The EU in brief

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The EU has 28 member states, contributing to peace and stability on the continent. ©EU

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic association of 28 European sovereign states. It traces its origins to the establishment of the European Community by six European nations in the post-Second World War years.

The aim of the European Community was to pursue closer economic cooperation on the European continent, with the intent of preventing the horror and destruction of two world wars from happening again. In this respect the EU has proven its worth: Western Europe has never before enjoyed such a long period of peace. Although the EU began as a purely economic community, cooperation has expanded in the intervening years to include areas such as asylum, migration, justice, safety, energy, environment, and foreign policy, developing into a unique political organisation.

Key data

  • 2013: Accession of Croatia (EU-28)
  • 2012: 25 EU member states sign a «fiscal pact» as part of the solution to the debt crisis
  • 2007: Signing of the Treaty of Lisbon (effective 2009)
  • 2007: Accession of Bulgaria and Romania (EU-27)
  • 2004: European Constitutional Treaty: A draft treaty for a European Constitution does not come into force after failing in referendums in France and the Netherlands
  • 2004: Accession of Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta (EU-25)
  • 2002: Introduction of the euro as the cash currency
  • 2001: Signing of the Treaty of Nice (effective 2003)
  • 1997: Signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam (effective 1999)
  • 1995: Accession of Austria, Sweden, and Finland (EU-15)
  • 1992: Signing of the Treaty of Maastricht (effective 1993): creation of the EU
  • 1990: Reunification of Germany
  • 1986: Accession of Spain and Portugal (EC-12), Single European Act (SEA)
  • 1981: Accession of Greece (EC-10)
  • 1973: Accession of the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark (EC-9)
  • 1965: Signing of the Merger Agreement (effective 1967): common institutions
  • 1957: Signing of the Treaties of Rome (effective 1958): European Economic Community (EEC), European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)
  • 1951: Signing of the Treaty of Paris (effective 1952): European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC)