Organized by 28 European countries, the European Union aims to promote the peace and well-being of its people in an area without borders.
Note: Despite Brexit, which we will talk about below, the UK is still a member.
The European Union (EU) occupies a territory of 4.422 million km 2 , equivalent to one third of Europe , in which more than 510 million people live, or almost 70% of the European population (data from 2016).
The bloc has a unique character, since its member countries share their sovereignty. This means that they delegate some of their powers to the common institutions created by them in order to be able to democratically make decisions on specific issues of joint interest.
The official anthem of the European Union is “Ode to Joy”, part of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
Its flag is formed by a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. The circle represents solidarity and harmony between the peoples of Europe. There are 12 stars because 12 is the symbol of perfection and unity.
The common currency is the euro , whose symbol is € . Ballots are the same in all countries; the coins have a common side and one with an emblem for each country.
The circulation of coins and banknotes in 18 European Union countries is a unique operation in world monetary history. In addition, the euro has become the second strongest currency in the world, and is increasingly asserting itself as a reserve and payment currency, alongside the dollar.
The free movement is one of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the legislation of the European Union (EU), which guarantees the right to live and work in other member countries. There is a single passport for all citizens.
Currently, the European Union is, with the United States and Japan, one of the main economic powers. Its economy is based on a primary productive sector, a powerful industry, albeit in the process of restructuring, and a developed service sector.
The History of the European Union
The succession of two world wars marked the decline of Europe and the hegemony of the United States and the former Soviet Union. The end of European hegemony became clearer from 1945 onwards, as the beginning of the Cold War and the division of the continent into two areas: Western Europe and Eastern Europe, the latter under communist regimes.
Western Europe then began a rapid economic recovery, with the help of the United States. A desire for cooperation arose between the countries of the west of the continent, which aimed to enable Europe to compete with the two superpowers and, at the same time, to make the appearance of new conflicts more difficult.
Building the European Union and main objectives
In 1950, French Minister Robert Schuman proposed to place coal and steel production under a common authority. The project was accepted by six countries: the then Federal Republic of Germany (RFA), Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and France. In 1951, these countries signed the Treaty of Paris, which gave rise to the European Coal and Steel Community (Ceca), in force since 1952.
A few years later, a decisive step towards European integration took place. In 1957, the signatory states of the Treaty of Paris signed the Treaty of Rome, which was in force in January 1958, creating the new European Economic Community (EEC) , whose objective The primary objective was to establish a customs union that would guarantee the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.
The European Atomic Energy Community (Ceea or Euratom) was also created, with the aim of developing common nuclear programs for peaceful purposes. The United Kingdom remained at the margins of these communities because a common customs tariff would isolate it from its Commonwealth members.
Most member countries were in favor of moving towards greater integration. Thus, in 1986, the Single European Act (AUE), in force since 1987, was signed in Luxembourg and The Hague, which was in force as a reform of the Treaty of Rome, not as a new treaty.
Its importance focuses mainly on two issues: on the one hand, institutional reform (with the aim of advancing the cooperation of community institutions to make them more effective): and, on the other, the establishment of the necessary mechanisms to make the objective a reality. of a single market, setting the deadline of December 31, 1992.
In 1992, the member countries of the EEC signed the Maastricht Treaty , which entered into force in November 1993. The European Community became the European Union (EU) , whose main objectives were the economic and monetary union (EMU); the common foreign and security policy; cooperation on domestic policy and justice; and European citizenship.
In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam was signed, a further reform of the Treaty of Rome, which strengthened the role and powers of Parliament, coming into force in 1999.
On January 1, 1999, the euro , the new common currency, was born . Two years later, the currency was legally used, although the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden decided to keep their own currencies.
In June 2016, the British decided, by vote, to leave the European Union. The decision, known as “Brexit”, was formally communicated, in March 2017, to representatives of the European Council.
But the UK’s definitive departure imposes a series of formal steps. And today, the British are still part of the European Union. Experts say the final exit could take up to four years.
The European Union institutions
According to COUNTRYAAH, the European Union has five main institutions: Parliament, the Commission, the Council of the European Union, the Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors.
Parliament has the following powers:
- Examine and give an opinion on the proposals of the Commission and the Council.
- Exercise the power of control over the European Commission (and the possibility of censoring it).
- Share budgetary power with the Council, voting on the annual budget.
The Commission is the executive body of the European Union. It has three main functions: legislative initiative, that is, Community policy through the preparation of proposals that it presents to the Council and Parliament; the control of the application of community law and the power of international negotiation.
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union is its main legislative body and has two other fundamental functions: the coordination of the economic policies of the member countries and the responsibility for foreign affairs. It was originally called the “Council of Ministers”. It has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
Court of justice
Its main mission is to ensure respect for Community law by member countries. It is headquartered in Luxembourg. It consists of a judge from each Member State and a rotating judge between the states considered “large”, with six-year terms, and six “general lawyers”.
The European Court of Auditors, whose seat is in Luxembourg, is made up of 15 members (until 2005) appointed for six years, by unanimous decision of the Council of the European Union. Its main mission is to prove the legality and regularity of European Union (EU) revenue and expenditure, as well as sound financial management.
- The European People’s Defender’s Office, which defends the citizens and businesses of the European Union from mismanagement.
- Financial bodies include: the European Central Bank, which is responsible for European monetary policy; the European Investment Bank, which finances European Union projects; the European Investment Fund, which provides guarantees and equity funds to help small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Among the consultative bodies are: the Economic and Social Committee, which represents social organizations and industry; and the Committee of the Regions, which brings together regional and local authorities.