Map of the European Union

The European Union (EU) is a family of European countries that works to promote democratic values and functions on economic and political cooperation.

There are varying opinions regarding the success and value of the union among its member states, but there is quite a lot to be said about its achievements. Peace and prosperity have been relatively abundant in the region for over half a century, a unifying European currency (the euro) has become globally important, and an unlimited “single market” has been established where capital, services, and goods can move freely between nations.

Almost ten percent of the world’s population lives in Europe, where there is a wide variety of traditions, cultures, and languages. Europe is also known for attracting visitors with vibrant cities, colorful cultural festivals, year-round sports, and diverse culinary cultures.

European Union Countries

The EU consists of 27 countries. The boundaries start from Finland’s Lapland to the north and reach Mediterranean coastlines to the south, stretching from the Irish coast in the west to the island of Cyprus in the east. Given its vast geographic area, the EU has rich and diverse natural landscapes that include rocky sea shores, sandy beaches, fertile grasslands, arid valleys, lakes, forests, tundra, and more.

The EU has also become a world leader in areas such as commercial power, environmental protection, and development assistance. For this reason, it is not surprising that the EU has expanded from six to 27 countries. There are also many more countries that wish to join the union and are EU candidates.

While today there are 27 countries in the European Union, there were only six founding countries in the 1950s: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, France, and the Netherlands.

The most recently added EU member state is Croatia, which joined in July 2013.

As a result of a 2016 referendum in Britain now referred to as “Brexit,” the United Kingdom became the first and only country to leave the EU in January 2020.

Here below you can see the EU Members Map:

A map showing European Union member countries in blue, with surrounding non-member countries in grey.
Map of the European Union

In the above EU members map, it’s apparent that the majority of the European continent now consists of countries that are part of the European Union. Membership is expected to increase in the near future.

List of Current EU Countries

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Bulgaria
  4. Croatia
  5. Cyprus
  6. Czech Republic
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Hungary
  14. Ireland
  15. Italy
  16. Latvia
  17. Lithuania
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malta
  20. Netherlands
  21. Poland
  22. Portugal
  23. Romania
  24. Slovakia
  25. Slovenia
  26. Spain
  27. Sweden

Note: The UK left the EU in January 2020


A serene lake, alpine buildings, a church spire, and autumn mountains form a picturesque view of Hallstatt, Austria.
Halstatt, Austria

Austria is a landlocked country in Central Europe that shares borders with eight countries. The only two of its neighbors that are not members of the EU are Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Austria has been a member of the EU since it joined in 1995 along with Finland and Sweden.

The capital of Austria is Vienna, which is the most populous city and state in the country.


A scenic view of Dinant, Belgium, with vibrant riverside buildings, a church, a cliff, all mirrored in the tranquil river.
Dinant, Belgium

Belgium was one of the six original countries that formed the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, which would later transform into the European Union. The currency in Belgium has been the euro since 2002, before which the Belgian franc was in circulation. Several of the EU’s institutions are headquartered in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.

In addition to its central role in the EU, there are many reasons to visit Belgium; its beer, chocolate, and architecture are all major tourist attractions.


Aerial view of a large, neoclassical building with a tall spire in Sofia, Bulgaria, with streets on either side and overcast skies above.
Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is located near the southeast corner of countries in the European Union. It joined the EU in 2007, as part of the union’s largest expansion. It was one of the most recent countries to join the EU, along with Romania in the same year and Croatia in 2013.

There are a total of 28 provinces in Bulgaria, and the country’s capital and largest city is Sofia.


A coastal view of Dubrovnik, Croatia, featuring historic buildings and walls on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Dubrovnik, Croatia

Croatia was the most recent country to join the EU, becoming an official member in 2013. It applied for membership in 2003, though complications involving its border with Slovenia delayed its eventual accession. Although it is part of the EU, Croatia is not yet part of the Schengen Area and it does not use the euro. The currency of Croatia is the Croatian kuna.

