European Union (EU), European supranational organization dedicated to increasing economic integration and strengthening cooperation among its member states. The European Union was established on November 1, 1993, when the Treaty on European Union, or Treaty of Maastricht, was ratified by the 12 members of the European Community (EC)-Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Upon ratification of the treaty, the countries of the EC became members of the EU, and the EC became the policy-making body of the EU. The EU has subsequently grown to include another three member states with the admission of Austria, Finland, and Sweden in 1995.
Under the Treaty on European Union, European citizenship was granted to citizens of each member state. Customs and immigration agreements were enhanced to allow European citizens greater freedom to live, work, or study in any of the member states, and border controls were relaxed. A goal of establishing a common European currency (European monetary union) has been set for 1999.
Prior to November 1993, the European Union was called the European Community. The EC was composed of what originally were three separate organizations: the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), created in 1951; and the European Economic Community (EEC, often referred to as the Common Market) and the European Atomic Energy Commission (Euratom), both set up in 1957. The three institutions merged in 1967, creating the EC and establishing headquarters in Brussels.
Decision-making in the EU is divided between supranational European institutions and the governments of the member states. The European Commission and the European Parliament are administered by the EU, and the Council of Ministers is composed of ministers from each of the member governments. The Court of Justice serves as the final arbiter in legal matters or disputes among EU institutions or between EU institutions and member states.
The European Commission serves as the executive branch of the EU. It makes policy proposals and presents them to the Council of Ministers. The European Commission also represents the EU in economic relations with other countries or international organizations.
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European Union (EU)
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