Learn more about European Union
|The European Union <ref name="fn_1"> See other official names</ref>|
| Image:European flag.svg |
Flag of the European Union <ref name="fn_2">See European symbols </ref>
|Motto: In varietate concordia<ref name="fn_2" />|
|Anthem: Ode to Joy (orchestral)<ref name="fn_2" />|
|Capital||Brussels (de facto)<ref>Not de jure - Brussels is unofficialy referred to as The Capital of the European Union because it is the hub of EU institutions: it hosts the European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament.</ref>|
|Official languages||20 (22 as of 1st January 2007)|
|Member states||25 (27 as of 1st January 2007)|
|European Council||Matti Vanhanen|
|Council of the EU||Finland|
|European Commission||José Manuel Durão Barroso|
|European Parliament||Josep Borrell Fontelles|
|Europe Day||May 9, 1950|
| Formation as EEC|
| Treaty of Rome|
- March 25, 1957
- January 1, 1958
| Formation as EU|
| Maastricht Treaty|
- February 7, 1992
- November 1, 1993
| 7th if ranked<ref name="fn_5">If counted as a single unit.</ref>|
1,535,286 sq mi
- Total (2006)
| 3rd if ranked<ref name="fn_5" />|
299.4 people/sq mi
| GDP (2006)|
- Per capita
| 1st if ranked<ref name="fn_5" />|
$13.31 trillion<ref name="fn_6">Total: According to IMF Estimations & Reports for 2005; Per capita: According to the CIA World Factbook .</ref>
$28,100<ref name="fn_6" />
| GDP (2005)|
- Per capita
| 1st if ranked|
|HDI (2003)||0.922 (est.)<ref>Estimated using members' HDI, and weighted by estimated current population.</ref>(22nd if ranked<ref>Would be 9th if member states were not counted. Also, member countries (as well as the two acceding countries, Romania and Bulgaria) are all individual ranked with high HDI (0.8 - 1).</ref>) – high|
|EU institution sites|| Brussels (CoEU, EC, and EP)|
Frankfurt am Main (ECB)
Luxembourg (ECoJ and ECoA)
Strasbourg (2nd EP)
|Currencies|| Euro (EUR or €)<ref name="fn_3" />|
|Time zone||UTC 0 to +2<ref>+1 to +3 during DST; French overseas départements, UTC −4 to +4</ref>|
|Calling codes||Not standardised<ref>Plans for a EU-wide +3 prefix were abandoned. The European Telephony Numbering Space, +388 3 is somewhat similar. Current members' codes begin with either +3 or +4.</ref>|
The European Union (EU) is a supranational and intergovernmental union of 25 (27 as of 1st January 2007) independent, democratic member states. The European Union is the world's largest confederation of independent states, established under that name in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). However, many aspects of the Union existed before that date through a series of predecessor relationships, dating back to 1951.<ref name="panorama">"Panorama of the European Union", Europa. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref>
The Union currently has a common single market consisting of a customs union, a single currency managed by the European Central Bank (so far adopted by 12 of the 25 member states, by 2007 13 of the 27 member states use the euro), a Common Agricultural Policy, a common trade policy, and a Common Fisheries Policy.<ref>Activities of the EU — Internal market, Europa. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> A Common Foreign and Security Policy was also established as the second of the three pillars of the European Union. The Schengen Agreement abolished passport control for some member states, and customs checks were also abolished at many of the EU's internal borders, creating to some extent a single space of mobility for EU citizens to live, travel, work and invest.<ref>"Abolition of internal borders and creation of a single EU external frontier", Europa. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref>
The most important EU institutions include the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, the European Parliament, the European Council, and the European Central Bank. The European Parliament's origins go back to the 1950s and the founding treaties, and since 1979 its members have been elected by the people they represent. Every five years elections are held in which registered EU citizens may vote.
The European Union's activities cover most areas of public policy, from economic policy to foreign affairs, defence, agriculture and trade. However, the extent of its powers differs greatly among areas. In some the EU may resemble a federation (e.g. on monetary affairs, agricultural, trade and environmental policy, economic and social policy), in others a confederation (e.g. on home affairs), and in yet others an international organisation (e.g. in foreign affairs).
The European Union – comprising 25 member states (27 as of 1st January 2007) – is the largest political and economic entity covering the European continent, while Russia (excluding portions in Asia) is the second largest entity and Europe's largest state in area and population. The European Union also featured the world's largest economy with an estimated nominal GDP of 13.4 trillion USD,<ref name="EU GDP, World Monetary Fund">Template:Cite web</ref> with the nominal GDP per capita ranging from $66,463 in Luxembourg to about $10,452 in the Czech Republic.<ref name="Nominal GDP per capita, World Bank 2004">Template:Cite web</ref>
The members of the European Union have transferred to it considerable sovereignty, more than that of any other non-sovereign regional organisation. As has been mentioned, in certain areas the EU begins to take on the character of a federation or confederation. However, in legal terms, member states remain the masters of the Treaties, which means that the Union does not have the power to transfer additional powers from states onto itself without their agreement through further international treaties. Further, in many areas member states have given up relatively little national sovereignty, particularly in key areas of national interest such as foreign relations and defence. Because of this unique structure most simply classify the European Union as a sui generis (unique) entity and leave it at that.
