s leading contributor of humanitarian aid.
Throughout the 60 years since its inception, the EU continues to cement its foothold as a strong economic force, with the value of the euro on a steady rise.
 
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