Located between Southeast and Central Europe, Croatia has a small coastline on the Adriatic Sea and is bordered by five other countries.


Aerial view of a coastal area in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, featuring clear turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and clusters of white buildings along the shore.
Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Cyprus became a member of the EU along with nine other nations in 2004. It is the easternmost country in the union, located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coasts of Turkey and Syria. Continued disputes over borders in Cyprus have contributed to the fact that it is not part of the Schengen Area.

Cyprus has been part of the eurozone since 2008 and is a popular tourist destination for Europeans.

Czech Republic

Old Town Square in Prague features cobblestone streets, the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, and the Old Town Hall Tower.
Prague, Czech Republic

The Czech Republic is a landlocked, Central European country that is surrounded by four other EU member states: Poland, Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. The country joined the EU as part of the large 2004 enlargement, but it uses its own currency, the Czech koruna. The Czech Republic still needs to meet additional requirements for adopting the euro, including lowering its inflation rate and amending some domestic legislation.


Aerial view of Copenhagen, Denmark, featuring colorful buildings along a canal with boats, roads, and a clear sky at dusk.
Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark was among three countries to apply for EEC membership as a part of what would become the first expansion of the union. It was accepted into the EEC along with Ireland in 1973. The UK was not permitted to join at this time.

The capital of Denmark is Copenhagen, which is also the country’s most populous city. The country is located in northern Europe, extending from the mainland into the North Sea.


Aerial view of Tallinn Old Town, Estonia displays historic architecture, red-tiled roofs, narrow streets and green surroundings.
Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia is another European country that joined the EU during the large expansion of 2004. This came about after two-thirds of the population voted in favor of accession in a referendum held in 2003. Estonia was previously a member of the Soviet Union, until its disintegration in 1991.

This EU country is located in Northern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Russia, and Latvia.


Aerial view of Helsinki's Eira neighborhood showcases historic buildings, snow-covered streets, bare trees, and a distant church spire.
The Eira neighborhood of Helsinki, Finland

Finland has been a member of the EU since it joined in 1995 alongside Sweden and Austria. As well as being an EU member state, Finland is also part of the Schengen Area and the eurozone. It is located in far northern Europe, bordering Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the Baltic Sea.

Tourism in Finland is based primarily on the natural beauties of the country, including its many lakes, hiking opportunities, and exceptionally clean air.


Aerial view of Paris shows the Arc de Triomphe at the center of twelve star-shaped avenues, with cityscape in the background.
The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

France was among the first six countries that banded together to form the European Coal and Steel Community. It joined these countries in 1951 and is still part of the EU. France is also included in the Schengen Area and the eurozone. It’s known for being connected to more international institutions than any other country.

Historically troubled relations with Germany are partially what was responsible for the creation of what has become the European Union, something that has brought peace to the region for many years.


View of Hamburg, Germany at sunset seen through a window with divided panes.
Hamburg, Germany

Along with France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands, Germany was one of the founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community that would eventually become the European Union. Germany is located in Central Europe and is the most populous country in the EU. The currency of Germany is the euro, and it is part of the Schengen Area.


A twilight view of the village of Oia in Greece, showcasing the iconic white buildings with blue domes overlooking the sea.
Oia, Greece

Greece is a country in Southeast Europe that is situated between three different continents: Europe, Asia, and Africa. the country has an ancient history and is considered the cradle of Western civilization. It’s been a member of the EU since it joined in 1981, becoming the ninth member of the organization.

Greece is a popular tourist destination for its beautiful beaches and picturesque islands. It’s also part of the Schengen Area, which makes it easy for other Schengen members to visit.


A sunset view of Budapest with the Danube River, a bridge, the Parliament Building and hills.
Budapest, Hungary

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 as part of the largest expansion the union has seen. The country is landlocked and located in Central Europe, bordered by seven different countries. Budapest is the capital of Hungary and its most populous city. There are about 9 million people living in the country, and it enjoys a high-income economy and a high Human Development Index score.