On October 29, 2004, EU member state heads of government and state signed the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. This was later ratified by 13 member states. However, in most cases ratification was based on parliamentary action, rather than popular vote, and the process faltered on May 29 2005 when French voters rejected the constitution 54.7% to 45.3%. The French rejection was followed three days later by a Dutch one, in which 61.6% of voters refused the constitution as well.<ref name="reject">Template:Cite web PDF</ref>. In Spain the referendum result was in favour of the project of constitution although with a weak support because only 32% of citizens with right to vote accepted the document.
The current and future status of the European Union therefore continues to be subject of political controversy, with widely differing views both within and between member states. For example, in the United Kingdom one poll suggested that around 50% of the population are indifferent to the European Union and 20% voted for parties that wanted to withdraw from the EU in the 2004 EU elections.<ref>http://www.europarl.org.uk/guide/Gelectionsmain.html</ref> Public opinion in Denmark and Austria is similarly Eurosceptical. However, other countries are more in favour of European integration — soon after the Netherlands and the French voted "no" on the constitution, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg voted "yes." What the term "European integration" itself means is also the subject of much debate.
 Current issues
Issues currently facing the EU cover its membership, structure, procedures and policies. They include the status and future of the constitutional treaty; enlargement to the south and east; problems of financial probity and democratic accountability; relative economic viability; revision of the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact; and the future budget and the Common Agricultural Policy.
At the December 2005 European Council, which is a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU member states, a decision was taken on how it should allocate the EU budget for the next seven years (2007–2013). Also, the "Financial Perspective" was defined as EU members agreed to fix the common budget to 1.045% of the European GDP.<ref>"Financial Perspective 2007-2013", Council of the European Union, 17 December 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006. PDF</ref> UK Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to review the British rebate, negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, despite a promise to the contrary made to the UK Parliament. French President Jacques Chirac declared that this increase in budget will permit Europe to "finance common policies" such as the Common Agricultural Policy or the Research and Technological Development Policy. However, France's demand to lower the VAT in catering was refused.<ref>"Poles block EU deal on lower VAT", Times Online, 31 January 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref>
Issues controversial during budget debates include the British rebate, France's benefits from the Common Agricultural Policy, Germany and the Netherlands' large contributions to the EU budget, reform of the European Regional Development Funds, and the question of whether the European Parliament should continue to meet once a month in Strasbourg.
Many commentators believe that these debates represent a major split between governments such as France and Germany, who call for a broader budget and a more federal union, and governments such as that of the UK, who demanded a slimmer budget with more funding transferred to science and research (and whose watchword is modernisation).
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE), commonly referred to as the European Constitution, is an international treaty intended to create a constitution for the European Union. The failure of the constitution to win popular support in some member states (France and Netherlands<ref>"Varied reasons behind Dutch 'No'", BBC News, 1 June 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref>) caused other countries to postpone or halt their ratification procedures, and the Constitution now has an uncertain future.<ref>"Q&A: EU constitution's future", BBC News, 10 May 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref><ref>"EU admits constitution is on ice", BBC News, 21 September 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> Had it been ratified, the treaty would have entered into force on November 1, 2006. However, as of May 2006, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain had ratified the constitutional treaty.<ref>"EU constitution: Where member states stand", BBC News, 9 May 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> The two countries due to join the European Union in 2007, Bulgaria and Romania, have already accepted the constitutional treaty too, ratifying their accession treaty.
 Origins and history
Attempts have been made to construct a prehistory of Europe which supports claims of the existence of a European national identity. The Mediterranean-centred Roman Empire is perhaps not a good analogue for the European Union for a number of reasons. These two political institutions did not share the same geographical area: the Roman Empire included parts of Africa and Asia, and excluded much of Germany, all of Ireland,Scandinavia, Scotland and eastern Europe. The Roman Empire spread by the use of force, was controlled by a central state and shared few of the ideals or structures of the EU. The Frankish empire of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire united large areas under a loose administration for hundreds of years. The 1800s customs union under Napoleon is perhaps a better comparison.
Given Europe's collections of languages, cultures and ethnic groups, these attempts usually involved military subjugation of unwilling nations, leading to instability; others have lasted hundreds of years and promulgated large spells of peace and economical and technological progress as in the Roman Empire's Pax Romana. One of the first proposals for peaceful unification through cooperation and equality of membership was made by the pacifist Victor Hugo in 1851. Following the catastrophes of the First World War and the Second World War, the impetus for the founding of (what was later to become) the European Union greatly increased, driven by the determination to rebuild Europe and to eliminate the possibility of another war. This sentiment eventually led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community by (West) Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries. This was accomplished by the Treaty of Paris, signed in April, 1951, and taking effect in July, 1952.<ref> History of the European Union at the EUs Europa website </ref>
The first full customs union was originally known as the European Economic Community (informally called the Common Market in the UK), established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and implemented on 1 January 1958. This later changed to the European Community which is now the "first pillar" of the European Union created by the Maastricht treaty. The EU has evolved from a trade body into an economic and governmental partnership. As president of the Convention on the Future of Europe, the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing proposed to change the name of the European Union to United Europe, though this proposal was rejected.
