European Union

Circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background
Motto: "In Varietate Concordia" (Latin)
"United in Diversity"
Anthem: "Ode to Joy" (orchestral)
Globe projection with the European Union in green
Administrative centreBrussels
Largest cityLondon
Official languages
Official scripts[2]
TypePolitical and economic union
Member states
GovernmentSupranational and intergovernmental
Ursula von der Leyen
David Sassoli
Charles Michel
1 January 1958
1 July 1987
1 November 1993
1 December 2009
1 July 2013
• Total
4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) (7th)
• Water (%)
• 2019 estimate
Increase 513,481,691[6]
• Density
117.2/km2 (303.5/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2019 estimate
• Total
Increase $22.8 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $44,539[7]
GDP (nominal)2019 estimate
• Total
Increase $18.8 trillion[7] (2nd)
• Per capita
Increase $36,490[8]
Gini (2018)Negative increase 30.9[9]
HDI (2017)Increase 0.899[c]
very high
CurrencyEuro (EUR; ; in eurozone) and
Time zoneUTC to UTC+2 (WET, CET, EET)
• Summer (DST)
(see also Summer Time in Europe)
Note: with the exception of the Canary Islands and Madeira, the outermost regions observe different time zones not shown.[d]
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD/CE)
See also: Date and time notation in Europe

The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe.[11] Its members have a combined area of 4,475,757 km2 (1,728,099 sq mi) and an estimated total population of about 513 million. The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market,[12] enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade,[13] agriculture,[14] fisheries and regional development.[15] For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished.[16] A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

The EU and European citizenship were established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993.[17] The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), established, respectively, by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome. The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. The Communities and their successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to their remit. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009. No member state has left the EU or its antecedent organisations (Greenland, an autonomous territory within Denmark, left the Communities in 1985). The United Kingdom signified its intention to leave after a membership referendum in June 2016 and is negotiating its withdrawal. The United Kingdom and its dependent territories are scheduled to leave the European Union by 31 January 2020.

Containing 7.3% of the world population,[18] the EU in 2017 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 19.670 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 24.6% of global nominal GDP.[19] Additionally, all 28 EU countries have a very high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Programme. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[20] Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Because of its global influence, the European Union has been described as an emerging superpower.[21]



Scheme of Indo-European migrations from c. 4000 to 1000 BCE according to the Kurgan hypothesis
  The assumed Urheimat (Khvalynsk culture) and the subsequent Yamnaya culture.
  Area possibly settled up to c. 2500 BCE.
  Area settled up to 1000 BCE.[22]
The Roman Empire in AD 117, at its greatest extent (with its vassals in pink).

During the centuries following the fall of Rome in 476, several European States viewed themselves as translatio imperii ("transfer of rule") of the defunct Roman Empire: the Frankish Empire (481–843) and the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) were thereby attempts to resurrect Rome in the West.[f] This political philosophy of a supra-national rule over the continent, similar to the example of the ancient Roman Empire, resulted in the early Middle Ages in the concept of a renovatio imperii ("restoration of the empire"),[24] either in the forms of the Reichsidee ("imperial idea") or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum ("christian empire").[25][26] Medieval Christendom[27][28] and the political power of the Papacy[29][30] are often cited as conducive to European integration and unity.

In the oriental parts of the continent, the Russian Tsardom, and ultimately the Empire (1547–1917), declared Moscow to be Third Rome and inheritor of the Eastern tradition after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.[31] The gap between Greek East and Latin West had already been widened by the political scission of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the Great Schism of 1054; and would be eventually widened again by the Iron Curtain (1945–91).[32]

Pan-European political thought truly emerged during the 19th century, inspired by the liberal ideas of the French and American Revolutions after the demise of Napoléon's Empire (1804–15). In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, ideals of European unity flourished across the continent, especially in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski,[33] Giuseppe Mazzini[34] or Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski.[35] The term United States of Europe (French: États-Unis d'Europe) was used at that time by Victor Hugo during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849:[36]

The Congress of Vienna met in 1814–15. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.