A picturesque view of Cobh, Ireland, showcasing vibrant houses, a towering cathedral, and a partly cloudy sky.
Cobh, County Cork, Ireland

The Republic of Ireland joined the EEC (which would later become the European Union) along with Denmark in 1973. Although it is a long-time member of the EU, Ireland is not part of the Schengen Area. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, also shares the island of Ireland, though it is no longer part of the EU.

The capital of Ireland is Dublin, and the country has one of the highest average life expectancies in the world, along with several other EU countries.


A scenic view of Florence, Italy, with the iconic Duomo and bell tower in the foreground and rolling hills in the background, under a soft sky.
Firenze, Italy

Italy was one of the first countries to form the European Coal and Steel Community that would eventually transform into the European Union. It is the third most populous of the EU countries and is located in Southern Europe, extending into the Mediterranean Sea.

There are two enslaved states that exist within Italy, the Vatican and San Marino, and neither are official members of the EU.


Aerial view of Riga, Latvia during sunrise with mist over the city, showcasing the river, bridges, and a mix of historic and modern buildings.
Riga, Latvia

Latvia was one of the countries that joined the EU during the enlargement of 2004, though it didn’t adopt the euro until 2014. The country had previously used lats as its currency. Latvia was part of the Soviet Union until it regained its independence in 1991.

In addition to the EU, Latvia is a member of many international groups, including NATO, the eurozone, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, and more. The official language in the country is Latvian, which is one of the official languages of the EU.


Aerial view of Trakai, Lithuania, featuring a landscape with multiple lakes and islands, with a hot air balloon floating in the sky.
Trakai, Lithuania

Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic states, located just south of Latvia and north of Poland and Belarus. Like its Baltic neighbors, Lithuania joined the EU in the 2004 expansion. Some of the international groups of which Lithuania is a member include the Schengen Area, Eurozone, NATO, and the Council of Europe.

The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius, which is also the country’s largest city.


A twilight scene of Luxembourg City, showcasing historical buildings, a river, and trees, softly lit by ambient light.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Luxembourg was a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951, making it one of the six nations with the longest membership in what would become the EU. Luxembourg is a small, landlocked country that borders Germany, France, and Belgium. It is a part of the Schengen Area, and its currency is the euro.

The capital and largest city of Luxembourg goes by the same name and is one of the four institutional seats of the European Union.


A lively waterfront at Marsaxlokk, Malta with colorful boats, a busy market, people, historical buildings, and church spires under a blue sky.
Marsaxlokk, Malta

Malta is a small European island country in the Mediterranean Sea, situated just south of Italy’s island of Sicily. It joined the EU in 2004 as part of the organization’s largest expansion to date, and it adopted the euro as its currency in 2008.

Although Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world, it is a major tourist destination for Europeans looking for warmer climates during winter. Malta is a member of the Schengen Area and the smallest EU country by total area.

The Netherlands

A canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with a bicycle in the foreground, trees lining the sides, and a church tower in the distance.
Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Netherlands is the final country on this list that was part of the original six nations that founded the European Coal and Steel Community. It’s also where the city of Maastricht, which lent its name to the treaty that officially founded the EU, is located.

There are twelve provinces that make up the Netherlands, its capital city is Amsterdam, and the official language of the country is Dutch.


A view of historical buildings with colorful facades at dusk in Warsaw, Poland.
Warsaw, Poland

Poland is a country in Central Europe that has been a member of the EU since 2004; it is the fifth-most populous member state. It borders the Baltic Sea to the north and seven other European countries. Poland is also a member of the Schengen Area, the World Trade Organization, and NATO.

Among EU countries, Poland has one of the lowest unemployment rates along with the Czech Republic and Germany.