The European Union is a densely populated, culturally diverse union of 27 member states, constantly expanding and developing. Over the next two decades the total population of the EU27 is expected to increase by more than 13 million inhabitants, from 456.8 million on 1 January 2004 to 470.1 million in 2025. Population growth in the EU25 until 2025 will be mainly from net migration, since total deaths in the EU25 will outnumber total births from 2010. The effect of net migration will no longer outweigh the natural decrease after 2025, when the population will start to decline gradually. The population is estimated to be 449.8 million in 2050 - a decrease of more than 20 million inhabitants compared to 2025. Over the whole projection period the EU27 population will decrease by 1.5%, resulting from a 0.4% increase for the EU15 and a 11.7% decrease for the ten new Member States.<ref name="EU25populationprojection">EU25 population projection, accessed July 10, 2006 </ref>
 Member states and enlargement
 Current member states and dates of entry
The European Union's 27 member states cover an area of 4,350,000 square kilometres (1,703,000 sq mi) and have approximately 490 million inhabitants as of December 2006.<ref>"Too many people: Europe's population problem", Optimum Population Trust, 3 August 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> The European Union's member states if combined would represent the world's largest economy by GDP, the seventh largest territory in the world by area and the third largest by population. The EU describes itself as a "a family of democratic European countries".<ref name="panorama" /> The member states of the European Union have land borders with 22 other nations.
On 23 July 1952 six founding members formed the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which was transformed into the European Community, later renamed to European Union in waves of accession as follows:
|Date||History of countries' membership||Members|
|25 March 1957||Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, founding members||6|
|1 January 1973||Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom||9|
|1 January 1981||Greece||10|
|1 January 1985||Greenland withdrew after gaining home rule from Denmark||10|
|1 January 1986||Portugal, Spain||12|
|3 October 1990||The territory of the former German Democratic Republic as part of unified Germany also becomes part of the European Community||12|
|1 January 1995||Austria, Finland, Sweden||15|
|1 May 2004||Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia||25|
|1 January 2007||Bulgaria, Romania||27|
- Greenland, which was granted home rule by Denmark in 1979, left the European Community in 1985, following a referendum.
- Bulgaria and Romania are scheduled to become members on 1 January 2007.
- Several overseas territories and dependencies have close associations with particular EU member states, for example Greenland, the Isle of Man, the Azores and Madeira. (See special member state territories and their relations with the EU)
 Future enlargement and close relationships
- Further information: Accession of Croatia to the European Union, Accession of Turkey to the European Union, Accession of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union, Iceland and the European Union, Norway and the European Union, Switzerland and the European Union, Ukraine and the European Union, Israel and the European Union, and Georgia (country)#Relations with European Union
Croatia is an official candidate country to join and started accession negotiations in October 2005. In June 2006, the EU officials projected that the accession of Croatia would likely happen in 2010. The closure of negotiations for all chapters of the acquis communautaire is expected in 2008 or 2009, while signing the Accession treaty would happen in the year after.
Turkey is an official candidate to join the European Union. Turkish European ambitions date back to 1963 Ankara Agreements. Turkey started preliminary negotiations on 3 October 2005. However, analysts believe 2015 is the earliest date the country can join the union because of the plethora of economic and social reforms it has to complete, and because the 2007-2013 budget takes no account of the considerable costs Turkey's accession will involve.<ref>"Q&A: Turkey's EU entry talks", BBC News, 4 October 2005. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> Another issue is Turkey's geographic setting, as only 3% of its territory lies on Europe. However, the Copenhagen criteria do not impose strict geographic conditions. There are also worries about Pope Benedict XVI's view about the "European Identity", as in a cultural continent based Christianity, historically opposed by the Ottoman Empire, specially since he was designated as Pope.<ref>Magister, Sandro"Europe is Christian, but Turkey's Crescent Moon Shines in its Skies", Chiesa Espress, 15 October 2004.</ref>However, he expressed greater support for Turkey's admission following his late-November visit to the country in 2006. Lately, there have been reports on growing differences between the EU and the Turkish government,<ref>"Pulling the rug out from under?", The Economist, 9 November 2006.</ref> including a discontent on the side of the Turkish because they feel as though they are capitulating to the demands of the EU while receiving nothing for their efforts. The latest controversy has to do with the Cyprus situation, as the Turkish feel that's a matter of the Greek-Cypriots, who opposed the Annan plan for reunification and still demand from the Turkish the opening of ports and airports.<ref>"Blowing in different Directions?", The Economist, 8 November 2006.</ref>
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been given official candidate status as of December 2005.<ref>"The EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Opinion by the Commission on the application from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for membership of the European Union, 09 November 2005.</ref>
The EFTA states of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the European Economic Area which allows them to participate in most aspects of the EU single market without acceding to the EU. Switzerland, the fourth EFTA state, rejected EEA membership in a referendum; however, it has established close ties to the EU by means of various bilateral treaties.
 Context (rationale for enlargement and future prospects)
Supporters of the European Union argue that the growth of the EU is a force for peace and democracy. They point out that the wars which were a periodic feature of the history of Western Europe have ceased since the formation of the European Economic Community (which later became the EU) in the 1950s.
Others contend that peace in Europe since World War II is the product of other causes, such as the moderating influence of the U.S. and NATO, the need for a unified response to the threat from the Soviet Union, the need for reconstruction after World War II, and a collective temporary tiring of waging war, and that the dictatorships cited came to an end for entirely different reasons.
