European Union

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Flag of the European Union (EU); In 2023, German is the most spoken native language of the EU-27 (19 %), followed by French (14 %) and Italian (13 %), and second most spoken language overall at 37 %, after English (55 %) and followed by French (34 %) and Italian (21 %).[1][2][3]

The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 27 member states with 447,007,596 inhabitants (as of 2021)[4] that are located primarily in Europe. It operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making.

  • There is no place in modern Europe for ethnically pure states. That's a 19th century idea and we are trying to transition into the 21st century, and we are going to do it with multi-ethnic states. – Wesley Kanne Clark, Jewish US-born former NATO general, 1999.[5][6]

Current members (EU-27)

Change in EU member states


Children sing the European anthem in the European Parliament in Brussel during "Europe Day" 2022; In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Ludwig von Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" (German: An die Freude; from the final movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony composed in 1823; Friedrich Schiller wrote the poem) theme as its anthem. In 1985, it was adopted by EU leaders as the official anthem of the European Union.

On 5 September 1929, at the Tenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, the French Prime and Foreign Minister Aristide Pierre Briand placed before the assembly his proposal for a European Federal Union which took the form of a long Memorandum which is reproduced in Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939[7]

The EU traces its current origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. In the intervening years, the community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993 and introduced European citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area (not all EU countries), passport controls have been abolished. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital. Laws and policies are increasingly standardized also on other areas. The monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002. Most EU countries use the euro as their legal tender.


The EU has gradually increased the number of member countries, from its six founding members of the Benelux countries, France, Italy and West Germany, to its 28 member states (EU-28) in 2013. The United Kingdom was not a founding member, and originally attempted to join in 1961 but was vetoed by France, and had to join later, in 1973.

In 2004, eight new Eastern European countries, Cyprus and Malta joined the EU, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and Croatia in 2013.

In 2016 a referendum in the UK resulted in an overall vote to leave the EU (Brexit). After the Brexit vote, the Prime Minister of the UK (David Cameron) resigned, and the next government headed by Theresa May started the withdrawal process in 2017, which ended under Boris Johnson with the UK formally leaving the EU on 31 January 2020.

Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are not part of the EU but the EFTA, historically a competitor to the EEC, established by European countries unable or unwilling to join the EEC. Today the EFTA is de-facto subordinated to the EU, with its members having to comply with European Union Directives without having a role in their creation. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom used to be part of EFTA but left and joined the EU.

The Norwegian government attempted twice to join the EU and leaving the EFTA. However, both times, in 1972 and in 1994, the Norwegian people rejected the EU in national referenda. Iceland's government applied for EU membership in 2009 following the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis, but withdrew after a change of government to centre-right eurosceptic parties coming to power in 2013.[8][9]

In 2018, the European Commission published its future expansion plan, covering the Western Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia (and later Kosovo was added), and planned that they would join after 2025.[10]

After the 2022 Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia submitted applications for EU membership.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan plans for Armenia to apply for membership in 2024.[11]

In 1987, Morocco and Turkey applied for EU membership. Morocco's application was rejected by the European Council[12], while Turkey's was not, with negotiations being continuously frozen and resuming every few years. Negotiations have been at a standstill since 2018 citing "backsliding in reforms in the key areas of the enlargement strategy, in particular in the functioning of the democratic system, respect for fundamental rights and independence of the judiciary" as the reason for the standstill.[13][14][15][16]


Map (2021)

The EU has been supported by various supporters of globalization. One example is the controversial Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, who founded the influential Paneuropean Union unification organization and who advocated extensive race mixing with Africans. Critics of globalization have often viewed the EU skeptically.

One example of criticisms is the EU being used to force various politically correct policies on countries having some less politically correct ones. This applies in particular to the countries not willing to accept mass immigration. Criticisms have also included a large, expensive, complicated, and not needed bureaucracy; corruption; lobbying by and inefficient subsidiaries to special interest groups (such as the agricultural sector, which at one point received 70% of the EU budget); and lack of democracy and transparency.

The large foreign aid that wealthier EU countries pay to poorer EU countries has been criticized for reasons such inefficiency, having contributed to financial bubbles, and being used as a tool to enforce politically correct policies on the poorer countries. The single currency has been criticized for as unsuitable for areas still having largely different and separate financial/economic systems and to have contributed to financial/economic crises. A common justification for the EU is in order to prevent wars. However, there are many of examples of civil wars occurring in countries that were far more politically and economically integrated than the EU is. See also the democratic peace theory.

Companies have been accused of using the EU common market for unfair competition by avoiding taxes and regulations, which has been argued to have caused entire sectors in some countries to disappear or be greatly threatened regarding their future, reduced tax revenues, deteriorating work conditions, and environmental damages. The advantages and disadvantages of free trade more generally is a controversial topic as discussed in the article on this. Regardless, the EU is not necessary in order to have free trade, since this can be accomplished by non-EU free trade organizations and agreements. A particularly controversial aspect has been the principle of "free movement of people" that has contributed to large movements of groups such as gypsies, "asylum seekers", and criminals within Europe. This applies in particular to those EU countries that are part of the Schengen Area and that thus have abolished passport and any other types of border control at their mutual borders.

Criminals can often use the "free movement of people" but still mostly separate law enforcement systems in the different countries to their advantage in various ways. "Asylum seekers" can often easily move to the countries giving the highest benefits, if they manage to enter the EU, rather than stay in the country closest to their supposed country of origin. If Turkey is given some forms of access without border controls to the EU, or even EU membership (as has often been proposed), then the "free movement of people" will include the 80 million inhabitants of Turkey. In addition, Turkey's long border with Asian countries is difficult to guard and easily crossed by people and smugglers (such as immigrant and "refugee" smugglers) wanting to enter illegally.

Also movements of groups such as Eastern Europeans to Western Europe have caused controversies for reasons such as competition on jobs and wages. Some forms of EU criticisms have been criticized as actually being more "politically correct" versions of less politically correct views. Thus, rather than criticizing immigration by non-Europeans and risk being accused of "racism", it may be safer to criticize the EU and immigration by Europeans. In the UK, the decline in popularity of the British National Party was accompanied by an increase in popularity of the UK Independence Party.

Euro (currency)


On 1 January 1999, 11 EU countries launched the euro as their new common currency. The euro was initially an electronic currency. Euro banknotes and coins were introduced three years later in 2002. As of 2023, the euro is the currency of 20 EU countries and over 346 million Europeans. It is one of the most important currencies in the world.[17]

See also

Further reading

External links