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European Union (EU)

EU member nations, European Union headquarters, Maastricht Treaty, ECSC, European citizenship

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European Union (EU), organization of European countries dedicated to increasing economic integration and strengthening cooperation among its members. The European Union headquarters is located in Brussels, Belgium. As of 2007 there were 27 countries in the EU.

The European Union was formally established on November 1, 1993. It is the most recent in a series of cooperative organizations in Europe that originated with the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) of 1951, which became the European Community (EC) in 1967. The original members of the EC were Belgium, France, West Germany (now part of the united Germany), Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Netherlands. Subsequently these nations were joined by Denmark, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spain. In 1991 the governments of the 12 member states signed the Treaty on European Union (commonly called the Maastricht Treaty), which was then ratified by the national legislatures of all the member countries.

The Maastricht Treaty transformed the EC into the EU. In 1995 Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU. In May 2004, 10 more countries were added, bringing the total number of EU member countries to 25. The 10 new members were Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Two more countries in eastern Europe—Romania and Bulgaria—joined the EU on January 1, 2007.

The EU has a number of objectives. Its principal goal is to promote and expand cooperation among member states in economics and trade, social issues, foreign policy, security and defense, and judicial matters. Under the Maastricht Treaty, European citizenship was granted to citizens of each member state. Border controls were relaxed. Customs and immigration agreements were modified to allow European citizens greater freedom to live, work, and study in any of the member states.

Another major goal of the EU has been to implement Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which introduced a single currency, the euro, for EU members. In January 2002 the euro replaced the national currencies of 12 EU member nations. Fourteen EU members do not currently participate in the single currency. They are Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, nine of the ten nations that joined the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania. Slovenia adopted the euro in January 2007, having become the first of the members added in 2004 to meet the necessary economic requirements.


Urwin, Derek W., B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen. Author of A Political History of Western Europe Since 1945 and The Community of Europe.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

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