A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood ... A day will come when we shall see ... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas.

During the interwar period, the consciousness that national markets in Europe were interdependent though confrontational, along with the observation of a larger and growing US market on the other side of the ocean, nourished the urge for the economic integration of the continent.[37] In 1920, advocating the creation of a European economic union, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that "a Free Trade Union should be established ... to impose no protectionist tariffs whatever against the produce of other members of the Union."[38] During the same decade, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to imagine of a modern political union of Europe, founded the Pan-Europa Movement.[39] His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among which then Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 1929, the latter gave a speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations.[40] In a radio address in March 1943, with war still raging, Britain's leader Sir spoke warmly of "restoring the true greatness of Europe" once victory had been achieved, and mused on the post-war creation of a "Council of Europe" which would bring the European nations together to build peace.[41]

Meeting in the Hall of Knights in The Hague, during the congress (May 9, 1948)

Preliminary (1945–57)

After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated parts of the continent.[42] In a speech delivered on 19 September 1946 at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, Winston Churchill went further and advocated the emergence of a United States of Europe.[43] The 1948 Hague Congress was a pivotal moment in European federal history, as it led to the creation of the European Movement International and of the College of Europe, where Europe's future leaders would live and study together.[44]

It also led directly to the founding of the Council of Europe in 1949, the first great effort to bring the nations of Europe together, initially ten of them. The Council focused primarily on values—human rights and democracy—rather than on economic or trade issues, and was always envisaged as a forum where sovereign governments could choose to work together, with no supra-national authority. It raised great hopes of further European integration, and there were fevered debates in the two years that followed as to how this could be achieved.

But in 1952, disappointed at what they saw as the lack of progress within the Council of Europe, six nations decided to go further and created the European Coal and Steel Community, which was declared to be "a first step in the federation of Europe".[45] This community helped to economically integrate and coordinate the large number of Marshall Plan funds from the United States.[46] European leaders Alcide De Gasperi from Italy, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman from France, and Paul-Henri Spaak from Belgium understood that coal and steel were the two industries essential for waging war, and believed that by tying their national industries together, future war between their nations became much less likely.[47] These men and others are officially credited as the founding fathers of the European Union.

Treaty of Rome (1957–92)

The continental territories of the member states of the European Union (European Communities pre-1993), coloured in order of accession

In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC) and established a customs union. They also signed another pact creating the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Both treaties came into force in 1958.[47]

The EEC and Euratom were created separately from the ECSC and they shared the same courts and the Common Assembly. The EEC was headed by Walter Hallstein (Hallstein Commission) and Euratom was headed by Louis Armand (Armand Commission) and then Étienne Hirsch. Euratom was to integrate sectors in nuclear energy while the EEC would develop a customs union among members.[48][49]

During the 1960s, tensions began to show, with France seeking to limit supranational power. Nevertheless, in 1965 an agreement was reached and on 1 July 1967 the Merger Treaty created a single set of institutions for the three communities, which were collectively referred to as the European Communities.[50][51] Jean Rey presided over the first merged Commission (Rey Commission).[52]

In 1989, the Iron Curtain fell, enabling the Community to expand further (Berlin Wall pictured)

In 1973, the Communities were enlarged to include Denmark (including Greenland, which later left the Communities in 1985, following a dispute over fishing rights), Ireland, and the United Kingdom.[53] Norway had negotiated to join at the same time, but Norwegian voters rejected membership in a referendum. In 1979, the first direct elections to the European Parliament were held.[54]

Greece joined in 1981, Portugal and Spain following in 1986.[55] In 1985, the Schengen Agreement paved the way for the creation of open borders without passport controls between most member states and some non-member states.[56] In 1986, the European flag began to be used by the EEC[57] and the Single European Act was signed.

