This fantasy image of Europe at night is a digital composite of archived satellite images taken both during the day and night. The view is different from what an astronaut would see for reasons including a complete lack of clouds and an unrealistic exaggeration of lights and contrasts. Even so, the geography underlying the image is captivating. Image courtesy of NASA.
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Preliminary statement

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.  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.


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 member states' economies. In 1957, envisioning an "ever closer union," the Treaties of Rome were signed creating the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the six member states strove 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 total number of member states 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 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 Lisbon Treaty's provisions are part of the basic consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union 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 negotiated and ratified a Withdrawal Agreement that included a status quo transition period through December 2020, when the follow-on EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement was concluded.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean in the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to the east


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

less than one half the size of the United States

Land boundaries

total: 13,770 km

border countries (20): Albania 212 km; Andorra 118 km; Belarus 1,176 km; Bosnia and Herzegovina 956 km; Holy See 3 km; Liechtenstein 34 km; North Macedonia 396 km; Moldova 683 km; Monaco 6 km; Montenegro 19 km; Norway 2,375 km; Russia 2,435 km; San Marino 37 km; Serbia 1,353 km; Switzerland 1,729 km; Turkey 415 km; United Kingdom 499 km; Ukraine 1,324 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


53,563.9 km


cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south


fairly flat along Baltic and Atlantic coasts; mountainous in the central and southern areas


highest point: Mont Blanc, France 4,810 m

lowest point: Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands -7 m

Natural resources

iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, uranium, potash, salt, hydropower, arable land, timber, fish

Irrigated land

154,539.82 sq km (2011 est.)

Population distribution

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

flooding along coasts; avalanches in mountainous area; earthquakes in the south; volcanic eruptions in Italy; periodic droughts in Spain; ice floes in the Baltic Sea region

People and Society


(July 2022 est.) 450,858,381

rank by population:

  1. Germany - 84,316,622; 
  2. France - 68,305,148; 
  3. Italy - 61,095,551; 
  4. Spain - 47,163,418; 
  5. Poland - 38,093,101; 
  6. Romania - 18,519,899; 
  7. Netherlands - 17,400,824; 
  8. Belgium - 11,847,338; 
  9. Czechia - 10,705,384; 
  10. Greece - 10,533,871; 
  11. Sweden - 10,483,647; 
  12. Portugal - 10,242,081; 
  13. Hungary - 9,699,577; 
  14. Austria - 8,913,088; 
  15. Bulgaria - 6,873,253; 
  16. Denmark - 5,920,767; 
  17. Finland - 5,601,547; 
  18. Slovakia - 5,431,252; 
  19. Ireland - 5,275,004; 
  20. Croatia - 4,188,853; 
  21. Lithuania - 2,683,546; 
  22. Slovenia - 2,101,208; 
  23. Latvia - 1,842,226; 
  24. Cyprus - 1,295,102; 
  25. Estonia - 1,211,524; 
  26. Luxembourg - 650,364; 
  27. Malta - 464,186 (July 2022 est.)


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 and Austria, 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; English is an official language in Ireland and Malta and thus remained an official EU language after the UK left the bloc (2020)


Roman Catholic 41%, Orthodox 10%, Protestant 9%, other Christian 4%, Muslim 2%, other 4% (includes Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu), atheist 10%, non-believer/agnostic 17%, unspecified 3% (2019 est.)

Age structure

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.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Median age

total: 44 years

male: 42.6 years

female: 45.5 years (2020 est.)

Population growth rate

(2021 est.) 0.10%

Birth rate

(2020 est.) 9.5 births/1,000 population

Death rate

(2021 est.) 10.7 deaths/1,000 population

Net migration rate

-2.85 migrant(s)/1,000 population

Population distribution

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

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

total: 3.47 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 3.32 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 77.63 years

male: 72.98 years

female: 82.51 years (2021 est.)

Total fertility rate

(2021 est.) 1.62 children born/woman

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Current health expenditure

9.9% of GDP (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

note - see individual entries of member states

Education expenditures

5% of GDP (2020 est.)


total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 18.5%

male: 18.1%

female: 19.2% (2021 est.)


Environment - current issues

various forms of air, soil, and water pollution; see individual country entries

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Multi-effect Protocol, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 2006

signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 2,881.62 megatons (2016 est.)


cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south

Revenue from forest resources

forest revenues: 0.05% of GDP (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0.02% of GDP (2018 est.)