A view of Porto, Portugal, seen through a window, featuring historic buildings and a river in the distance.
Porto, Portugal

Portugal is a Western European country that lies on the west end of the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain to the east. It has been a member of the EU since it joined the EEC in 1986, the same year that Spain joined and the EEC began to fly the European Flag.

The capital city of Portugal is Lisbon, and the official language of the country is Portuguese


A picturesque view of Sighisoara, Romania, showcasing vibrant houses, a historic hilltop citadel, and a cloudy sky.
Sighișoara, Romania

Along with Bulgaria, Romania joined the EU in 2007. This was two years before the Treaty of Lisbon was signed, which would make significant changes to the structure of the EU. Romania is not currently part of the Schengen Area, but it is legally obligated (as are Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Croatia) to join at some point in the future.

Romania is located between Central Europe and Southeast Europe, bordering the Black Sea as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Serbia, and Bulgaria.


Aerial view of Bratislava Castle with surrounding buildings in Bratislava, Slovakia, framed by foliage in the foreground.
Bratislava, Slovakia

Slovakia was one of the ten countries to join the EU in 2004 during the union’s biggest enlargement. It adopted the euro in 2009, using the Slovak koruna prior to this date. Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe, and its capital city is Bratislava, which is located only 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the Austrian capital of Vienna.


Aerial view of Piran, Slovenia, showcasing the coastal town with red-roofed buildings and a prominent church spire, adjacent to the calm blue sea.
Piran, Slovenia

Officially the Republic of Slovenia, this country was one of the ten that joined the EU in 2004. It is located in Central Europe and borders Italy, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and the Adriatic Sea. Slovenia adopted the euro as its currency in 2007, five years after it entered into circulation in other EU countries.

As well as the EU, Slovenia is a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, and more.


A panoramic view of Madrid, Spain, showcasing historic buildings and a sprawling cityscape against a dramatic sky at dusk.
Madrid, Spain

Spain joined the EEC, which would later become the EU, in 1986 along with Portugal. It is the second-largest nation in the EU by total area and has the fourth-largest population. Spain has one of the highest unemployment rates in the EU, and its capital Madrid is the region with the highest life expectancy in the EU.


Stockholm old town city skyline cityscape of sweden at sunset
Stockholm old town city skyline cityscape of Sweden at sunset.

Sweden was one of three countries to join the EU in 1995 along with Austria and Finland. It is the third-largest country in the EU and the largest Nordic country. Sweden has the second-lowest population density in the EU with roughly 22 people per square kilometer; more than 80% of the population lives in urban areas.


There are 19 countries in the Eurozone. Eurozone is the name of the region in which countries use the euro as currency. These include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

A map of Europe's waters in blue shades, land in white, with labels, outlines in grey, and a compass rose.
Eurozone Map

Schengen Area: Border-Free Travel

The Schengen Area is the largest international, visa-free travel area in the world. It involves 26 European countries that have officially abolished passport control and border control at their mutual borders. 22 of these countries are members of the EU, and the four that are not are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Since there is no border or passport control between these countries, a Schengen Visa granted by any one of these countries offers visitors the chance to visit all participating regions.

In addition to visitors, citizens of the Schengen Area countries can travel freely between nations in the area. While there is substantial overlap, the Schengen Area is not synonymous with the European Union, the Eurozone, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Although they are not the same entity, there are newer members of the European Union that are committed by treaty to join the Schengen Area sometime in the future. They are Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Here is the map and list of countries that are in the Schengen border-free area:

A color-coded topographic map displays land elevations, bodies of water, labels for oceans/seas, and a scale.
Schengen Area Map

Documents Required for Visiting Schengen Area

For EU Citizens

Passport or ID card

Fortunately for residents of 22 of the EU countries, they are already residing within the Schengen Area. The lack of border control between countries in the Schengen Area means that anyone with a passport that allows them to live in a Schengen country can visit and stay in any of the other Schengen nations. Additionally, citizens of the four EU countries that are not within the Schengen Area — Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, and Romania — can visit any other EU country without a visa, which includes most Schengen countries.

