The European Union (EU) is a family of democratic European countries, working to improve the lives of its citizens and create a better world.
Despite the divergence of opinion and occasional crises in the news among the Member States, in fact, far from the cameras, the EU is a remarkable success story. Moreover, the EU has provided peace and prosperity in Europe for only half a century, has created a single European currency (the Euro) and has brought the unlimited ‘single market’, where capital, services, and goods move freely.
About 7 percent of the world’s population lives in Europe. Europeans have a wide variety of traditions, cultures, and languages. Moreover, modern Europe attracts visitors with vibrant cities, colorful cultural festivals, summer – winter sports and rich culinary culture.
European Union Countries
The European Union consists of 28 countries. The boundaries start from Lapland to the north, and to the north of the Mediterranean to the south; from the Irish coast in the west to Cyprus in the east. Furthermore, Europe has a rich and diverse natural structure, ranging from rocky sea shores to sandy beaches, fertile grasslands to arid valleys, lakes, and forests to tundra.
At the same time, the EU has become a world leader in areas such as large commercial power and environmental protection and development assistance. For this reason, it is not surprising that the European Union has expanded from six to twenty-eight countries. Also, many other countries are in the ranks for membership.
Although there are 28 countries in the European Union, there were only 6 countries in 1951. (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, France, and the Netherlands)
Croatia is the last country that joined the union.
Lately, in 2016 with a referendum, the United Kingdom declared that they want to leave the European Union. They will take action in 2018.
Here below you can see the European Union Members Map
There are 19 countries in the Eurozone. Eurozone is the name of the region in which countries use euro as currency. Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.
Schengen Border Free Area
The Europeans love the journey. The use of the euro, the same currency as the majority of passport and luggage parcels, has made travel easier in 19 EU countries. Furthermore, the creation of a single market offers more options and lower prices to more than 500 million people. Today, most Europeans find it easier to travel to other countries within the EU than in their own countries.
Schengen Border free area is the region in which the countries have removed their borders so that people of EU member countries can travel without visa approval in that area.
Here is the map and list of countries that are in the Schengen border-free area:
Documents Required for the Trip
For EU Citizens
Passport or ID card
Thanks to the Schengen rules, which are part of EU legislation, there are no more control applications on the borders of 22 countries in the EU. Moreover, all EU countries except Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Romania, and the United Kingdom are full Schengen members. Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland are also Schengen members, but they are not in the EU. Furthermore, the Schengen rules remove all internal border controls, implement effective controls outside the EU, and adopt a common visa policy.
When entering or leaving the six non-Schengen countries and the EU, you need to provide a valid passport and ID. When traveling in the EU you should carry your passport and ID with you for identification and security purposes.
Moreover, children must have their own passport or ID card.
For Non-EU Citizens
You must have a valid passport.
There are no visa requirements for citizens of more than 50 countries who want to visit the EU for up to 90 days.
The list of countries requiring a visa to enter Ireland and the United Kingdom is somewhat different from other EU countries. For these travels, you can apply for a visa from the consulate or embassies of the relevant country.
If you have a Schengen visa, you can travel to all Schengen countries. You can also stay for up to 90 days in other Schengen countries if you have a valid residence permit issued by one of the Schengen countries. Furthermore, you may need a national visa to visit EU countries that are not Schengen members.
History of the European Union
United Europe lived only in the thoughts of philosophers and foresight before it turned into a real political project and became a long-term goal in the countries’ government policies. The United States of Europe was part of a humanist and peaceful dream. Europe has been the scene of bloody battles that have often happened for centuries. Between 1870 and 1945, France and Germany fought three times.
Many people lost their lives in these wars. On the basis of these disasters, some European leaders and thinkers came to the conclusion that the only way to sustain peace is the economic and political unification of their countries. The establishment of an organization that could overcome national conflicts in Europe arised from the resistance movements that fought against totalitarian rule during the Second World War.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the efforts of European statesmen to create a lasting peace in Europe gained momentum. Robert Schuman (French Foreign Minister), based on the draft of the former Secretary-General of the League of Nations, Jean Monnet, said that invited to transfer the decisions taken to an independent and supranational institution.