Total renewable water resources

2,057.8 cubic meters (2011)


Union name

conventional long form: European Union

abbreviation: EU

Political structure

a hybrid and unique intergovernmental and supranational organization


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 10 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

time zone 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 member states

Member states

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 - 8 candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine

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


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

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


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 member states; 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 member states; 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

Legal system

unique supranational law system in which, according to an interpretive declaration of member-state governments appended to the Treaty of Lisbon, "the Treaties and the law adopted by the Union on the basis of the Treaties have primacy over the law of Member States" under conditions laid down in the case law of the Court of Justice; key principles of EU law include fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and as resulting from constitutional traditions common to the EU's 27 member states; EU law is divided into 'primary' and 'secondary' legislation; primary legislation is derived from the consolidated versions of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and are the basis for all EU action; secondary legislation - which includes directives, regulations, and decisions - is derived from the principles and objectives set out in the treaties


18 years of age (16 years in Austria); universal; voting for the European Parliament is permitted in each member state

Executive branch

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 Charles MICHEL (Belgium), since 1 December 2019, succeeding Donald TUSK (Poland; 2014 - 2019)
Council of the European Union - 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 27 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 Ursula VON DER LEYEN (Germany) elected on 16 July 2019 (took office on 1 December 2019); 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.

note: for external representation and foreign policy making, leaders of the EU member states appointed Joseph BORRELL (Spain) as the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy; BORRELL took office on 1 December 2019, succeeding Federica MOGHERINI (Italy (2014 - 2019); 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 member-state 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

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, David SASSOLI, was elected in July 2019 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 in May 2024)

election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party (as of 31 August 2022) - EPP 176, S&D 145, RE 103, ID 65, Greens/EFA 71, ECR 64, GUE-NGL 39, non-attached 42; Parliament composition - men 428, women 277, percent of women 39.3%; note - composition of the European Council - men 23, women 4, percent of women 11.1%; total Council and Parliament percent of women 38.3%

Judicial branch

highest court(s): 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

European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL [Manon AUBRY and Martin SCHIRDEWAN]
European Conservatives and Reformists or ECR [Raffaele FITTO and Ryszard LEGUTKO]
European Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Ska KELLER and Philippe LAMBERTS]
European People's Party or EPP [Manfred WEBER]
Identity and Democracy Party or ID [Marco ZANNI]
Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats or S&D [Iratxe GARCIA]
Renew Europe or RE [Stephane SEJOURNE] (successor to Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE)

International organization participation

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

chief of mission: Ambassador Stavros LAMBRINIDIS (since 1 March 2019)

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

chief of mission: Ambassador Mark GITENSTEIN (since 24 January 2022)

embassy: Zinnerstraat - 13 - Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels

mailing address: use embassy street address

telephone: [32] (2) 811-4100

email address and website:

Flag description

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)

a circle of 12, five-pointed, golden yellow stars on a blue field; union colors: blue, yellow

National anthem

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


Economic overview

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.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$19.89 trillion (2019 est.)

$19.55 trillion (2018 est.)

$19.12 trillion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

Real GDP growth rate

2.3% (2017 est.)

2% (2016 est.)

2.3% (2015 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$44,436 (2019 est.)

$43,761 (2018 est.)

$42,848 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$17.11 trillion (2017 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.1% (2019 est.)

1.7% (2018 est.)

1.5% (2017 est.)

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AAA (2010)

Moody's rating: Aaa (2014)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2016)

note: The year refers to the year in which the current credit rating was first obtained.

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.6% (2017 est.)

industry: 25.1% (2017 est.)

services: 70.9% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

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.)

Agricultural products

wheat, barley, oilseeds, sugar beets, wine, grapes, dairy products, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, fish


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

Labor force

238.9 million (2016 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 5%

industry: 21.9%

services: 73.1% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate

8.6% (2016 est.)

9.4% (2015 est.)

Youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24)

total: 18.5%

male: 18.1%

female: 19.2% (2021 est.)

Population below poverty line

9.8% (2013 est.)

note: see individual country entries of member states

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.8%

highest 10%: 23.8% (2016 est.)

Public debt

86.8% of GDP (2014)

85.5% of GDP (2013)

Taxes and other revenues

45.2% (of GDP) (2014)

Current account balance

$404.9 billion (2017 est.)

$359.7 billion (2016 est.)


$7.102 trillion (2019 est.)

$6.93 trillion (2018 est.)

$6.691 trillion (2017 est.)

note: external exports, excluding intra-EU trade

Exports - partners

U.S. 20.7%, China 9.6%, Switzerland 8.1%, Turkey 4.4%, Russia 4.1% (2016 est.)

Exports - commodities

machinery, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, fuels, aircraft, plastics, iron and steel, wood pulp and paper products, alcoholic beverages, furniture


$6.65 trillion (2019 est.)

$6.4 trillion (2018 est.)

$6.177 trillion (2017 est.)

note: external imports, excluding intra-EU trade

Imports - partners

China 20.1%, United States 14.5%, Switzerland 7.1%, Russia 6.3% (2016 est.)