When entering or leaving the six non-Schengen countries and the EU, travelers will need to provide a valid passport. When traveling in the EU, it is advisable to carry your passport and ID with you for identification and security purposes.

For Non-EU Citizens


A valid passport is required for travel to the Schengen Area by non-EU nationals, excepting those from the Schengen countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.


There are no visa requirements for citizens of more than 50 countries who want to visit the Schengen Area for up to 90 days per 180-day period.

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

The concept of a 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 was the economic and political unification of their countries. The establishment of an organization that could overcome national conflicts in Europe arose from the resistance movements that fought against totalitarian rule during World War II.

Schuman Declaration

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the efforts of European statesmen to create lasting peace in Europe gained momentum. French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman supported an idea that would hopefully make it practically impossible for France and Germany to go to war.

According to the Schuman Declaration, there had to be an end to the centuries-old conflict between France and Germany in order to establish peace in Europe. The way to do this was to ensure joint coal and steel production (vital materials for waging war) between the two countries under the supervision of a single institution.

European Coal and Steel Community

As a result of the Schuman Declaration, in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established, which included six members: Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. The first chairman of the High Authority of the community was Jean Monnet, the owner of the idea that inspired the Schuman Declaration. Thus, the production of the raw materials of war, coal and steel, became an instrument of peace.

Treaty of Rome and the European Economic Community

In 1957, the six member states of the ECSC decided to establish an economic community based on the free movement of labor, 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 in addition to 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 trade and move about. There was hope that this would establish political unity as well.

European Atomic Energy Community

Like the EEC, 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 Union

Customs duties on finished goods were lifted in 1968 as a result of the creation of the EU Customs Union, and common policies, especially in agriculture and trade policies, were settled at the end of the 60s. This union makes it easier for EU countries to trade goods and streamlines the customs process.

First Expansion Wave

The success of the initial six members of the EEC 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 to deny Britain’s membership.

1980s: Community Expands to South

The community expanded southward in 1981 with the inclusion of Greece, and Spain and Portugal joined in 1986. At this point, the number of members in the community had reached 12. 1986 was also the year that the EEC began to use the European Flag.

Single European Act

In the early 1980s, internal disputes regarding economic stagnation and financial hardships led to the emergence of “European pessimism.” However, after 1984, this was replaced with hopeful expectations for the revival of the EEC. Based on the White Paper, prepared by the Commission under the direction of Jacques Delors in 1985, the EEC set itself the target of establishing a single market by 1 January 1993. The Single European Act was signed by Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, England, Ireland, Spain, Luxembourg, and Portugal on 17 February 1986, and by Denmark, Italy, and Greece on 28 February 1986.

The Single European Act entered into force in 1987 and was the first major revision of the Treaty of Rome signed in 1957.

Maastricht Treaty and European Union

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany in 1990, coupled with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, changed the political landscape in Europe. It saw the liberation and democratization of several central and eastern European countries, creating more potential candidates for what would shortly become the European Union.

It was with a determination to strengthen the ties between European states that negotiations for a new treaty began and were agreed upon at the 1991 European Union Summit in Maastricht. The Maastricht Treaty, also known as the Treaty on European Union, entered into force on 1 November 1993. This was the foundation treaty for the EU and included the following aims:

  • Introduction of a single currency
  • Establishment of European citizenship
  • Development of common foreign and security cooperation policies in justice and home affairs

According to With the Maastricht Treaty, a three-pillar 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 a common foreign security policy, and the third was justice and home affairs.

1995 Expansion: Austria, Finland, Sweden

The 1995 enlargement of the European Union was the fourth of its kind and saw the accession of Austria, Finland, and Sweden to the union, bringing the total number of EU member states to 15. Norway had also negotiated in order to join the union, but this was turned down in a 1994 referendum. Switzerland also applied for union membership, later withdrawing the application following a negative referendum result.

