The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union made up of 28 member states, primarily from the continent of Europe. The EU encompasses a total area of approximately 1.72 million sq mi and has an estimated population of 513 million, which is equivalent to 7.3% of the global population. The aim of the union is to ensure the free movement of people, capital, goods, and services. The majority of EU member states (19) use a single currency known as the euro. A list of EU member states and a brief summary of its growth from 6 members to 28 is highlighted below.
Growth of the European Union
Founding Member States
After the Second World War, the integration of Europe was seen as the only solution to the extreme nationalism that had nearly destroyed the continent. This involved the creation of several European-based associations prior to the founding of the European Union, including the Council of Europe and the European Movement International. In 1957, six nations signed the Treaty of Rome, which came into place in 1958 and effectively created the European Economic Community (EEC): France, Italy, West Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In 1967, the Merger Treaty was signed by the same six countries, which united three communities, the European Economic Council (EEC), the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), under a single set of institutions, collectively referred to as the European Communities.
The European Communities were enlarged for the first time in 1973 to include Ireland, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Greenland also joined the communities as part of Denmark, but left in 1985 following a dispute over fishing rights. Norway, which had negotiated membership, did not join after the move was rejected in a referendum.
Greece applied to join the European Communities in 1975 and was granted membership to the union in 1981 as the tenth member state, followed by Spain and Portugal in 1986. Turkey and Morocco applied for membership in 1987, but Morocco’s application was rejected as the country is not located in Europe. Turkey's bid for membership still remains under negotiation.
Following the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the European Economic Council was replaced by the European Union in 1993, and established mechanisms through which new states could become members. Finland, Austria, and Sweden were admitted to the EU on January 1, 1995. Norway's membership was rejected again in a Norwegian referendum.
The largest expansion of the European Union occurred in 2004, through the admission of ten new countries: Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Cyprus. The new member states were officially admitted on May 1, 2004.
2007 and 2013 Enlargements
Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU on January 1, 2007, while Croatia is the latest member, joining the union in 2013. Before joining the EU, the three countries were required to implement certain reforms, including the consolidation of their democratic systems.
Countries That Do Not Use the Euro as Currency
Although a monetary union was created in 1999, euro coins and banknotes were not introduced until 2002. However, only 19 of 28 EU member states use the euro as official currency, while the other nine continue to use their own national currencies. The nine countries that do not use the euro are Croatia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.