The European Union (EU) was formally established in 1993 when the Maastricht Treaty (1991) came into force. Till that year, the EU was known as the European Community (EC). The Headquarters of EU is at Brussels (Belgium).
The EU covers the following three organisations with common membership:
• European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), formed in 1951.
• European Economic Community (EEC) or European Common Market (ECM) formed in 1957.
• European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM), formed in 1958.
Members of EU
At present, the EU consists of 28 member countries, Germany, Greece, Ireland, and Italy. Luxemherg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK, Belgium, Denmark and France formed a 12-nation bloc of the EU. Sweden Finland and Austria joined the EU in 1995, thus increasing the strength Of EU to 1 5 members. Again, in 2004, ten new countries joined the EU, raising the total number of members to 25. The new members are: Poland, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic. Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. Two more countries Bulgaria and Ronnie joined the EU in 2007. Croatia becomes the 28th EU country in 2013.
Objectives of EU
The EU aims at the closer economic and political integration of the member countries in the following ways:
• Establishing an economic and a monetary union:
• Implementing a common foreign and defence policy:
• Strengthening of its economic and political institutions: and
• Developing relations in the spheres of’ home affairs and justice.
Governing Bodies of EU
The internal structure of the EU comprises the following institutions:
• The European Parliament—elected by the peoples of the member-states; law-making body.
• The Council of the European Union—represents the governments of the member-states; highest decision taking body (also known as the Council of Ministers).
• The European Council—comprises the heads of state. Government of the member—states. Its meeting is known as the European Summit. It gives political direction to the EU, and sets policy agenda and strategies for the EU. (It should not be confused with the above mentioned Council of’ the European Union).
• The European Commission—-consists of the commissioners appointed by the member-states: executive body and driving force.
• The European Court of justice—consists of the judges from the member-states; ensures compliance with the law.
• The European Court of Auditors—responsible for sound and lawful management of the EU budget.
• European Economic and Social Committee—expresses the opinions of organized civil society on economic and social issues.
• Committee of the Regions—expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities.
• The European Central Bank—responsible for monetary policy and managing the euro.
• The European Investment Bank—helps to achieve EU objectives by financing infrastructure projects and environmental schemes.
• The European Ombudsman—deals with citizen’s complaints about mal—administration by any EU institution or body.
• Europol (European Police Office)—the EU’s criminal intelligence agency.