Economic and Monetary Union

The Euro, the common currency of Europe, was officially introduced in 12 countries at the beginning of 1999, although the physical currency didn’t enter circulation until the first of January, 2002.

Last Expansion Waves

In 2004, the largest expansion wave in the history of the EU 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 addition 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 Treaty of Lisbon, which was signed in 2007 and came into force in 2009. The treaty was aimed at eliminating blockages in the EU’s decision-making mechanisms, achieving a more democratic and effective Union. In line with this goal, comprehensive amendments were made and the Treaty of Rome establishing the European Community was renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


The United Kingdom had been a member of the European Union since 1973, but it officially became the only sovereign nation to leave the EU on January 31st, 2020. The decision to leave the union was based on the result of a 2016 referendum in which 51.9% voted in favor of leaving the EU.

Enlargement of the European Union

As we’ve seen with the history of the European Union, the idea of European integration has created a 27-member union that has undergone several successive enlargement processes and implemented common policies in many areas such as currency, agriculture, and migration policies. In this process, “enlargement policy” became the most important foreign policy instrument of the EU. The EU has become much stronger in economic, political, and geopolitical contexts by adding new member states.

The EU’s enlargement policy has evolved and changed in parallel with European integration. The recent wave of enlargement, in which Central and Eastern European countries became 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 candidacy.

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.

There are 5 periods of the expansion process.

First Expansion (UK, Ireland, Denmark – 1973)

A map showing the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 with member countries highlighted in blue.
European Union 1973 Map

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, and Denmark became members of the EU on 1 January 1973.

Second Expansion (Greece – 1981)

A 1981 map of Europe shows data distribution in shades of blue, with a legend in the bottom left.
European Union 1981 Map

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.

Third Expansion: (Spain, Portugal – 1986)

A 1986 map of Europe, with certain areas shaded blue, likely indicating specific data. Surrounding waters and countries are outlined.
European Union 1986 Map

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 considered both politically and economically underdeveloped in the 1970s when they applied for membership. The concern was that Spain and Portugal could create economic burdens on the agricultural sector as well as the free movement of workers if they were members of the EU.

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 these obstacles.

Fourth Expansion: (Austria, Finland, Sweden – 1995)

A 1995 map of parts of Europe, with land in beige and bodies of water in varying blue shades, possibly indicating depth.
European Union 1995 Map

The fourth enlargement of the EU is closely related to 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 part of the EU on 1 January 1995.

Fifth Expansion: (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Malta, Cyprus – 2004) (Romania, Bulgaria – 2007)

A 2004 map uses shades of blue to represent data over parts of Europe and nearby bodies of water.
European Union 2004 Map

The end of the Cold War was a real turning point for the European continent. The end of half a century of division was celebrated with enthusiasm throughout Europe.

However, sentiments of excitement regarding the “reunification of Europe” were gradually replaced by the cautionary thought that “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 scope of European integration, was also quite painful for the EU from the standpoint of the candidate countries.

2007 map features a blue geographical region, white surroundings with labeled borders and waters, and a simple legend.
European Union 2007 Map

To comply with the Copenhagen criteria for membership, many countries reorganized many areas of social life in order to make successful bids for EU accession. Negotiations in 1998 and 2000 led to the official inclusion of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, and Slovakia in the EU in 2004, the biggest EU enlargement to date.

After achieving their goals in the fight against corruption Bulgaria and Romania became members of the EU on 1 January 2007. Thus, the number of members of the European Union reached 27.

Sixth Expansion: (Croatia-2013)

A 2013 map of Europe shows a blue gradient, with darker shades indicating higher values. Surrounding seas and country borders are outlined.
European Union 2013 Map

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 EU.

There are currently five countries that are candidates for EU membership: Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Albania. Turkey, Montenegro, and Serbia continue their accession negotiations. On 12 March 2015, Iceland withdrew its candidacy for EU membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.

