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  • Introduction :: European Union
  • Preliminary statement: Preliminary statement field listing

    The evolution of what is today the European Union (EU) from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today's hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization of 27 countries across the European continent stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history. Dynastic unions for territorial consolidation were long the norm in Europe; on a few occasions even country-level unions were arranged - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were examples. But for such a large number of nation-states to cede some of their sovereignty to an overarching entity is unique.

    Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is far more than a free-trade association such as ASEAN or Mercosur, and it has certain attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, currency (for some members), and law-making abilities, as well as diplomatic representation and a common foreign and security policy in its dealings with external partners.

    Thus, inclusion of basic intelligence on the EU has been deemed appropriate as a separate entity in The World Factbook. However, because of the EU's special status, this description is placed after the regular country entries.

    Background field listing

    Following the two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century, a number of far-sighted European leaders in the late 1940s sought a response to the overwhelming desire for peace and reconciliation on the continent. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed pooling the production of coal and steel in Western Europe and setting up an organization for that purpose that would bring France and the Federal Republic of Germany together and would be open to other countries as well. The following year, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members - Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands - signed the Treaty of Paris.

    The ECSC was so successful that within a few years the decision was made to integrate other elements of the countries' economies. In 1957, envisioning an "ever closer union," the Treaties of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the six member states undertook to eliminate trade barriers among themselves by forming a common market. In 1967, the institutions of all three communities were formally merged into the European Community (EC), creating a single Commission, a single Council of Ministers, and the body known today as the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament were initially selected by national parliaments, but in 1979 the first direct elections were undertaken and have been held every five years since.

    In 1973, the first enlargement of the EC took place with the addition of Denmark, Ireland, and the UK. The 1980s saw further membership expansion with Greece joining in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht laid the basis for further forms of cooperation in foreign and defense policy, in judicial and internal affairs, and in the creation of an economic and monetary union - including a common currency. This further integration created the European Union (EU), at the time standing alongside the EC. In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU/EC, raising the membership total to 15.

    A new currency, the euro, was launched in world money markets on 1 January 1999; it became the unit of exchange for all EU member states except Denmark, Sweden, and the UK. In 2002, citizens of those 12 countries began using euro banknotes and coins. Ten new countries joined the EU in 2004 - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 and Croatia in 2013, but the UK withdrew in 2020. Current membership stands at 27. (Seven of the new countries - Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia - have now adopted the euro, bringing total euro-zone membership to 19.)

    In an effort to ensure that the EU could function efficiently with an expanded membership, the Treaty of Nice (concluded in 2000; entered into force in 2003) set forth rules to streamline the size and procedures of EU institutions. An effort to establish a "Constitution for Europe," growing out of a Convention held in 2002-2003, foundered when it was rejected in referenda in France and the Netherlands in 2005. A subsequent effort in 2007 incorporated many of the features of the rejected draft Constitutional Treaty while also making a number of substantive and symbolic changes. The new treaty, referred to as the Treaty of Lisbon, sought to amend existing treaties rather than replace them. The treaty was approved at the EU intergovernmental conference of the then 27 member states held in Lisbon in December 2007, after which the process of national ratifications began. In October 2009, an Irish referendum approved the Lisbon Treaty (overturning a previous rejection) and cleared the way for an ultimate unanimous endorsement. Poland and the Czech Republic ratified soon after. The Lisbon Treaty came into force on 1 December 2009 and the EU officially replaced and succeeded the EC. The Treaty's provisions are part of the basic consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) now governing what remains a very specific integration project.

    UK citizens on 23 June 2016 narrowly voted to leave the EU; the formal exit took place on 31 January 2020. The EU and UK have negotiated and ratified a Withdrawal Agreement that includes a status quo transition period through December 2020, which can be extended if both sides agree.