In more recent times, the European Union has been extending its influence to the east. It has accepted several new members that were previously behind the Iron Curtain, and has plans to accept several more in the medium-term. It is hoped that in a similar fashion to the entry of Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1980s, membership for these states will help cement economic and political stability.
As the EU continues to extend eastward, the candidate countries' accessions tend to grow more controversial. As previously explained, the EU has completed its accession negotiations with Romania and Bulgaria and set an entry date for the two countries in 2007. However, the rejection of the EU Constitution by France and the Netherlands, together with the EU's slow economic growth, have cast doubt on whether the EU will be ready to accept new, far poorer members after 2007. The prospect of large-scale economic migration from Romania and Bulgaria into the major EU economies such as the Germany, UK, France and Italy has also reared its head. These countries have only just begun to manage the major influx from the 2004 accedant member states such as Poland and the Czech Republic (especially in the UK and Germany). It is feared by these economies that they will be unable to cope with additional economic migrants which are projected to number in the hundreds of thousands from 2007 to 2010 alone. Both Romania and Bulgaria also fear that they will suffer a national 'brain drain' of their skilled and specialist workforce, similar to what the 2004 member state entrants are experiencing now.
 Institutions and legal framework
 EU institutions and bodies
 General description
The functioning of the European Union is supported by five major institutions:
- The European Parliament (732 members 750 max.)
- The Council of the European Union (or 'Council of Ministers') (25 members)
- The European Commission (25 members, with a supporting staff of about 18,000)
- The European Court of Justice (incorporating the Court of First Instance) (25 judges (& 25 judges of CFI))
- The European Court of Auditors (25 members)
The European Council (regular summit with 26 members), which is a regular meeting of the 25 head of member states and the European Commission president is sometimes also listed as an institution, although since it lacks its own staff, budget and the legal powers held by the above 5 institutions, it is better described as a "quasi-institution".
There are two financial bodies:<ref>None of these bodies are "institutions" in the technical sense of the EU treaty, but they have many of the same powers</ref>
- European Central Bank (which alongside the national Central Banks, composes the European System of Central Banks)
- European Investment Bank (including the European Investment Fund)
There are also two advisory committees to the institutions:
- Committee of the Regions, advising on regional issues
- Economic and Social Committee, advising on economic and social policy (principally relations between workers and employers)
There are also a great number of more specialized agencies of the European Union, usually set up by secondary legislation, which exist to implement particular policies. Examples are the EUROPOL (the European Police Office), the European Environment Agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, the Political and Security Committee, established in the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, monitoring and advising on international issues of global security.
 Location of EU institutions
As soon as the European Economic Community (EEC) was established, political and legal wrangling began over where the European institutions should be located. The Member States were unable to reach agreement on where the permanent seats should be, particularly since the concept of a European district, proposed by Jean Monnet, won little support. From 1958, the Commissions of the EEC and the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) had their seats in Brussels.
Until such time as the member states reached agreement on a single permanent seat for the Community institutions, European officials were distributed between Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, leading, in particular, to a considerable increase in overheads. Brussels was chosen as the seat of the Single Commission and the Council of Ministers. In practical terms, this meant that most European officials were employed there.
Luxembourg sought compensation for the loss of the High Authority and the Special Council of Ministers of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), both of which were relocated to Brussels. However, Luxembourg became the seat for the new European Investment Bank (EIB) and was given the assurance that certain meetings of the Council of Ministers would be held there, in April, June and September.
The Court of Justice, the Central Statistical Office, the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, the Advisory Committee and the financial services of the ECSC and the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly also remained in Luxembourg.
Meanwhile, France refused to renounce its claim for Strasbourg as seat of the Parliamentary Assembly. An expensive and inconvenient compromise was reached whereby Parliament’s Members met in plenary session in Strasbourg but meetings of parliamentary committees were held in Brussels. Certain plenary meetings were also held in Luxembourg, which was also the seat of the Secretariat of the European Parliament.
The EU has no official capital and its institutions are divided between several cities:
- Brussels — seat of the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. It is also the venue of the European Parliament's committee meetings and mini-sessions and (since 2004) the host city for all European Council summits.
- Strasbourg — seat of the European Parliament and venue of its twelve week-long plenary sessions each year. Strasbourg is also the seat of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, two institutions which are separate from (and have a wider membership than) the EU.
- Luxembourg City — seat of the European Court of Justice, the Secretariat of the European Parliament and the European Investment Bank.
 Legal framework
European Union law comprises a large number of overlapping legal and institutional structures. This is a result of its being defined by successive international treaties, with each new treaty amending and supplementing earlier ones. In recent years, considerable efforts have been made to consolidate and simplify the treaties, culminating with the final draft of the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe. If this proposed treaty is adopted, it will replace the set of overlapping treaties that form the current constitution of the EU with a single text.
The earliest European Communities treaty was the Treaty of Paris of 1951 (took effect in 1952) which established the European Coal and Steel Community between an original group of six European countries. This treaty has since expired, its functions taken up by subsequent treaties. On the other hand, the Treaty of Rome of 1957 is still in effect, though much amended since then, most notably by the Maastricht treaty of 1992, which first established the European Union under that name. The most recent amendments to the Treaty of Rome were agreed as part of the Treaty of Accession of the 10 new member states, which entered into force on 1 May 2004.