In 1990, after the fall of the Eastern Bloc, the former East Germany became part of the Communities as part of a reunified Germany.[58] A close fiscal integration with the introduction of the euro was not matched by institutional oversight making things more troubling.[when?] Attempts to solve the problems and to make the EU[when?] more efficient and coherent had limited success.[59]

Maastricht Treaty (1992–2007)

The euro was introduced in 2002, replacing 12 national currencies. Seven countries have since joined.

The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty—whose main architects were Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand—came into force on 1 November 1993.[17][60] The treaty also gave the name European Community to the EEC, even if it was referred as such before the treaty. With further enlargement planned to include the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Cyprus and Malta, the Copenhagen criteria for candidate members to join the EU were agreed upon in June 1993. The expansion of the EU introduced a new level of complexity and discord.[59] In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU.

In 2002, euro banknotes and coins replaced national currencies in 12 of the member states. Since then, the eurozone has increased to encompass 19 countries. The euro currency became the second largest reserve currency in the world. In 2004, the EU saw its biggest enlargement to date when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the Union.[61]

Lisbon Treaty (2007–present)

The Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009

In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania became EU members. The same year, Slovenia adopted the euro,[61] followed in 2008 by Cyprus and Malta, by Slovakia in 2009, by Estonia in 2011, by Latvia in 2014, and by Lithuania in 2015.

On 1 December 2009, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force and reformed many aspects of the EU. In particular, it changed the legal structure of the European Union, merging the EU three pillars system into a single legal entity provisioned with a legal personality, created a permanent President of the European Council, the first of which was Herman Van Rompuy, and strengthened the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.[62][63]

Group photograph of European Union heads of government on occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in Rome, Italy

In 2012, the EU received the Nobel Peace Prize for having "contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe."[64][65] In 2013, Croatia became the 28th EU member.[66]

From the beginning of the 2010s, the cohesion of the European Union has been tested by several issues, including a debt crisis in some of the Eurozone countries, increasing migration from the Middle East, and the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.[67] A referendum in the UK on its membership of the European Union was held in 2016, with 51.9% of participants voting to leave.[68] The UK formally notified the European Council of its decision to leave on 29 March 2017, initiating the formal withdrawal procedure for leaving the EU, committing the UK in principle to leave the EU two years later, on 29 March 2019,[69] unless an extension was sought and granted, which occurred.

Structural evolution

The following timeline illustrates the integration that has led to the formation of the present union, in terms of structural development driven by international treaties:

In force:
Rome &
Maastricht Treaty
Three pillars of the European Union:  
European Communities
(with common institutions)
European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM)   
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty expired in 2002 European Union (EU)
    European Economic Community (EEC)   European Community (EC)
        Schengen Rules  
    Terrorism, Radicalism, Extremism and Violence Internationally (TREVI) Justice and Home Affairs
  Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters (PJCC)
  European Political Cooperation (EPC) Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)
Franco-British alliance Western Union (WU)
(Cannibalised militarily by NATO in 1951)
Western European Union (WEU)
(Social and cultural activities transferred to the Council of Europe in 1960)
Treaty terminated in 2011    

Future enlargement

The criteria for accession to the Union are included in the Copenhagen criteria, agreed in 1993, and the Treaty of Maastricht (Article 49). Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty (as amended) says that any "European state" that respects the "principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law", may apply to join the EU. Whether a country is European or not is subject to political assessment by the EU institutions.[70]

