The European Union

The European Union (EU) was formed to bring together the countries of Europe. The EU helps its member countries with issues such as trade, security, and the rights of citizens. By 2013 the group had 28 member countries. However, in 2016, one member - the United Kingdom - voted to leave the EU.


After World War II, the countries in Europe wanted to live peacefully together and help one another's economies. Instead of fighting for coal and steel, the first member countries West GermanyFranceItalyBelgiumNetherlands, and Luxembourg created one European Coal and Steel Community in 1952.


In 1957 in the Italian city of Rome, the member countries signed another treaty and made the European Economic Community. Now it was a community for coal, steel and for trade. Later it changed the name to the European Community.


In 1993, with the Treaty of Maastricht it changed its name to the European Union. Now the member countries work together not only in politics and economy (coal, steel and trade), but also in money, justice (laws), and foreign affairs. With the Schengen Agreement, 22 member countries of the EU opened their borders to each other, so people can now travel from one country to the other without a passport or identity card. Now already 16 member countries have replaced their national currencies with the euro. 10 new countries became members of the EU in 2004, 2 more became members in 2007, and 1 more in 2013. 


The European Union has five main parts. The European Parliament makes laws. The voters of EU countries elect its members. The Council of the European Union is the EU’s main decision-making body. It is made up of representatives of the governments of the member countries. The European Commission puts EU policies into action. The Court of Justice holds trials. The Court of Auditors makes sure that the EU’s money is managed correctly.


In 2019 the EU countries were Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (which will leave in 2020).