The EU member states have recently agreed to the text of a new constitutional treaty that, if ratified by the member states, would have become the first official constitution of the EU, replacing all previous treaties with a single document. Although accepted by many countries, this document was rejected in a French referendum with a 55% majority on 29 May 2005 and in the Dutch referendum with a 62% majority on 1 June 2005.<ref name="reject" />
If the Constitutional Treaty fails to be ratified by all member states, then it might be necessary to reopen negotiations on it. Most politicians and officials agree that the current pre-Constitution structures are inefficient in the medium term for a union of 25 (and growing) member states. Senior politicians in some member states (notably France) have suggested that if only a few countries fail to ratify the Treaty, then the rest of the Union should proceed without them, possibly creating an "Avant Garde" or Inner Union of more committed member states to proceed with "an ever-deeper, ever-wider union".<ref>"French No an 'unmistakable message'", BBC News, 30 May 2005. Retrieved 10 July 2006.</ref>
 The role of the European Community within the Union
 European Communities: European Community plus Euratom
The term European Communities refers collectively to two entities — the European Economic Community (now called the European Community) and the European Atomic Energy Community (also known as Euratom) — each founded pursuant to a separate treaty in the 1950s. A third entity, the European Coal and Steel Community, was also part of the European Communities, but ceased to exist in 2002 upon the expiration of its founding treaty. Since 1967, the European Communities have shared common institutions, specifically the Council, the European Parliament, the Commission and the Court of Justice. In 1992, the European Economic Community, which of the three original communities had the broadest scope, was renamed the "European Community" by the Treaty of Maastricht.
 European Union: European Communities plus CFSP and PJCC
The European Communities are one of the three pillars of the European Union, being both the most important pillar and the only one to operate primarily through supranational institutions. The other two "pillars" – Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters – are looser intergovernmental groupings. Confusingly, these latter two concepts are increasingly administered by the Community (as they are built up from mere concepts to actual practice).
 Effect of Constitutional Treaty
If it had been ratified, the proposed new Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe would have abolished the three-pillar structure and, with it, the distinction between the European Union and the European Community, bringing all the Community's activities under the auspices of the European Union and transferring the Community's legal personality to the Union. There is, however, one qualification: it appears that Euratom would remain a distinct entity governed by a separate treaty (because of the strong controversy the issue of nuclear energy causes, and Euratom's relative unimportance, it was considered expedient to leave Euratom alone in the process of EU constitutional reform).
|Evolution of the structures of the European Union.|
 Intergovernmentalism and supranationalism
A basic tension exists within the European Union between intergovernmentalism and supranationalism. Intergovernmentalism is a method of decision making in international organisations where power is possessed by the member states and decisions are made by unanimity. Independent appointees of the governments or elected representatives have solely advisory or implementational functions. Intergovernmentalism is used by most international organisations today.
An alternative method of decision making in international organisations is supranationalism. In supranationalism power is held by independent appointed officials or by representatives elected by the legislatures or people of the member states. Member state governments still have power, but they must share this power with other actors. Furthermore, decisions are made by majority votes, hence it is possible for a member state to be forced by the other member states to implement a decision against its will.
Some forces in European Union politics favour the intergovernmental approach, while others favour the supranational path. Supporters of supranationalism argue that it allows integration to proceed at a faster pace than would otherwise be possible. Where decisions must be made by governments acting unanimously, decisions can take years to make, if they are ever made. Supporters of intergovernmentalism argue that supra-nationalism is a threat to national sovereignty, and to democracy, claiming that only national governments can possess the necessary democratic legitimacy. Intergovernmentalism is being favoured by more eurosceptic nations such as the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden; while more integrationist nations such as the Benelux countries, France, Germany, and Italy have tended to prefer the supranational approach.<ref>"The EU's Future: The Federalism/Intergovernmentalism Debate", Big Issue Ground. Retrieved 18 July 2006.</ref>
The European Union attempts to strike a balance between the two approaches. This balance however is complex, resulting in the often labyrinthine complexity of its decision-making procedures, eg, the codecision-making process.
Starting in March 2002, a Convention on the Future of Europe again looked at this balance, among other things, and proposed changes. These changes were discussed at an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) in May 2004 and led to the Constitutional Treaty discussed above.
Supranationalism is closely related to the intergovernmentalism vs. neofunctionalism debate. This is a debate concerning why the process of integration has taken place at all. Intergovernmentalists argue that the process of EU integration is a result of tough bargaining between states. Neofunctionalists, on the other hand, argue that the supranational institutions themselves have been the underlying driving-force behind integration.
 Main policies
 General situation
As the changing name of the European Union (from European Economic Community to European Community to European Union) suggests, it has evolved over time from a primarily economic union to an increasingly political one. This trend is highlighted by the increasing number of policy areas that fall within EU competence: political power has tended to shift upwards from the member states to the EU.
Some member states have a domestic tradition of strong regional government. This has led to an increased focus on regional policy and the European regions. A Committee of the Regions was established as part of the Treaty of Maastricht.
EU policy areas cover a number of different forms of cooperation.
- Autonomous decision-making: member states have granted the European Commission power to issue decisions in certain areas such as competition law, state aid control and liberalisation.