There are five recognised candidates for future membership of the Union: Turkey (applied on 14 April 1987), North Macedonia (applied on 22 March 2004 as "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"), Montenegro (applied in 2008), Albania (applied in 2009), and Serbia (applied in 2009). While the others are progressing, Turkish talks are at an effective standstill.[71][72][73]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Europese Unie
Alemannisch: Europäische Union
aragonés: Unión Europea
armãneashti: Uniunea Europeană
asturianu: Xunión Europea
azərbaycanca: Avropa İttifaqı
bamanankan: Eropa Jɛkulu
Bân-lâm-gú: Au-chiu Liân-bêng
башҡортса: Европа берлеге
беларуская: Еўрапейскі Саюз
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Эўрапейскі Зьвяз
Bikol Central: Union Europea
български: Европейски съюз
bosanski: Evropska unija
brezhoneg: Unaniezh Europa
català: Unió Europea
čeština: Evropská unie
Chavacano de Zamboanga: Unión Europea
Chi-Chewa: European Union
davvisámegiella: Eurohpá uniovdna
dolnoserbski: Europska unija
español: Unión Europea
Esperanto: Eŭropa Unio
estremeñu: Unión Uropea
Fiji Hindi: European Union
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Êu-chû Lièn-mèn
한국어: 유럽 연합
Արեւմտահայերէն: Եւրոպական Միութիւն
hornjoserbsce: Europska unija
hrvatski: Europska unija
Bahasa Indonesia: Uni Eropa
interlingua: Union Europee
Interlingue: Europan Union
italiano: Unione europea
Kabɩyɛ: UE ŋgbɛyɛ
kalaallisut: EU
къарачай-малкъар: Европа бирлик
қазақша: Еуропа одағы
kernowek: Unyans Europek
Kiswahili: Umoja wa Ulaya
Kreyòl ayisyen: Inyon Ewopeyèn
Lëtzebuergesch: Europäesch Unioun
lietuvių: Europos Sąjunga
Limburgs: Europese Unie
Lingua Franca Nova: Uni European
Livvinkarjala: Jevroupan unioni
la .lojban.: ropno gunma
lumbaart: Üniun Eurupea
македонски: Европска Унија
მარგალური: ევროპაშ რსხუ
مازِرونی: اروپای اتحادیه
Bahasa Melayu: Kesatuan Eropah
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Ĕu-ciŭ Lièng-mèng
Mirandés: Ounion Ouropeia
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဥရောပ သမဂ္ဂ
Nederlands: Europese Unie
Nedersaksies: Europese Unie
नेपाल भाषा: युरोपियन युनियन
日本語: 欧州連合
Napulitano: Aunione europea
нохчийн: Европан барт
Nordfriisk: Europäisch Unjoon
norsk nynorsk: Den europeiske unionen
олык марий: Европа Ушем
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yevropa Ittifoqi
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਯੂਰਪੀ ਸੰਘ
پنجابی: یورپی یونین
Papiamentu: Union Oropeo
Перем Коми: Ӧтласа Европа
ភាសាខ្មែរ: សហភាពអឺរ៉ុប
Piemontèis: Union Europenga
Plattdüütsch: Europääsche Union
português: União Europeia
qırımtatarca: Avropa Birligi
romani čhib: Europikano Ekipen
rumantsch: Uniun europeica
Runa Simi: Iwrupa Huñu
русиньскый: Европска унія
Gagana Samoa: Iuni a Europa
sicilianu: Unioni Europea
Simple English: European Union
slovenčina: Európska únia
slovenščina: Evropska unija
Soomaaliga: Midowga Yurub
српски / srpski: Европска унија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Evropska unija
Sunda: Uni Éropa
tarandíne: Aunìone europèe
татарча/tatarça: Аурупа берлеге
Türkçe: Avrupa Birliği
удмурт: Европа союз
українська: Європейський Союз
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: ياۋروپا ئىتتىپاقى
vèneto: Union Eoropea
vepsän kel’: Evropan Ühtištuz
Tiếng Việt: Liên minh châu Âu
Volapük: Balatam Yuropik
West-Vlams: Europese Unie
Winaray: Unyon Europea
吴语: 欧洲联盟
粵語: 歐洲聯盟
Zeêuws: Europese Unie
žemaitėška: Euruopas Sājonga
中文: 欧洲联盟
kriyòl gwiyannen: Linyon éropéyen