The European Union is a political and economic union comprising 27 member states located primarily in Europe and collectively represents the world's largest economy. The EU operates as a single market, with a common system of laws and trade policies, with 19 countries have forming a monetary union, adopting a common currency - the euro. The single market is based on the four freedoms of the EU: the free movement of labour, capital, goods and services. 26 member states have agreed to abolish passport controls between them, under an agreement known as the Schengen Agreement. Major institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Court of Justice and the European Central Bank.
The European Union was established in the aftermath of World War Two to bring peace, stability and prosperity to Europe. Key developments in its history include:
- 1951: The European Coal and Steel Community is established by the six founding members
- 1957: The Treaty of Rome establishes a common market
- 1973: The Community expands to nine member states and develops its common policies
- 1979: The first direct elections to the European Parliament
- 1981: The first Mediterranean enlargement
- 1993: Completion of the single market
- 1993: The Treaty of Maastricht establishes the European Union
- 1995: The EU expands to 15 members
- 2002: Euro notes and coins are introduced
- 2004: Ten more countries join the Union, establishment of the European Constitution
- 2007: Two more countries join the EU, member states sign Treaty of Lisbon
- 2013: Croatia joins the EU
- 2014: EU elects Jean-Claude Juncker as President for five-year term
- 2015: Lithuania adopts the Euro as its currency, becoming the 19th member of the euro area
- 2020: The UK leaves the EU
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