- Harmonisation: member state laws are harmonised through the EU legislative process, which involves the European Commission, European Parliament and Council of the European Union. As a result of this European Union law is increasingly present in the systems of the member states.
- Co-operation: member states, meeting as the Council of the European Union, agree to co-operate and co-ordinate their domestic policies.
The tension between EU and national (or subnational) competence is an enduring one in the development of the European Union.
All prospective members must enact legislation in order to bring them into line with the common European Union legal framework, known as the Acquis Communautaire. (See also European Free Trade Association (EFTA), European Economic Area (EEA) and Single European Sky.) See table of states participating in some of the initiatives.
 Single market
Many of the policies of the EU relate to the development and maintenance of an effective single market. Significant efforts have been made to create harmonised standards designed to bring economic benefits through creating larger, more efficient markets.
The single market has both internal and external aspects:
 Internal policies
- Free trade of goods and services among member states (an aim further extended to three of the four EFTA states by the European Economic Area, EEA).
- A common EU competition law controlling anti-competitive activities of companies (through antitrust law and merger control) and member states (through the State Aids regime).
- The Schengen treaty allowed removal of internal border controls and harmonisation of external controls between its member states. This excludes the UK and Ireland, which have derogations, but includes the non-EU members Iceland and Norway. Switzerland also voted in 2005 to become part of the Schengen zone.
- Freedom for citizens of its member states to live and work anywhere within the EU with their spouses and children, provided they can support themselves (also extended to the other EEA states and Switzerland). This has led to a gross anomaly whereby family related social welfare benefits are payable by the member state where an EU citizen is employed, even where the family of the worker are resident elsewhere in the Union. [neutrality disputed]
- Free movement of capital between member states (and other EEA states).
- Harmonisation of government regulations, corporations law and trademark registrations.
- Eurozone, a single currency area with the euro (excluding the UK and Denmark, which have derogations). Sweden, although not having a specific opt-out clause, has not joined the ERM II, voluntarily excluding itself from the monetary union.
- A large amount of environmental policy co-ordination throughout the Union.
- A Common Agricultural Policy and a Common Fisheries Policy.
- Common system of indirect taxation, the VAT, as well as common customs duties and excises on various products.
- Funding for the development of disadvantaged regions — structural and cohesion funds, as well as the emergency financial aid — the solidarity fund.
 External policies and military
- A common external customs tariff, and a common position in international trade negotiations.
- Funding for programmes in candidate countries and other Eastern European countries, as well as aid to many developing countries, through programmes such as Phare, TACIS, ISPA.
- The establishment of a single market energy community by means of the Energy Community South East Europe Treaty.
- The establishment of a single market aviation area.
- The establishment of a European Defence Agency.
- The establishment of a European Rapid Reaction Force
 Co-operation and Harmonisation in other areas
- Freedom for citizens of the EU to vote in local government and European Parliament elections in any member state.
- Co-operation in criminal matters, including sharing of intelligence (through EUROPOL and the Schengen Information System), agreement on common definition of criminal offences and expedited extradition procedures.
- A common foreign policy as a future objective, however this has some way to go before being realised. The divisions between the member states (in the letter of eight) and then-future members (in the Vilnius letter) during the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq highlights just how far off this objective could be before it becomes a reality.[neutrality disputed]
- A common security policy as an objective, including the creation of a 60,000-member European Rapid Reaction Force for peacekeeping purposes, an EU military staff and an EU satellite centre (for intelligence purposes).
- Common policy on asylum and immigration.
- Common funding of research and technological development, through four-year Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development. The Sixth Framework Programme is running from 2002 to 2006.
 Total economical situation
If considered a single unit, the European Union has the largest economy in the world, with a GDP of 12,427,413 million USD (2005) using Purchasing power parity (PPP) equivalence. The EU economy is expected to grow further over the next decade as more countries join the union — especially considering that the new states are usually poorer than the EU average, and have the capacity to grow at a higher rate. The European Council published estimations on 17 November 2005 that the economy of the European Union will have grown approximately 1.5% in 2005 (1.3% in the eurozone), and 2.3% 2006 (2.1% in the eurozone) surpassing earlier growth predictions.<ref>"Commission spring economic forecasts 2006-2007: growth rebounds", European Commission, 8 May 2006. Full report: "Economic Forecasts Spring 2006". PDF. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref> In 2006, it is expected 3½ million jobs will be created in the Eurozone. The European Council is hopeful that the European Union will grow further in the future; economic growth for 2007 is expected to be at 2.7%. Germany, the largest economy in the EU, will grow about 2.9% in 2006 and 2.9% in 2007. After extremely slow growth, the EU's rate of growth is expected to increase in the next couple of years.
EU member states have agreed a programme called the Lisbon Strategy which aims at making "the EU the world's most dynamic and competitive economy" by 2010.<ref>"The Education and Training Contribution to the Lisbon Strategy", European Commission. Retrieved 20 May 2006.</ref>
 Economic variation
Below is a table and three graphs showing, respectively, the GDP (PPP), the GDP (PPP) per capita and the GDP (nominal) per capita for the European Union and for each of its 25 member states, sorted by GDP (PPP) per capita. This can be used as a rough gauge to the relative standards of living among member states, with Luxembourg and Ireland the highest; Poland and Latvia the lowest. The two future members Bulgaria and Romania (set for 1 January 2007) are also included in the table, as are the official candidates and officially recognised potential candidates. The data set is for the year 2007 and graphs are for the year 2004. All 2007 data are projections.
 Language barriers
The EU has 22 official languages for 27 member states (although there are only 3 internal working languages in the European Commission: French, English and German). One problem that arises from this, is that a potential 380 interpretations are needed to translate all statements between all the languages of the EU.
The European Parliament employs over 4,000 interpreters at a cost of almost one billion euros annually, and translations can take up to a week to be translated into the languages of all member states. One of the problems is that sometimes translation needs to be done across intermediate languages because of a lack of interpreters for some languages,<ref>New EU member states will not meet rulebook translation deadline, Malta Media, Retrieved 15th September 2006.</ref> which can often lead to a loss of information and clarity, or even introduce errors into the translation.<ref>"On Communication", 2-2, Retrieved 3 August 2006.</ref>
It has been suggested, most notably by former UK commissioner of the EU Neil Kinnock, that some of these costs could be omitted by making English the official working language of the EU.<ref>EU translation plan provokes protest, BBC News website, Retrieved 23rd August 2006.</ref>
There is a strong argument that all legislation, and indeed all proposed legislation, be available to the public of the EU in their national languages. The EU produces substantial legislation applicable to all member states: debate and accountability would be severely hampered if ordinary people could not have access to documents in their own language.
 Common Agricultural Policy
The Common Agricultural Policy, better known as the CAP, is a system of subsidies paid to EU farmers. Its main purposes are to guarantee minimum levels of production, so that Europeans have enough food to eat, and to ensure a fair standard of living for those dependent on agriculture.
The policy has been accused of distorting trade in agricultural products for decades. While the EU guarantees its farmers a price that is several times the world market price, Third World producers struggle in vain to compete in an unfair market. These subsidies, paid for by the EU taxpayers, secures the standard of living for farmers in EU countries, but also endangers Third World jobs, potentially causing increased poverty and malnutrition.<ref name="Bitter Harvest: How EU Sugar Subsidies Devastate Africa">"Bitter Harvest: How EU Sugar Subsidies Devastate Africa, By Maxine Frith, Independent June 22, 2005", Global Policy Forum. Retrieved 23 August 2006.</ref><ref name="Agricultural Subsidies">"Agricultural Subsidies - Global Policy Forum", Global Policy Forum. Retrieved 23 August 2006.</ref>
The policy costs around £30bn a year - or half the EU's £60bn annual budget. Common attempts to put the finances into some sort of perspective include examples along the lines of it adding £9 onto a family of four's weekly food bill, or that the annual income of an EU dairy cow exceeds that of half the world's human population. Another problem is that the subsidies cause overproduction. The CAP has also been blamed for encouraging environmentally damaging intensive farming. Critics say that the CAP has become badly unbalanced, with 70% of its funds going to only 20% of Europe's farms - predominantly the largest - and leaves nearly three-quarters of EU farmers surviving on less than £5,000 a year. Small farmers account for about 40% of EU farms, but receive only 8% of available subsidies from Brussels. For example, according to British government figures, five UK farms receive more than £1m a year in subsidies.
Since 2003 fundamental reforms have been implemented, sector by sector, with a view to "de-linking" agricultural support from market-distorting price support. Instead of being paid to produce (and thereby providing an incentive for surpluses which must be disposed of on the world market), farmers will receive payments for services such as conservation and rural development. Although the total financial level of support is not declining, the change in the type of subsidy is substantially reducing negative impacts on non-EU agricultural producers.
France led the anti-reform camp, which includes Spain, the Republic of Ireland and possibly Germany, while Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands were demanding change.
The European Union has interpreted differently (relative to other advanced nations) the mission of creating a Biodiversity Action Plan under the 1992 Rio Accord. Instead of creating detailed inventories of biota and corresponding threat analyses and action plans for species, the EU has embedded references to protection of biological resources in a set of economic development policies related to fishing, agriculture etc. While this same strategy has been taken by a number of developing countries, the EU has not met the standard set by some advanced nations such as Canada and Australia  in terms of extensive species identification, analysis of pathways of species decline and development of highly specific recovery plans. In contrast a number of individual countries within the EU (such as Sweden and the United Kingdom) have produced documentation in the spirit of the Rio Accord in a level of detail consistent with other advanced countries.
 Comparison with other regional blocs
|Area (km²)||Population||GDP (PPP) ($US)|| Member|
|in millions||per capita|
|Area (km²)||Population||GDP (PPP) ($US)|| Political|
|in millions||per capita|
|China (PRC) 4||9,596,960||1,306,847,624||8,182,000||6,300||33|
| 1 Including data only for full and most active members |
2 The first two states in the World by area, population and GDP (PPP)
 CIA World Factbook
On December 16, 2004, The World Factbook, a publication of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) added an entry for the European Union.  According to the CIA, the European Union was added because the EU "continues to accrue more nation-like characteristics for itself". Their reasoning was explained in this small statement in the introduction:
The evolution of the European Union (EU) from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today's supranational organization of 25 countries across the European continent stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history. Dynastic unions for territorial consolidation were long the norm in Europe. On a few occasions even country-level unions were arranged - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were examples - but for such a large number of nation-states to cede some of their sovereignty to an overarching entity is truly unique. Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is far more than a free-trade association such as ASEAN, NAFTA, or Mercosur, and it has many of the attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, anthem, founding date, and currency, as well as an incipient common foreign and security policy in its dealings with other nations. In the future, many of these nation-like characteristics are likely to be expanded. Thus, inclusion of basic intelligence on the EU has been deemed appropriate as a new, separate entity in The World Factbook. However, because of the EU's special status, this description is placed after the regular country entries.