Institutions of the European Union

The European Union has an institutional framework that functions to realize and develop its objectives and values while serving the interests of the union, its citizens, and the member states. There are seven institutions that are part of the EU.

European Parliament

The European Parliament is a publicly elected legislative body within the EU institutions. European Union citizens can vote in the European Parliament elections every five years. The last parliamentary election was in 2019. The Parliament now consists of 705 representatives from 27 European Union member states.

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 seven political party groups and independent members.

European Commission

The European Commission is the institution responsible for enforcing laws as well as implementing the EU budget and programs as the executive body of the union. The European Commission consists of 27 members, one from each state, known as “Commissioners.” 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 32,000 people, including officials from the European Union.

Council of the European Union

The Council of the 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. This is the second legislative body in the European Union along with the European Parliament.

Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the judicial body of the EU. It consists of two primary courts, namely the Court of Justice and the General Court. The main purpose of the CJEU 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 following functions:

  • The interpretation and application of the law in the EU
  • The regulation of relations between national legal orders and the EU legal orders
  • Legal control, interpretation, dispute resolution, and law creation

The Court of Justice consists of one judge from each member state as well as 11 advocates general, and the General Court consists of 54 judges, at least one judge from each member state.

The CJEU’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 EU. It also ensures that its transactions are lawful and legible by monitoring the legality and regularity of income and expenses as well as checking for good financial management.

The European Court of Auditors consists of 27 members, one from each member state. Members are appointed for a period of six 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 (ECB) is another of the seven EU institutions and is one of the most important central banks in the world. Its task is to ensure price stability in the Eurozone by creating monetary policies and regulating banking activities in the area. The Eurozone consists of 19 EU member states that use the euro as their currency. The European System of Central Banks consists of the central banks of member states and the ECB.

In the framework of the European System of Central Banks, the ECB carries out the duties of determining and implementing the monetary policy of the EU in the following ways:

  • Conducting foreign exchange transactions
  • Holding and managing the official foreign exchange reserves of the member states
  • Ensuring the proper functioning of payment systems

The European Central Bank is also the sole authority permitted to issue Euro banknotes in the Eurozone.

European Economic and Social Committee

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an advisory body that works closely with the European Parliament, Council, and Commission. Its decisions are not binding but advisory. The EESC consists of members selected from groups representing the different interests of workers, employers, and various social groups. The committee operates within the general interests of European integration and the independence of its members.

European Committee of the Regions

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) is an advisory committee consisting of representatives of local and regional authorities within the EU. Articles 305 and 307 of the Maastricht Treaty regulate the committee.

Operating under the general interests of European integration, the Committee currently has 329 members.

Consultation with the CoR is compulsory in some cases and optional in others, though it is possible for the institutions of the EU to apply to the CoR for any opinion they deem appropriate. The main advisory issues are typically related to EU regional policies and the monitoring of projects that will benefit from the funds supporting regional and structural development.

European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the investment bank of the EU. Its purpose is to finance investments that will help the EU achieve its objectives.

The primary objective of the EIB is to contribute to the balanced development of the European Union. In addition, the European Investment Bank is responsible for:

  • Ensuring the financing of trans-European transport and telecommunication networks
  • Protecting the environment
  • Ensuring the sustainability of energy resources and increasing the competitiveness of the European industry and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at the international level.

The EIB also assists the EU in implementing its cooperation policies for non-member states through the support of eligible non-member projects.

European Ombudsman

The European Ombudsman is an inter-institutional body that was introduced in the Maastricht Treaty. The European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament and serves to promote good administration within the EU.

The Ombudsman may initiate an investigation or examine complaints directly or through a member of the European Parliament. When the Ombudsman has reached the findings of the correctness of the complaint, they shall apply to the institution concerned to respond within a period of three months. The Ombudsman submits a general report containing the results of the investigations each year to the European Parliament.

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