The European Union or the EU is an intergovernmental and supranational union of 25 European countries, known as member states. The European Union was established under that name in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union, the Maastricht Treaty. However, many aspects of the Union existed before that date through a series of predecessor relationships, dating back to 1951.
The European Union’s activities cover all areas of public policy, from health and economic policy to foreign affairs and defence.« However, the extent of its powers differs greatly between areas. Depending on the area, the EU may therefore resemble a federation, for example, on monetary affairs, agricultural, trade and environmental policy or a confederation, for example, on social and economic policy, consumer protection, home affairs, or even an international organization, for example, in foreign affairs.
A key activity of the EU is the establishment and administration of a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency adopted by 12 of the 25 member states, a Common Agricultural Policy, a common trade policy, and a Common Fisheries Policy.
The most important EU institutions are the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice. As to the enlargement of the EU there were five successive enlargements, with the largest occurring on May 1,2004, when 10 new member states joined. Notwithstanding Greenland doesn’t enter the EU because it was granted home rule by Denmark in 1979 and left the European Community in 1985, following a referendum.
Romania and Bulgaria will join the EU on 1 January 2007, so European Union will have 27 member states but if Croatia enter the EU by the year 2008 it will have 28 member-states. In time the European Union may grow to 30 member states. The process of enlargement is sometimes referred to as European integration. In order to join the European Union, a state needs to fulfill the economic and political conditions generally known as the Copenhagen criteria, after the Copenhagen summit in June 1993. Also, according to the EU Treaty, each current member state and the European Parliament have to agree.
The European Union has 25 member states, an area of 3,892,685 km2 and approximately 460 million EU citizens as of December 2004. If it were a country, it would be the seventh largest in the world by area and the third largest by population after China and India. The European Union has land borders with 20 nations and sea borders with 31.