2. What is the EU?

The European Union (EU) was created by intergovernmental treaties between the Member States. These treaties defined a number of institutions, and defined their competence. The EU is a unique institution:

  • It is a free trade area, with most product-related regulation harmonised
  • It is an area with free movement of labour
  • It has many common environmental standards
  • It has many common social standards
  • It is attempting to develop a unified foreign policy
  • EU Member States continue to exist, with their own politics and parliaments. However, in some areas – e.g. laws concerning the trading of goods, also known as ‘Internal Market legislation’- they have very little freedom to go against agreed EU regulation.

    Who is in the EU?

    The EU is currently made up of 27 countries, making up a total population of just less than 500 million:

    Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta
    [in order of population size].

    In addition, three countries that are in the European Economic Area (EEA) but not the EU – Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – also apply many EU regulations, including those related to the internal market. However, EEA countries have no vote in EU decision-making processes. Switzerland also has agreements with the EU governing many aspects of regulation.

    Throughout its history, the EU has been gradually expanding, with Romania and Bulgaria joining at the start of 2007, discussions are ongoing in relation to Croatia and Turkey, and it is predicted that a number of other former Eastern block countries may soon start talks with the EU. The latest information is on the European Commission’s Enlargement web site.

    For more information about the EU

  • How does the EU operate (on this site)
  • How does the EU make and enforce laws? (on this site)
  • European Commission has an introduction to the EU on their web site
  • A useful, free, source of European Union news is the Euractiv web site.
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    One Response to “2. What is the EU?”

    1. Welcome to euenvironmentblog « euenvironmentblog.eu Says:

      […] (EU) is now made up of 27 countries, with a population of just under 500 million people (see ‘What is the EU‘ on this site for more details). The EU is rich by global standards, and includes the […]

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