Imports - commodities

fuels and crude oil, machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, precious gemstones, textiles, aircraft, plastics, metals, ships

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$740.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$746.9 billion (31 December 2013)

note: data are for the European Central Bank

Debt - external

$29.27 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)

$28.68 trillion (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

euros per US dollar -

0.885 (2017 est.)

0.903 (2016 est.)

0.9214 (2015 est.)

0.885 (2014 est.)

0.7634 (2013 est.)


Refined petroleum products - production

11.66 million bbl/day (2016 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

2.196 million bbl/day (2017 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

8.613 million bbl/day (2017 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

3.475 billion metric tonnes of CO2 (2015 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 160,149,025 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 36 (2020 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 540,557,924 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 121 (2020 est.)

Telecommunication systems

note - see individual country entries of member states

Internet country code

.eu; note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes

Internet users

total: 380,357,569 (2020 est.)

percent of population: 85% (2020 est.)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 163,772,540 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 37 (2020 est.)


National air transport system

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

total: 1,882

over 3,047 m: 120

2,438 to 3,047 m: 341

1,524 to 2,437 m: 507

914 to 1,523 m: 425

under 914 m: 489 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 1,244

over 3,047 m: 1

2,438 to 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 15

914 to 1,523 m: 245

under 914 m: 982 (2013)


(2021) 90


total: (2013) 230,548 km


total: (2013) 10,582,653 km


(2013) 53,384 km

Ports and terminals

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

Military and security forces

the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) provides the civilian, military, and political structures for EU crisis management and security issues; the highest bodies are:

the Political and Security Committee (PSC), which meets at the ambassadorial level as a preparatory body for the Council of the EU; it assists with defining policies and preparing a crisis response

the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) is the EU's highest military body; it is composed of the chiefs of defense (CHODs) of the Member States, who are regularly represented by their permanent Military Representatives; the EUMC provides the PSC with advice and recommendations on all military matters within the EU

the Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM) provides advice and recommendations to the PSC in parallel with the EUMC on civilian aspects of crisis management

the Politico-Military Group (PMG) provides advice and recommendations to the PSC on political aspects of EU military and civil-military issues, including concepts, capabilities and operations and missions, and monitors implementation

other bodies set up under the CSDP include the Security and Defense Policy Directorate (SECDEFPOL), the Integrated approach for Security and Peace Directorate (ISP), the EU Military Staff (EUMS), the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC), the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the European Defense Agency, the European Security and Defense College (ESDC), the EU Institute for Security Studies, and the EU Satellite Center (2022)

note: in 2017, the EU set up the Permanent Structured Cooperation on Defense (PESCO), a mechanism for deepening defense cooperation amongst member states through binding commitments and collaborative programs on a variety of military-related capabilities such as cyber, maritime surveillance, medical support, operational readiness, procurement, and training; similar efforts to promote collaboration and cooperation that same year amongst members included the Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defense (CARD), and the European Defense Fund (EDF)

Military expenditures

1.6% of GDP (2021 est.)

1.6% of GDP (2020)

1.4% of GDP (2019)

1.4% of GDP (2018)

1.35% of GDP (2017)

note: the European Defense Fund (EDF) has a budget of  approximately $8 billion for 2021-2027; about $2.7 billion is devoted to funding collaborative defense research while about $5.3 billion is allocated for collaborative capability development projects that complement national contributions; EDF "categories for action" include areas such as information air and missile defense, cyber and information security, digital transformation, force protection, medical services, space, training, and air, ground, and naval combat capabilities (2022)

Military and security service personnel strengths

the 27 EU countries have a cumulative total of approximately 1.34 million active duty troops; the largest EU country military forces belong to France, Germany, and Italy (2021)

note: the combined forces of NATO have approximately 3.3 million active duty personnel

Military deployments

since 2003, the EU has launched more than 30 civilian and military crisis-management, advisory, and training missions in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and a naval operation in the Mediterranean to disrupt human smuggling and trafficking networks and prevent the loss of life at sea (2022)

note: in response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU announced that it would develop a rapid deployment force consisting of up to 5,000 troops by 2025

Military - note

the EU partners with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); NATO is an alliance of 30 countries from North America and Europe; its role is to safeguard the security of its member countries by political and military means; NATO conducts crisis management and peacekeeping missions; member countries that participate in the military aspect of the Alliance contribute forces and equipment, which remain under national command and control until a time when they are required by NATO for a specific purpose (i.e., conflict or crisis, peacekeeping); NATO, however, does possess some common capabilities owned and operated by the Alliance, such as some early warning radar aircraft; relations between NATO and the EU were institutionalized in the early 2000s, building on steps taken during the 1990s to promote greater European responsibility in defense matters; cooperation and coordination covers a broad array of issues, including crisis management, defense and political consultations, civil preparedness, capacity building, military capabilities, maritime security, planning, cyber defense, countering hybrid threats, information sharing, logistics, defense industry, counterterrorism, etc.; since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the EU and NATO, EU Member States and NATO  allies have intensified their work and cooperation; NATO and the EU have 21 member countries in common

there are no permanent standing EU forces, but Europe has a variety of multinational military organizations that may be deployed through the EU, in a NATO environment, upon the mandate of the participating countries, or upon the mandate of other international organizations, such as the UN or OSCE including:

