An introduction to the European Union

Capital - Brussels, Belgium (unofficial, de facto)
Continent - Europe
Leader(s) - Herman Van Rompuy (European Commission), José Manuel Barroso (European Commission)
Languages - 24 languages (official); English, French, German (working languages)
Currency - Euro (€) and 11 others

Map of the EU



The European Union contains 28 member states, as pictured below, which transfer powers to the Union from their respective national governments in particular areas. This transfer is usually made in the form of a treaty.

Since the image above was created the EU has expanded to include Croatia.

The European Union is made up of seven different institutions which all perform different functions within the Union's complex political system. These institutions include: the European Parliament; the Council of the European Union; the European Council; the European Central Bank (ECB); the Court of Justice of the European Union; and the European Court of Auditors.

Similar to countries whom operate a federal system of government, powers are shared between the EU and the national governments of the member states. Some areas of legislation are fully controlled by the EU, whereas others are either shared between the Union and the member states, or fully controlled by the member state and the EU plays a complimentary role in enacted national legislation.


A single market operates across all 28 member states of the EU and of which 17 use a common currency named 'the euro'. In 2012 the members of the EU had a combined GDP of 16.073 trillion international dollars, a 20% share of global gross domestic product.

Current Issues

Current issues within the European Union include: the European sovereign debt crisis which has triggered numerous member states of the Union to require financial assistance from the ECB, EU and IMF. Youth unemployment is also an issue and is interlinked with the sovereign debt crisis and is fast becoming a spiralling problem in the southern nations of the European Union.


The United States, Canada, Australia, amongst others.

Countires in the process to join the European Union

Macedonia Montenegro Serbia Turkey

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