According to the Schuman Plan, there had to be an end to the centuries-old conflict between France and Germany in order to establish a peace in Europe. The way to do this was to ensure joint coal and steel production under the supervision of the institution in question and to keep this organization open to the participation of all European states.
European Coal and Steel Community
As a result of the Schuman Declaration, in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established with six members from Belgium, Federal Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The first chairman of the High Authority of the Community in question was Jean Monnet, the owner of the idea who inspired the Schuman Declaration. Thus, the raw materials of war, coal and steel, are the tools of peace; For the first time in the world’s history, the states transferred their sovereignty to a supranational institution.
Treaty of Rome and the European Economic Community
In 1957, the six member states decided to establish an economic community based on the free movement of labor and goods and services. Thus, the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957 and the European Economic Community (EEC) was established in order to establish economic unity in other sectors as well as coal and steel. The objective of the EEC was the establishment of a common market in which goods, labor, services and capital were free to run, and ultimately to achieve political unity.
European Atomic Energy Community
Like the European Economic Community, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) was formed by the Treaty of Rome, which entered into force on 1 January 1958. The aim of the community was to coordinate the research programs of the member states in order to ensure the safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Merger Treaty and European Communities
With the Merger Treaty, signed in 1965, a single Council and a single Commission were established for the aforementioned three communities (the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community), and these Communities became known as the European Communities.
Customs duties on finished goods were lifted on 1 July 1968 before the planned date; common policies, especially in agriculture and trade policies, were settled at the end of the 60s.
First Expansion Wave
The success of the Sixs led the UK, Denmark and Ireland to apply for Community membership. These three countries became members in 1973, following a difficult period when France under General de Gaulle used veto power twice in 1963 and in 1967 against Britain’s membership.
1980s: Community Expands to South
The community expanded southward in 1981 with the participation of Greece and Spain and Portugal in 1986. Thus, the number of members reached 12.
Single European Act
In the early 1980s, the internal disputes about the stagnation and the financial burden in the world led to the emergence of a “European pessimism”. However, after 1984, it was replaced with hopeful expectations for the revival of the Community. Based on the White Paper, prepared by the Commission under the direction of Jacques Delors in 1985, the Community has set itself the target of establishing a single market by 1 January 1993. The European Single Act was signed by Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Spain, Luxembourg and Portugal on February 17, 1986, and on 28 February 1986 by Denmark, Italy and Greece.
The European Single Act, which entered into force in 1987, and the Treaties establishing the European Communities underwent a comprehensive amendment.
Maastricht Treaty and European Union
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of the two Germany on 3 November 1990;
- The liberation and democratization of the Central and Eastern European countries,
- The disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991 changed the political structure of Europe.
With the determination to strengthen the ties of the Member States, their main characteristics began in the negotiations of a new Treaty, agreed at the European Union Summit in Maastricht on 9-10 December 1991. The Treaty of Maastricht, also known as the Treaty on the European Union, entered into force on 1 November 1993.
With this treaty, until 1999,
- They decided to complete the monetary union,
- To establish European citizenship
- To establish common foreign and security and cooperation policies in justice and home affairs.
According to With the Maastricht Treaty, a three-column European Union structure was created. The first part of this structure was composed of the European Communities (ECSC, EEC, and EURATOM), the second part was composed of “Common Foreign Security Policy” and the third part was “Justice and Home Affairs”.
A New Expansion: Austria, Finland, Sweden
In 1995, with the participation of Austria, Finland, and Sweden, the number of members of the European Union increased to 15.
Economic and Monetary Union
The Euro, the common currency of Europe, was officially introduced on January 1, 2002 and started to be used in 12 countries.
Last Expansion Waves
In 2004, the largest expansion wave in the history of the European Union took place and 10 new countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) joined the European Union. In 2007, the number of EU members rose to 27 with the participation of Bulgaria and Romania. With the participation of Croatia in 2013, the number of European Union Member States reached 28.