EU Battlegroups (BGs) are rapid reaction multinational army units that form a key part of the EU's capacity to respond to crises and conflicts; their deployment is subject to a unanimous decision by the EU Council; BGs typically consists of 1,500-2,000 troops organized around an infantry battalion depending on the mission; the troops and equipment are drawn from EU member states and under the direction of a lead nation; two BGs are always on standby for a period of 6 months; the BGs were declared operational in 2007, but have never been used operationally due to political and financial obstacles

the European Corps (Eurocorps) is an independent multinational land force corps headquarters composed of personnel from six framework nations and five associated nations; the corps has no standing operational units; during a crisis, units would be drawn from participating states, and the corps would be placed at the service of the EU and NATO; Eurocorps was established in 1992 by France and Germany; Belgium (1993), Spain (1994), and Luxembourg (1996) joined over the next few years; Greece and Turkey (since 2002), Italy, Romania, and Austria (since 2009, 2016, and 2021 respectively) participate as associated nations; Poland joined in 2022; Eurocorps is headquartered in France

the European Gendarmerie Force (EURGENDFOR) is an operational, pre-organized, and rapidly deployable European gendarmerie/police force; it is not established at the EU level, but is capable of performing police tasks, including law enforcement, stability operations, and training in support of the EU, the UN, OSCE, NATO, and other international organizations or ad hoc coalitions; member state gendarmeries include those of France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain; the Lithuanian Public Security Service is a partner, while Turkey's Gendarmerie is an observer force

the European Medical Corps (EMC) was set up in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014 to enable the deployment of teams and equipment from EU member states to provide medical assistance and public health expertise in response to emergencies inside and outside the EU; as of 2022, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden had committed teams and equipment to the EMC

the European Medical Command (EMC) was formed to provide a standing EU medical capability, increase medical operational readiness, and improve interoperability amongst the 18 participating EU members; it operates closely with the NATO Framework Nations Concept’s Multinational Medical Coordination Center (MMCC) under a single administrative and infrastructural framework (MMCC/EMC); the EMC was declared operational in May 2022

the European Air Transport Command (EATC) is a single multinational command for more than 150 military air mobility assets from seven member states, including transport, air-to-air refueling, and aeromedical evacuation; the EATC headquarters is located in the Netherlands, but the air assets remain located at member national air bases; the EATC was established in 2010

the European Air Group (EAG) is an independent organization formed by the air forces of its seven member nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the UK) that is focused on improving interoperability between the air forces of EAG members and its 14 partner and associate nations; it was established in the late 1990s and is headquartered in the UK

the European Maritime Force (EUROMARFOR or EMF) is a four-nation (France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain), non-standing naval force with the ability to carry out naval, air, and amphibious operations; EUROMARFOR was formed in 1995 to conduct missions such as crisis response, humanitarian missions, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and sea control; it can deploy under EU, NATO, or UN mandate, but also as long as the four partner nations agree

the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) is a deployable, combined French-UK military force of up to 10,000 personnel for use in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations; the CJEF has no standing forces, but would be available at short notice for French-UK bilateral, NATO, EU, UN, or other operations; it was established in 2010 and declared operational in 2020

the 1st German/Netherlands (Dutch) Corps is a combined army corps headquarters that has the ability to conduct operations under the command and control of Germany and the Netherlands, NATO, or the EU; in peacetime, approximately 1,100 Dutch and German soldiers are assigned, but during a crisis up to 80,000 troops may be assigned; it was formed in 1995 and is headquartered in Germany 

the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) is comprised of an international staff, three battalions, and specialized units; units affiliated with the multinational brigade remain within the structures of the armed forces of their respective countries until the brigade is activated for participation in an international operation; it was formed in 2014 and is headquartered in Poland

in 2022, the EU approved a new defense strategy designed to increase the bloc’s capacity to act, including setting up a Rapid Deployment Capacity (EU RDC) consisting of up to 5,000 troops by 2025 (2022)


Terrorist group(s)

see individual EU member states

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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 23 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 27; 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; EU member state Croatia joined on 1 January 2023; of the three remaining EU states, Romania and Bulgaria are obligated to eventually join, while Cyprus' entry is held up by the ongoing Cyprus dispute

note: three of Europe's microstates - Monaco, San Marino, and the Holy See (Vatican City) - maintain open borders for passenger traffic with their neighbors and are thus de facto members of the Schengen Area, since it is impossible to travel to or from them without transiting another Schengen member country