Often called the EU, the European Union is an international organization which originally consisted of 28 countries from the continent of Europe. It was created as a governing body for common economic, social, and security policies. It initially began in western Europe, but in the early 2000s, the EU expanded into central and eastern Europe. It now has 27 members because of the United Kingdom's withdraw from the EU in 2016.
The current 27 members of the EU include the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
On November 1, 1993, the Maastricht Treaty became official, which was designed to develop and expand European political and economic integration by creating a single currency: the euro (like the American dollar). They also wanted to have a united security and foreign policy, common rights for its citizens, and cooperation between countries and issues related to immigration, justice, and asylum affairs. Ultimately, the goal was to promote democracy and peace across Europe.
Since World War II, there were many efforts which eventually led to the European Union's creation. Some of the western countries wanted to have closer ties, especially in economic, social, and political affairs, which would lead to economic growth, as well as military security. In addition, a goal was to promote peace between France and Germany, who were on opposite sides during the war.
In 1951, the Treaty of Paris was signed by the countries of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. It could be said this treaty was ultimately the origin of the European Union. Though the other countries were not a part of this treaty, much of the goals of the treaty eventually expanded to the other countries.
Over the next several decades, other agreements and treaties were signed including the two Treaties of Rome, signed in 1957, which established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). It facilitated cooperation related to atomic energy development, research, and use. The second treaty focused on economics, called the EEC or European Economic Community. It created a common market across the member countries, eliminated many trade barriers related to the movement of goods, services, money, and labor. It also prevented public policies or private agreements which would slow down economic growth.
Throughout the following years, other treaties and agreements were signed which were related to other areas of concern between the European countries. Concerns included foreign policy, manufacturing, public health, education, and other interests.
The European Union may not be the perfect answer for unity and peace, but the EU did receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for having 'contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.' Some people criticized the awarding of the honor to the EU, but the committee wanted to show how formal enemies, like France and Germany, could become peaceful allies.
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