The Lisbon Treaty
The last important step in the development process of the European Union was the Lisbon Treaty, which was signed in 2007 and came into force in 2009. With this treaty, it was aimed to eliminate the blockages in the EU’s decision-making mechanisms and to achieve a more democratic and effective functioning of the Union. In line with this goal, comprehensive amendments were made and the Treaty establishing the European Community was renamed as the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Enlargement of the European Union
Two agreements that form the foundations of today’s European Union (EU):
The European Coal and Steel Community founded in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris signed by Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands
The European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community, established by the Treaty of Rome, signed by the same countries in 1957
European integration has been transformed into a 28-member Union that has undergone several successive enlargement processes and implemented common policies in many areas, from common currency to agriculture and migration policies. In this process, “enlargement policy” became the most important foreign policy instrument of the EU. The EU has become a much stronger Union in the economic, political and geopolitical context by adding new member states. Therefore it increased its effectiveness in the international system.
The EU’s enlargement policy has evolved and changed in parallel with European integration. The recent wave of enlargement, in which the Central and Eastern European Countries have become members, provided the institutionalization of the enlargement policy and conditionality principle. The criteria set at the Copenhagen Summit in 1993 laid down the terms of membership.
The works which the candidate countries are obliged to do in order to meet the conditions of membership have been elaborated and monitored regularly with the documents such as the Accession Partnership Document and the Progress Report. Thus, the EU managed to maintain its nearly half a century of accumulation and not to step back from its current policies due to the expansion.
There are 5 periods of the expansion process.
First Expansion (UK, Ireland, Denmark – 1973)
Britain, Ireland, and Denmark applied to the EU in 1961 for membership. other countries except for France was warm to the UK’s membership. French President Charles De Gaulle of the time was against to this membership.
Because the country was quite different from Continental Europe, experiencing economic troubles, military and diplomatic dependence on the United States, thus preventing the development of the Union. Britain applied again in 1967 and its application was not accepted for the same reasons.
The enlargement process began only in 1969 after De Gaulle resigned as President of France. Britain, Ireland, Denmark became members of the EU on 1 January 1973.
Second Expansion (Greece – 1981)
Relations with Greece, which signed a Treaty Agreement with the EU in 1961, were suspended in 1967 when the Colonies’ Junta took over. In 1974, the military junta left the administration to civilians and gained democratic rule. In 1975, Greece applied to the EU for full membership.
Greece was concerned that Greece was neither politically nor economically ready to become a member nor shared common values with other member states.
After a six-year negotiation process, member states began to advocate that democratization could be more effective within the Union, rather than leaving Greece out, and Greece joined the EU on 1 January 1981.
Third Expansion: (Spain, Portugal – 1986)
The third enlargement, also known as the Iberian Peninsula expansion, took place on January 1, 1986, when Spain and Portugal joined the EU. The membership of these two countries was the result of a highly controversial process.
This is because Spain and Portugal were underdeveloped both politically and economically in the 1970s when they applied for membership. The concern of Spain and Portugal that they could create economic burdens on the agricultural sector as well as the free movement of workers if they were members of the EU, kept the EU’s agenda busy for a long time.
As the EU faced surpluses of agricultural production caused by the agricultural policy implemented in this period, there was serious opposition to the membership of Spain and Portugal. However, the geopolitical importance of the Mediterranean for the EU and the success of the enlargement policy have helped to overcome all these debates.
Fourth Expansion: (Austria, Finland, Sweden – 1995)
The fourth enlargement of the EU is closely related to the post-Cold War developments. Following a policy of neutrality during the war, Austria, Finland, and Sweden decided to join the EU when the Cold War ended. Austria, Finland, and Sweden quietly became an EU member on 1 January 1995.
Fifth Expansion: (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, Cyprus – 2004) (Romania, Bulgaria – 2007)
The end of the Cold War is a real turning point for the European continent. The end of the half-century division was celebrated with enthusiasm throughout Europe.
However, the excitement of the early days and the excitement of “reunification of Europe” left its place to the idea of “the price of expansion should not be deepening, the Union’s achievements should not be weakened”.
