The European Union.

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So, what exactly is the EU? Is it a new country. Can it be like “The United States of Europe”?

For those who are curious and interested, here are some explanations:

The European Union is a group of 28 countries whose governments work together.

It’s a bit like a club. To join you have to agree to follow the rules and in return you get certain benefits.

Each country has to pay money to be a member. They mostly do this through taxes.

The EU uses the money to change the way people live and do business in Europe.

Countries join because they think that they will benefit from the changes the EU makes.

How the EU has grown:

1957 It started with six members.

1973 It expanded to 9 countries, this is when the UK joined.

1981 Greece joined, so there were 10 members.

1986 Spain and Portugal joined to make it 12 EU countries.

1995 Three more countries joined making the current 15 members.

2004 Ten more countries joined. Most of them are from Eastern Europe. There are now 25 members.

2007 Two other countries joined it, bringing the total to 27

2013 Croatia was the last country to join the EU.

How do you join?

Countries have to prove certain things.

1. They must show that they treat their people fairly, respect their human rights and allow them to vote in elections.

2. They must show that their economies are properly run. That means the government is sensible about the amount of money it spends and does not interfere too much in the way people do business.

3. Countries may have to make changes to their laws so that they don’t clash with the laws of the EU.

The 28 sovereign member states of the European Union are

  •  Austria
  •  Belgium
  •  Bulgaria
  •  Croatia
  •  Cyprus
  •  Czech Republic
  •  Denmark
  •  Estonia
  •  Finland
  •  France
  •  Germany
  •  Greece
  •  Hungary
  •  Ireland
  •  Italy
  •  Latvia
  •  Lithuania
  •  Luxembourg
  •  Malta
  •  Netherlands
  •  Poland
  •  Portugal
  •  Romania
  •  Slovakia
  •  Slovenia
  •  Spain
  •  Sweden
  •  United Kingdom

The EU has developed a single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. Within the Schengen Area (which includes 22 EU and 4 non-EU states) passport controls have been abolished. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, and regional development.

The eurozone, a monetary union, was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002. It is currently composed of 17 member states. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policythe EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. Permanent diplomatic missionshave been established around the world. The EU is represented at the United Nations, theWTO, the G8, and the G-20.

With a combined population of over 500 million inhabitants, or 7.3% of the world population, the EU in 2012 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 16.584 trillion US dollars, representing approximately 20% of the global GDP when measured in terms of purchasing power parity, and represents the largest nominal GDP and GDP PPP in the world.

For further info, the following video can be watched with subtitles. Just press the right button:

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