  • Geography :: European Union
  • Location field listing
    Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean in the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to the east
    Map references field listing
    Area field listing
    total: 4,236,351 sq km
    rank by area (sq km):
    1. France (includes five overseas regions) 643,801
    2. Spain 505,370
    3. Sweden 450,295
    4. Germany 357,022
    5. Finland 338,145
    6. Poland 312,685
    7. Italy 301,340
    8. Romania 238,391
    9. Greece 131,957
    10. Bulgaria 110,879
    11. Hungary 93,028
    12. Portugal 92,090
    13. Austria 83,871
    14. Czechia 78,867
    15. Ireland 70,273
    16. Lithuania 65,300
    17. Latvia 64,589
    18. Croatia 56,594
    19. Slovakia 49,035
    20. Estonia 45,228
    21. Denmark 43,094
    22. Netherlands 41,543
    23. Belgium 30,528
    24. Slovenia 20,273
    25. Cyprus 9,251
    26. Luxembourg 2,586
    27. Malta 316
    Area - comparative field listing
    less than one-half the size of the US
    Land boundaries field listing
    total: 13,770 km
    border countries (19): Albania 212 km, Andorra 118 km, Belarus 1176 km, Bosnia and Herzegovina 956 km, Holy See 3 km, Liechtenstein 34 km, Macedonia 396 km, Moldova 683 km, Monaco 6 km, Montenegro 19 km, Norway 2375 km, Russia 2435 km, San Marino 37 km, Serbia 1353 km, Switzerland 1729 km, Turkey 415 km, United Kingdom 499 km, Ukraine 1324 km; note - the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (2020) commits the United Kingdom (UK) to maintain an open border in Ireland, so the border between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland is only de jure and is not a hard border; the de facto border is the Irish Sea between the islands of Ireland and Great Britain

    note: data for European continent only

    Coastline field listing
    53,563.9 km
    Climate field listing
    cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south
    Terrain field listing
    fairly flat along Baltic and Atlantic coasts; mountainous in the central and southern areas
    Elevation field listing
    lowest point: Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands -7 m
    highest point: Mont Blanc, France 4,810 m
    Natural resources field listing
    iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, uranium, potash, salt, hydropower, arable land, timber, fish
    Irrigated land field listing
    154,539.82 sq km (2011 est.)
    Population distribution field listing
    population distribution varies considerably from country to country, but tends to follow a pattern of coastal and river settlement, with urban agglomerations forming large hubs facilitating large scale housing, industry, and commerce; the area in and around the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg (known collectively as Benelux), is the most densely populated area in the EU
    Natural hazards field listing
    flooding along coasts; avalanches in mountainous area; earthquakes in the south; volcanic eruptions in Italy; periodic droughts in Spain; ice floes in the Baltic
    Environment - current issues field listing
    various forms of air, soil, and water pollution; see individual country entries
    Environment - international agreements field listing
    party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94
    signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds
  • People and Society :: European Union
  • Population field listing
    rank by population: Germany - 80,159,662;  France - 67,848,156;  Italy - 62,402,659;  Spain - 50,015,792;  Poland - 38,282,325;  Romania - 21,302,893;  Netherlands - 17,280,397;  Belgium - 11,720,716;  Czechia - 10,702,498;  Greece - 10,607,051;  Portugal - 10,302,674;  Sweden - 10,202,491;  Hungary - 9,771,827;  Austria - 8,859,449;  Bulgaria - 6,966,899;  Denmark - 5,869,410;  Finland - 5,571,665;  Slovakia - 5,440,602;  Ireland - 5,176,569;  Croatia - 4,227,746;  Lithuania - 2,731,464;  Slovenia - 2,102,678;  Latvia - 1,881,232;  Cyprus - 1,266,676;  Estonia - 1,228,624;  Luxembourg - 628,381;  Malta - 457,267 (July 2020 est.)
    Languages field listing
    Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish

    note: only the 24 official languages are listed; German, the major language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is the most widely spoken mother tongue - about 16% of the EU population; English is the most widely spoken foreign language - about 29% of the EU population is conversant with it (2020)

    Religions field listing
    Roman Catholic 48%, Protestant 12%, Orthodox 8%, other Christian 4%, Muslim 2%, other 1% (includes Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu), atheist 7%, non-believer/agnostic 16%, unspecified 2% (2012 est.)
    Age structure field listing
    0-14 years: 15.05% (male 34,978,216/female 33,217,600)
    15-24 years: 10.39% (male 24,089,260/female 22,990,579)
    25-54 years: 40.54% (male 92,503,000/female 91,144,596)
    55-64 years: 13.52% (male 29,805,200/female 31,424,172)
    65 years and over: 20.5% (male 39,834,507/female 53,020,673) (2020 est.)
    EU population pyramid: PDF
    Median age field listing
    total: 44 years
    male: 42.6 years
    female: 45.5 years (2020 est.)
    Population growth rate field listing
    0.10% (2020 est.)
    Birth rate field listing
    9.5 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    Death rate field listing
    10.7 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    Net migration rate field listing
    2.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
    Population distribution field listing
    population distribution varies considerably from country to country, but tends to follow a pattern of coastal and river settlement, with urban agglomerations forming large hubs facilitating large scale housing, industry, and commerce; the area in and around the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg (known collectively as Benelux), is the most densely populated area in the EU
    Sex ratio field listing
    at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
    0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
    15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
    25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
    55-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
    65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female
    total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2020 est.)
    Infant mortality rate field listing
    total: 3.7 deaths/1,000 live births
    male: 4 deaths/1,000 live births
    female: 3.3 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
    Life expectancy at birth field listing
    total population: 80.9 years
    male: 78 years
    female: 83.9 years (2020 est.)
    Total fertility rate field listing
    1.62 children born/woman (2020 est.)
    Current Health Expenditure field listing
    9.9% (2016)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate field listing
    note - see individual entries of member states
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS field listing
    note - see individual entries of member states
    HIV/AIDS - deaths field listing
    note - see individual entries of member states
    Major infectious diseases field listing
    note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring regionally; the US Department of Homeland Security has issued instructions requiring US passengers who have been in the European Union’s Schengen Area (comprised of the following 26 European states: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland) to travel through select airports where the US Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures
    Education expenditures field listing
    4.6% of GDP (2017)
    Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 field listing
    total: 17.1%
    male: 17.3%
    female: 16.9% (2018 est.)
  • Government :: European Union
  • Union name: Union name field listing
    conventional long form: European Union
    abbreviation: EU
    Political structure: Political structure field listing
    a hybrid and unique intergovernmental and supranational organization
    Capital field listing
    name: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg, Frankfurt (Germany); note - the European Council, a gathering of the EU heads of state and/or government, and the Council of the European Union, a ministerial-level body of ten formations, meet in Brussels, Belgium, except for Council meetings held in Luxembourg in April, June, and October; the European Parliament meets in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, and has administrative offices in Luxembourg; the Court of Justice of the European Union is located in Luxembourg; and the European Central Bank is located in Frankfurt, Germany
    geographic coordinates: (Brussels) 50 50 N, 4 20 E
    time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

    note: the 27 European Union countries spread across three time zones; a proposal has been put forward to do away with daylight savings time in all EU countries

    Member states: Member states field listing

    27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden; note - candidate countries: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey

    there are 13 overseas countries and territories (OCTs) (1 with Denmark [Greenland], 6 with France [French Polynesia; French Southern and Antarctic Lands; New Caledonia; Saint Barthelemy; Saint Pierre and Miquelon; Wallis and Futuna], and 6 with the Netherlands [Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten]), all are part of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA)

    note: there are non-European OCTs having special relations with Denmark, France, and the Netherlands (list is annexed to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), that are associated with the EU to promote their economic and social development; member states apply to their trade with OCTs the same treatment as they accord each other pursuant to the treaties; OCT nationals are in principle EU citizens, but these countries are neither part of the EU, nor subject to the EU

    Independence field listing
    7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the European Union); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)

    note: the Treaties of Rome, signed on 25 March 1957 and subsequently entered into force on 1 January 1958, created the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community; a series of subsequent treaties have been adopted to increase efficiency and transparency, to prepare for new member states, and to introduce new areas of cooperation - such as a single currency; the Treaty of Lisbon, signed on 13 December 2007 and entered into force on 1 December 2009 is the most recent of these treaties and is intended to make the EU more democratic, more efficient, and better able to address global problems with one voice

    National holiday field listing
    Europe Day (also known as Schuman Day), 9 May (1950); note - the day in 1950 that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of what became the European Coal and Steel Community, the progenitor of today's European Union, with the aim of achieving a united Europe
    Constitution field listing
    history: none; note - the EU legal order relies primarily on two consolidated texts encompassing all provisions as amended from a series of past treaties: the Treaty on European Union (TEU), as modified by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty states in Article 1 that "the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION ... on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common"; Article 1 of the TEU states further that the EU is "founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as 'the Treaties')," both possessing the same legal value; Article 6 of the TEU provides that a separately adopted Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union "shall have the same legal value as the Treaties"
    amendments: European Union treaties can be amended in several ways: 1) Ordinary Revision Procedure (for key amendments to the treaties); initiated by an EU country’s government, by the European Parliament, or by the European Commission; following adoption of the proposal by the European Council, a convention is formed of national government representatives to review the proposal and subsequently a conference of government representatives also reviews the proposal; passage requires ratification by all EU countries; 2) Simplified Revision Procedure (for amendment of EU internal policies and actions); passage of a proposal requires unanimous European Council vote following European Council consultation with the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Central Bank (if the amendment concerns monetary matters) and requires ratification by all EU countries; 3) Passerelle Clause (allows the alteration of a legislative procedure without a formal amendment of the treaties); 4) Flexibility Clause (permits the EU to decide in subject areas where EU competences have not been explicitly granted in the Treaties but are necessary to the attainment of the objectives set out in the Treaty); note - the Treaty of Lisbon (signed in December 2007 and effective in December 2009) amended the two treaties that formed the EU - the Maastricht Treaty (1993) and the Treaty of Rome (1958), known in updated form as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
    Suffrage field listing
    18 years of age (16 years in Austria); universal; voting for the European Parliament is permitted in each member state
    Executive branch field listing

    under the EU treaties there are three distinct institutions, each of which conducts functions that may be regarded as executive in nature:
    European Council - brings together heads of state and government, along with the president of the European Commission, and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the development of the Union and to issue general policy guidelines; the Treaty of Lisbon established the position of "permanent" (full-time) president of the European Council; leaders of the EU member states appoint the president for a 2 1/2 year term, renewable once; the president's responsibilities include chairing the EU summits and providing policy and organizational continuity; the current president is Donald TUSK (Poland), since 1 December 2014, succeeding Herman VAN ROMPUY (Belgian; 2009-14)
    Council of the European Commission - consists of ministers of each EU member state and meets regularly in 10 different configurations depending on the subject matter; it conducts policymaking and coordinating functions as well as legislative functions; ministers of EU member states chair meetings of the Council of the EU based on a 6-month rotating presidency except for the meetings of EU Foreign Ministers in the Foreign Affairs Council that are chaired by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
    European Commission - headed by a College of Commissioners comprised of 28 members (one from each member country) including the president; each commissioner is responsible for one or more policy areas; the Commission's main responsibilities include the sole right to initiate EU legislation (except for foreign and security/defense policy), promoting the general interest of the EU, acting as "guardian of the Treaties" by monitoring the application of EU law, implementing/executing the EU budget, managing programs, negotiating on the EU's behalf in core policy areas such as trade, and ensuring the Union's external representation in some policy areas; its current president is Jean-Claude JUNCKER (Luxembourg) elected on 15 July 2014 (took office on 1 November 2014); the president of the European Commission is nominated by the European Council and formally "elected" by the European Parliament; the Commission president allocates specific responsibilities among the members of the College (appointed by common accord of the member state governments in consultation with the president-elect); the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a 5-year term; President JUNCKER reorganized the structure of the College around clusters or project teams coordinated by 7 vice presidents in line with the current Commission's main political priorities and appointed Frans TIMMERMANS (Netherlands) to act as his first vice president; the confirmation process for the next Commission expected be held in the fall of 2019

    note: for external representation and foreign policy making, leaders of the EU member states appointed Federica MOGHERINI (Italy) as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; MOGHERINI took office on 1 November 2014, succeeding Catherine ASHTON (UK) (2009-14); the High Representative's concurrent appointment as Vice President of the European Commission was meant to bring more coherence to the EU’s foreign policy (horizontally, between policies managed by the Commission that are particularly relevant for EU external relations, such as trade, humanitarian aid and crisis management, neighborhood policy and enlargement; and vertically, between national capitals and the EU); the High Representative helps develop and implement the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defense Policy components, chairs the Foreign Affairs Council, represents and acts for the Union in many international contexts, and oversees the European External Action Service, the diplomatic corps of the EU, established on 1 December 2010

    Legislative branch field listing
    description: two legislative bodies consisting of the Council of the European Union (27 seats; ministers representing the 27 member states) and the European Parliament (705 seats; seats allocated among member states roughly in proportion to population size; members elected by proportional representation to serve 5-year terms); note - the European Parliament President, Antonio TAJANI (Italian center-right), was elected in January 2017 by a majority of fellow members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and represents the Parliament within the EU and internationally; the Council of the EU and the MEPs share responsibilities for adopting the bulk of EU legislation, normally acting in co-decision on Commission proposals (but not in the area of Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is governed by consensus of the EU member state governments)
    elections: last held on 23-26 May 2019 (next to be held May 2024)
    election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party (as of 31 January 2020) - EPP 187, S&D 148, ALDE/EDP 97, ID 76, Greens/EFA 67, ECR 59, GUE-NGL 40, non-inscripts 31; composition - NA
    Judicial branch field listing
    highest courts: Court of Justice of the European Union, which includes the Court of Justice (informally known as the European Court of Justice or ECJ) and the General Court (consists of 27 judges, one drawn from each member state; the ECJ includes 11 Advocates General while the General Court can include additional judges; both the ECJ and the General Court may sit in a "Grand Chamber" of 15 judges in special cases but usually in chambers of 3 to 5 judges
    judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the common consent of the member states to serve 6-year renewable terms

    note: the ECJ is the supreme judicial authority of the EU; it ensures that EU law is interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU, resolves disputed issues among the EU institutions and with member states, and reviews issues and opinions regarding questions of EU law referred by member state courts

    Political parties and leaders field listing
    Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE [Guy VERHOFSTADT]
    European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL [Gabriele ZIMMER]
    Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy or EFDD [Nigel FARAGE]
    Europe of Nations and Freedom or ENF or ENL [Nicolas BAY and Marcel DE GRAAFF]
    European Conservatives and Reformists or ECR [Syed KAMALL and Ryszard LEGUTKO]
    European Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Ska KELLER, Philippe LAMBERTS]
    European People's Party or EPP [Manfred WEBER]
    Identity and Democracy Party [Marco ZANNI]
    Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats or S&D [Udo BULLMANN]
    International organization participation field listing
    ARF, ASEAN (dialogue member), Australian Group, BIS, BSEC (observer), CBSS, CERN, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-8, G-10, G-20, IDA, IEA, IGAD (partners), LAIA (observer), NSG (observer), OAS (observer), OECD, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), SICA (observer), UN (observer), UNRWA (observer), WCO, WTO, ZC (observer)
    Diplomatic representation in the US field listing
    chief of mission: Ambassador David O'SULLIVAN (since 18 November 2014)
    chancery: 2175 K Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20037
    telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500
    FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766
    Diplomatic representation from the US field listing
    chief of mission: Ambassador Gordon SONDLAND (since 9 July 2018)
    telephone: [32] (2) 811-4100
    embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
    mailing address: use embassy street address
    FAX: [32] (2) 811-5154
    Flag description field listing
    a blue field with 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle in the center; blue represents the sky of the Western world, the stars are the peoples of Europe in a circle, a symbol of unity; the number of stars is fixed
    National symbol(s) field listing
    a circle of 12, five-pointed, golden yellow stars on a blue field; union colors: blue, yellow
    National anthem field listing
    name: Ode to Joy
    lyrics/music: no lyrics/Ludwig VAN BEETHOVEN, arranged by Herbert VON KARAJAN

    note: official EU anthem since 1985; the anthem is meant to represent all of Europe rather than just the organization, conveying ideas of peace, freedom, and unity

  • Economy :: European Union
  • Economy - overview field listing

    The 27 member states that make up the EU have adopted an internal single market with free movement of goods, services, capital, and labor. The EU, which is also a customs union, aims to bolster Europe's trade position and its political and economic weight in international affairs.


    Despite great differences in per capita income among member states (from $28,000 to $109,000) and in national attitudes toward issues like inflation, debt, and foreign trade, the EU has achieved a high degree of coordination of monetary and fiscal policies. A common currency – the euro – circulates among 19 of the member states that make up the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Eleven member states introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999 (Greece did so two years later). Since 2004, 13 states acceded to the EU. Of the 13, Slovenia (2007), Cyprus and Malta (2008), Slovakia (2009), Estonia (2011), Latvia (2014), and Lithuania (2015) have adopted the euro; seven other member states - excluding Denmark, which has a formal opt-out - are required by EU treaties to adopt the common currency upon meeting fiscal and monetary convergence criteria.


    The EU economy posted moderate GDP growth for 2014 through 2017, capping five years of sustained growth since the 2008-09 global economic crisis and the ensuing sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone in 2011. However, the bloc’s recovery was uneven. Some EU member states (Czechia, Ireland, Malta, Romania, Sweden, and Spain) recorded strong growth, others (Italy) experienced modest expansion, and Greece finally ended its EU rescue program in August 2018. Overall, the EU’s recovery was buoyed by lower commodities prices and accommodative monetary policy, which lowered interest rates and stimulated demand. The euro zone, which makes up about 70% of the total EU economy, performed well, achieving a growth rate not seen in a decade. In October 2017 the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it would extend its bond-buying program through September 2018, and possibly beyond that date, to keep the euro zone recovery on track. The ECB’s efforts to spur more lending and investment through its asset-buying program, negative interest rates, and long-term loan refinancing programs have not yet raised inflation in line with the ECB’s statutory target of just under 2%.


    Despite its performance, high unemployment in some member states, high levels of public and private debt, muted productivity, an incomplete single market in services, and an aging population remain sources of potential drag on the EU’s future growth. Moreover, the EU economy remains vulnerable to a slowdown of global trade and bouts of political and financial turmoil. In June 2016, the UK voted to withdraw from the EU, the first member country ever to attempt to secede. Continued uncertainty about the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU (concluded January 2020) could hurt consumer and investor confidence and dampen EU growth, particularly if trade and cross-border investment significantly declines. Political disagreements between EU member states on reforms to fiscal and economic policy also may impair the EU’s ability to bolster its crisis-prevention and resolution mechanisms. International investors’ fears of a broad dissolution of the single currency area have largely dissipated, but these concerns could resurface if elected leaders implement policies that contravene euro-zone budget or banking rules. State interventions in ailing banks, including rescue of banks in Italy and resolution of banks in Spain, have eased financial vulnerabilities in the European banking sector even though some banks are struggling with low profitability and a large stock of bad loans, fragilities that could precipitate localized crises. Externally, the EU has continued to pursue comprehensive free trade agreements to expand EU external market share, particularly with Asian countries; EU and Japanese leaders reached a political-level agreement on a free trade agreement in July 2017, and agreement with Mexico in April 2018 on updates to an existing free trade agreement.

    GDP (purchasing power parity) field listing
    $20.85 trillion (2017 est.)
    $20.38 trillion (2016 est.)
    $19.98 trillion (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    GDP (official exchange rate) field listing
    $17.11 trillion (2017 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate field listing
    2.3% (2017 est.)
    2% (2016 est.)
    2.3% (2015 est.)
    GDP - per capita (PPP) field listing
    $40,900 (2017 est.)
    $39,400 (2016 est.)
    $38,200 (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    Gross national saving field listing
    22.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
    22.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
    22% of GDP (2015 est.)
    GDP - composition, by end use field listing
    household consumption: 54.4% (2016 est.)
    government consumption: 20.4% (2016 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 19.8% (2016 est.)
    investment in inventories: 0.4% (2016 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 43.9% (2016 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -40.5% (2016 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin field listing
    agriculture: 1.6% (2017 est.)
    industry: 25.1% (2017 est.)
    services: 70.9% (2017 est.)
    Agriculture - products field listing
    wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, wine, grapes; dairy products, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry; fish
    Industries field listing
    among the world's largest and most technologically advanced regions, the EU industrial base includes: ferrous and non-ferrous metal production and processing, metal products, petroleum, coal, cement, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, construction equipment, industrial equipment, shipbuilding, electrical power equipment, machine tools and automated manufacturing systems, electronics and telecommunications equipment, fishing, food and beverages, furniture, paper, textiles
    Industrial production growth rate field listing
    3.5% (2017 est.)
    Labor force field listing
    238.9 million (2016 est.)
    Labor force - by occupation field listing
    agriculture: 5%
    industry: 21.9%
    services: 73.1% (2014 est.)
    Unemployment rate field listing
    8.6% (2016 est.)
    9.4% (2015 est.)
    Population below poverty line field listing
    9.8% (2013 est.)

    note: see individual country entries of member states

    Household income or consumption by percentage share field listing
    lowest 10%: 2.8%
    highest 10%: 23.8% (2016 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues field listing
    45.2% (of GDP) (2014)
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) field listing
    -3% (of GDP) (2014)
    Public debt field listing
    86.8% of GDP (2014)
    85.5% of GDP (2013)
    Fiscal year field listing
    Inflation rate (consumer prices) field listing
    1.5% (2017 est.)
    1.1% (2016 est.)
    Current account balance field listing
    $404.9 billion (2017 est.)
    $359.7 billion (2016 est.)
    Exports field listing
    $1.929 trillion (2016 est.)
    $1.985 trillion (2015 est.)

    note: external exports, excluding intra-EU trade

    Exports - partners field listing
    United States 20.7%, China 9.6%, Switzerland 8.1%, Turkey 4.4%, Russia 4.1% (2016 est.)
    Exports - commodities field listing
    machinery, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, fuels, aircraft, plastics, iron and steel, wood pulp and paper products, alcoholic beverages, furniture
    Imports field listing
    $1.895 trillion (2016 est.)
    $1.92 trillion (2015 est.)

    note: external imports, excluding intra-EU trade

    Imports - commodities field listing
    fuels and crude oil, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, precious gemstones, textiles, aircraft, plastics, metals, ships
    Imports - partners field listing
    China 20.1%, United States 14.5%, Switzerland 7.1%, Russia 6.3% (2016 est.)
    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold field listing
    $740.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $746.9 billion (31 December 2013)

    note: data are for the European Central Bank

    Debt - external field listing
    $29.27 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
    $28.68 trillion (31 December 2015 est.)
    Exchange rates field listing
    euros per US dollar -
    0.885 (2017 est.)
    0.903 (2016 est.)
    0.9214 (2015 est.)
    0.885 (2014 est.)
    0.7634 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: European Union
  • Electricity - production field listing
    3.043 trillion kWh (2015 est.)
    Electricity - consumption field listing
    2.845 trillion kWh (2015 est.)
    Electricity - exports field listing
    390 billion kWh (2015 est.)
    Electricity - imports field listing
    397 billion kWh (2015 est.)
    Electricity - installed generating capacity field listing
    975 million kW (2015 est.)
    Electricity - from fossil fuels field listing
    44% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels field listing
    12% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants field listing
    11% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    Electricity - from other renewable sources field listing
    44% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    Crude oil - production field listing
    1.488 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
    Crude oil - proved reserves field listing
    5.1 billion bbl (2016 est.)
    Refined petroleum products - production field listing
    11.66 million bbl/day (2016 est.)
    Refined petroleum products - consumption field listing
    12.89 million bbl/day (2015 est.)
    Refined petroleum products - exports field listing
    2.196 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    Refined petroleum products - imports field listing
    8.613 million bbl/day (2017 est.)
    Natural gas - production field listing
    118.2 billion cu m (2016 est.)
    Natural gas - consumption field listing
    428.8 billion cu m (2016 est.)
    Natural gas - exports field listing
    93.75 billion cu m (2010 est.)
    Natural gas - imports field listing
    420.6 billion cu m (2010 est.)
    Natural gas - proved reserves field listing
    1.3 trillion cu m (1 January 2017 est.)
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy field listing
    3.475 billion Mt (2015 est.)
  • Communications :: European Union
  • Telephones - fixed lines field listing
    total subscriptions: 210,621,546
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 4 (2017 est.)
    Telephones - mobile cellular field listing
    total subscriptions: 625,000,799
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 121 (2017 est.)
    Telecommunication systems field listing
    note - see individual country entries of member states
    Internet country code field listing
    .eu; note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes
    Internet users field listing
    total: 398.1 million (2018 est.)
    percent of population: 85%
    Broadband - fixed subscriptions field listing
    total: 174,634,171
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2017)
  • Transportation :: European Union
  • National air transport system field listing
    annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 636,860,155 (2018)
    annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 31,730,660,000 (2018)
    Airports - with paved runways field listing
    total: 1,882 (2017)
    over 3,047 m: 120 (2017)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 341 (2017)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 507 (2017)
    914 to 1,523 m: 425 (2017)
    under 914 m: 489 (2017)
    Airports - with unpaved runways field listing
    total: 1,244 (2013)
    over 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 15 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 245 (2013)
    under 914 m: 982 (2013)
    Heliports field listing
    90 (2013)
    Railways field listing
    total: 230,548 km (2013)
    Roadways field listing
    total: 10,582,653 km (2013)
    Waterways field listing
    53,384 km (2013)
    Ports and terminals field listing
    major port(s): Antwerp (Belgium), Barcelona (Spain), Braila (Romania), Bremen (Germany), Burgas (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Galati (Romania), Gdansk (Poland), Hamburg (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain), Le Havre (France), Lisbon (Portugal), Marseille (France), Naples (Italy), Peiraiefs or Piraeus (Greece), Riga (Latvia), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Split (Croatia), Stockholm (Sweden), Talinn (Estonia), Tulcea (Romania), Varna (Bulgaria)
  • Military and Security :: European Union
  • Military expenditures field listing
    1.5% of GDP (2018)
    1.49% of GDP (2017)
    1.48% of GDP (2016)
    1.48% of GDP (2015)
    1.5% of GDP (2014)
    Military deployments field listing

    180 Central African Republic (EUTM); 600 Bosnia-Herzegovina (EUTM); 700 Mali (EUTM); 200 Somalia (EUTM)

    Military - note field listing
    the current five-nation Eurocorps, formally established in 1992 and activated the following year, began in 1987 as a French-German Brigade; Belgium (1993), Spain (1994), and Luxembourg (1996) joined over the next few years; five additional countries participate in Eurocorps as associated nations: Greece, Poland, and Turkey (since 2002), Italy and Romania (joined in 2009 and 2016 respectively); Eurocorps consists of approximately 1,000 troops at its headquarters in Strasbourg, France and the 5,000-man Franco-German Brigade; Eurocorps has deployed troops and police on NATO peacekeeping missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina (1998-2000), Kosovo (2000), and Afghanistan (2004-05 and 2012); Eurocorps has been involved in EU operations to Mali (2015) and the Central African Republic (2016-17) (2019)
  • Terrorism :: European Union
  • Terrorist group(s) field listing
    Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS); al-Qa'ida (2019)
    note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T
  • Transnational Issues :: European Union
  • Disputes - international field listing

    as a political union, the EU has no border disputes with neighboring countries, but Estonia has no land boundary agreements with Russia, Slovenia disputes its land and maritime boundaries with Croatia, and Spain has territorial and maritime disputes with Morocco and with the UK over Gibraltar; the EU has set up a Schengen area - consisting of 22 EU member states that have signed the convention implementing the Schengen agreements or "acquis" (1985 and 1990) on the free movement of persons and the harmonization of border controls in Europe; these agreements became incorporated into EU law with the implementation of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam on 1 May 1999; in addition, non-EU states Iceland and Norway (as part of the Nordic Union) have been included in the Schengen area since 1996 (full members in 2001), Switzerland since 2008, and Liechtenstein since 2011 bringing the total current membership to 26; the UK (since 2000) and Ireland (since 2002) take part in only some aspects of the Schengen area, especially with respect to police and criminal matters; nine of the 13 new member states that joined the EU since 2004 joined Schengen on 21 December 2007; of the four remaining EU states, Romania, Bulgaria, and Croatia are obligated to eventually join, while Cyprus' entry is held up by the ongoing Cyprus dispute