 See also</div>
- Category:European Union (hierarchical list of all EU articles)
- European Union Statistics
- Statistics relating to the EU enlargement
- Largest cities of the European Union by population
- List of European metropolitan areas by GRP
- List of European Union-related topics
- EU Framework Program for Research and Technological Development
- List of EU states by population
- Citizenship of the European Union
- Concours (Recruitment to EU institutions)
- Continental union
- Council of Europe
- Economy of Europe
- Economy of the European Union
- European integration
- European Union as an emerging superpower
- European Union legislative procedure
- European Union Microsoft antitrust case
- Pro-European and Euroscepticism
- Special member state territories and their relations with the European Union
- Transatlantic relations
- United States of Europe
- Interreg III
 Further reading
- The Economist Guide to the European Union (Profile Books 2005) ISBN 1-86197-930-4
- Guide to European Policies by Nicholas Moussis (European Study Service, 2005 - 11th ed.) ISBN 2-930119-40-3
- Europe Recast: A History of European Union by Desmond Dinan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) ISBN 0-333-98734-9
- Understanding the European Union 3rd ed by John McCormick (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) ISBN 1-4039-4451-2
- The Institutions of the European Union edited by John Peterson, Michael Shackleton, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2006) ISBN 0-19-927900-5
- The Government and Politics of the European Union by Neill Nugent (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002) ISBN 0-333-98461-7
- The European Union: A Very Short Introduction by John Pinder (Oxford, 2001) ISBN 0-19-285375-9
- The United States of Europe: The New Superpower and the end of American Supremacy by T.R. Reid (Penguin Press, 2004) ISBN 1-59420-033-5
- This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair by Hugo Young (Macmillan, 1998) ISBN 0-333-57992-5
- The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream by Jeremy Rifkin (Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2004) ISBN 1-58542-345-9
- The Great Deception: The Secret History of the European Union by Christopher Booker, Richard North (Continuum International Publishing Group — Academi, 2003) ISBN 0-8264-7105-6
- 'The Ultimate EU Test Book '(John Harper Publishing, 2005)
 Notes and references
 External links and references
Image:Wiktionary-logo-en.png Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
Image:Wikibooks-logo.svg Textbooks from Wikibooks
Image:Wikiquote-logo.svg Quotations from Wikiquote
Image:Wikisource-logo.svg Source texts from Wikisource
Image:Commons-logo.svg Images and media from Commons
Image:Wikinews-logo.png News stories from Wikinews
Image:Wikiversity-logo-Snorky.svg Learning resources from Wikiversity
- Official pages
- Official EU website (Europa)
- 2006 Presidency of the European Union
- European Central Bank
- EU in the USA — EU delegation to the US
- Official EU Recruitment '(concours)' website.
- BBC News: Inside Europe guide to the changing face of the EU
- Guardian Unlimited Special Report: European Union guide and ongoing news
- welcomeurope Independent European media portal dedicated to EU funding and Eu tenders
- EurActiv.com Independent media portal dedicated to EU affairs
- café babel European current affaires online magazine, published in six languages
- ECJBlog.com, blog with daily news about the European Court of Justice
- EU News — European Union News
- European Law Monitor — Monitors and tracks EU proposals
- European Voice — Independent Weekly Newspaper on EU Affairs
- EU Observer — News website focusing on the EU
- ABHaber.com — EU Turkey News Network
- EuroNews — Multilingual public TV news channel
- Europeanaffairs.tv — Online TV-channel covering European news
- The European Union Singles & Tracks Top 200 (EURO 200)
- New Europe News — Covers EU institutions and 49 countries in and around Europe
- The Brussels Journal essential news from the capital of europe
- Institutes and advocacy
- Center for European Integration Studies (ZEI) — Research Institute focusing on the EU
- EUFPC European Foreign Policy Council — Interdisciplinary Think-tank and Network
- S.C. European Society — Oxford University (1950s) World's oldest?
- Dadalos, International UNESCO Education Server for Civic, Peace and Human Rights Education: Basic Course on the EU
- Democracy in Europe Site for more democracy in the EU.
- European Central Bank: Statistics pocket book
- Is the US a Good Model for Reducing Social Exclusion in Europe? August 2006
- EU versus USA — Study comparing GDP and growth (available in PDF)
- OECD's EU country page and OECD's Economic Survey of the EU
- EU History site
- History and institutions of the united Europe since 1945 — European Navigator
- Directory categories
- Yahoo — European Union directory category
- Open Directory Project — European Union directory category
- Google Pages — Europe Marketplace European trade contacts and news.
- http://epsoforum.com a non-profit forum to help candidates for EPSO competitions
- EU Competitions- One of the most known sites on EU EPSO exams
- CIA World Factbook entry
- Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding the European Union
- EU Recruitment exams ("concours") test book
- Online EU Recruitment exam ("concours") simulation and study materials
- EU Concours — online learning resource and test simulation center
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