The fifth enlargement process, which is very different from the previous enlargements in terms of both the quality and quantity of the candidate countries and the depth reached by the European integration, was also quite painful for the EU from the standpoint of the candidate countries.
They changed the institutional structure of the EU and rearranged decision-making mechanisms in order to absorb enlargement. As mentioned above, the candidate countries re-organized almost all areas of social life within the framework of the Copenhagen membership conditions.
Thus, the negotiations with Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Southern Cyprus in 1998, and with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Slovakia in 2000; resulted in their participation.
Bulgaria and Romania completed their deficiencies in the fight against corruption. They became a member of the Union on 1 January 2007. Thus, the number of members of the European Union reached 27.
Sixth Expansion: (Croatia-2013)
With the accession of Croatia on 3 October 2005 and the signing of the Accession Treaty on 9 December 2011, Croatia became a member of the 28-member Union.
There are currently 5 countries that are candidates for EU membership: Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania. Turkey, Montenegro, and Serbia continue its accession negotiations. On 12 March 2015, Iceland withdrew its candidacy for EU membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.
As a result, it is the Union’s main priority to protect the EU notions in which common legislation and implementation are taking place more and more every day. Therefore, in line with the development of the EU, the enlargement policy and membership conditions have changed. But enlargement is still the most important foreign policy instrument of the EU and is the main source of the growing power of the EU in the international system.
Institutions of the European Union
The European Union has a single institutional framework that will realize and develop its objectives and values and serve the interests of the Union, its citizens and the member states.
Pursuant to Article 13 of the Treaty on European Union:
The European Parliament is the publicly elected body within the EU institutions. European citizens, who are citizens of EU member states, can vote in the European Parliament elections every five years. The last parliamentary election was in 2014. The Parliament now consists of 751 representatives of 28 European Union member states. This figure includes 750 members and a President.
The European Parliament is an organ representing the democratic interests and political views of its citizens. For this reason, the members of the European Parliament form a group based on their political views, not their country. Parliamentarians do not represent their country but represent the political views of European citizens who vote for them. The European Parliament currently has 8 political party groups and independent members.
The European Commission is the institution responsible for initiating the legislative process, as well as implementing the EU acquis, budget and programs as the executive body of the Union, and administrative supervision. The European Commission consists of 28 members of each member state. These people are “commissars.” Each Commissioner is responsible for the implementation of one or more EU policies. The Commission acts as a Cabinet. The Commission has an administrative organization of 25,000 people, including officials from the European Union, as well as commissioners.
Council of the European Union
The Council of European Union is an organ of ministers serving in the governments of the member states of the European Union. The Council is the body in which the national interests of the Member States are represented within the European Union. The relevant ministers shall participate in the meetings of the Council to represent the member states in line with the subject need decision.
The European Union Summit takes place with the participation of;
- the prime ministers or presidents of the member states of the European Union
- the President of the European Union Summit and the President of the European Commission.
The Summit, which convenes four times a year, takes decisions that determine priorities and basic policies in line with the development of the Union and the integration of Europe. The European Union Summit has no legislative powers. Nevertheless, it is a political weighting and steering force. Because it is the institution where the top officials of all EU member states come together and set basic policies. In most cases, by agreement, the qualified majority as an exception takes decisions.
The summit is chaired by the President of the EU Summit. The President is appointed by the Member States for a period of 2.5 years. Without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President of the Summit is responsible for representing the Union against the outside. The Chairperson of the Summit may not hold any national office at the same time.
European Court of Justice
The Court of Justice of the European Union is a judicial body of the European Union. It consists of a tripartite structure, namely the Court of Justice, the General Court and the specialized courts. The main purpose of the Court of Justice is to ensure that European Union law is interpreted and applied in the same way everywhere in the European Union.
The Court carries out the functions of:
- respecting the law in the interpretation and application of the law of the Union,
- the regulation of relations between the national legal order and the EU legal order,
- legal control, interpretation, dispute resolution, law creation and gap-filling.
The Court consists of one judge from each member state. Furthermore, the General Court consists of 28 judges, at least one judge from each member state. 8 Legal Spokespersons of the Court and the General Court shall assist in drafting opinions on the cases. The judges shall be appointed for a period of six years upon the agreement of the member state governments and may be re-appointed.
The Court of Justice of the European Union’s duties are to look at a number of cases arising from EU law. They are generally cases for reviewing the compliance of member states and EU institutions with EU law and the interpretation of EU law when it is necessary to resolve cases in domestic courts. The Court of Justice of the European Union operates in Luxembourg.
European Court of Auditors
The European Court of Auditors examines all income and expenses of the Union. It also ensures that its transactions are lawful and legible. The audit of the Court of Accounts is to ensure the legality and regularity of income and expenses and a good financial management.
The European Court of Auditors consists of 28 members, one from each member state. Members are appointed for a period of 6 years after consultation with the Parliament by the Council. The independence and impartiality of the members are under guarantee.
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is an independent EU body with legal personality. Its task is to ensure price stability in the Euro zone. Euro Zone consists of EU member states that use the euro as their currency. It fulfills this duty in the European Central Banks System. It consists of central banks of the member states and the European Central Bank.
In this framework, it carries out the duties of the determination and implementation of the monetary policy of the EU:
- conducting foreign exchange transactions
- holding and managing the official foreign exchange reserves of the member states
- ensuring the proper functioning of the payment systems.
The European Central Bank is the sole authority to allow the issuance of currency notes within the Eurozone.
The decision-making body of the Bank, in Frankfurt, Germany, is the Executive Board, the Management Council and the General Assembly.
European Economic and Social Committee
Economic and Social Committee; It is an advisory body to assist the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Its decisions are not binding but advisory. The Economic and Social Committee consists of members selected from groups representing the different interests of workers and employers groups and certain segments of society. The Committee operates within the general interests of European integration and the independence of its members is clear in the Treaty.
European Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is an advisory committee consisting of representatives of local and regional authorities within the EU. Articles 305 and 307 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU regulate the committee.
Operating under the general interests of European integration, the Committee currently has 353 members.
Consultation with the Committee
Consultation with the Committee is compulsory in some cases and optional in some cases. As a matter of fact, under Article 307 of the Treaty, the Parliament, the Council or the Commission should consult with the Committee of the Regions in the cases stipulated in the Treaty. Furthermore, it is possible for the institutions in question to apply to the Committee for any opinion they deem appropriate. The main advisory issues are; The issues related to the EU Regional Policies and the determination and monitoring of projects that will benefit from the funds supporting regional development, structural change and adaptation activities.
European Investment Bank
It is the European Union’s financial institution. Its purpose to finance investments that will help the Union achieve its objectives. The Bank’s legal basis is Article 308 and 309 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the Protocol No. 5 on the Status of the European Investment Bank.
The primary objective of the European Investment Bank is to contribute to the balanced development of the European Union. In addition, the main task of the European Investment Bank is:
- Ensure the financing of trans-European transport and telecommunication networks,
- Protect the environment,
- Ensure the sustainability of energy resources and to increase the competitiveness of the European industry and SMEs at the international level.
The Bank is also assisting the Union in implementing its cooperation policies for non-member states through the support of eligible projects in third countries that are not members of the European Union.
The European Ombudsman, an institution that has entered to the EU institutional structure by the Maastricht Treaty. In Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, it is the right of the citizens of the Union to apply to the European Ombudsman. The European Ombudsman elected by the European Parliament in accordance with Article 228 of the Treaty may apply to any citizen of the Union or any natural or legal person in a central Member State according to his domicile or statute.
The Ombudsman may initiate an investigation or examine the complaints directly or through a member of the European Parliament. When the Ombudsman has reached the findings of the correctness of the complaint, he shall apply to the institution concerned to respond within a period of 3 months. He can also submit the reply of the institution to the European Parliament and the relevant institution, including his opinion. Furthermore, the Ombudsman submits a general report containing the results of the investigations each year to the European Parliament.