The European Union (EU) is a union that is made up of 28 nations in Europe. The union was established in 1993 during the Maastricht Treaty in the Netherlands. In total, the EU member states have a total area of about 1,728,099 square miles and an approximate population of at least 510 million people. The de facto capital of the EU is in Brussels, Belgium. Officially, however, the EU does not have a headquarters in any of the member countries. In addition, there are no plans in place for choosing a headquarter city.
Purpose of the European Union
Essentially, the body was established to ensure that there is a single market among these countries. Things such as free movement and common trade policies characterize this single market. Other characteristics include the use of a universal currency, the Euro, which is currently used by 19 member countries. In some parts of the EU, such as inside the Schengen Area, movement between the countries is possible without a passport.
Headquarters of the EU
The reason why the city of Brussels in Belgium is considered the capital is that it hosts several seats of the EU such as the European Commission, the European Council, and the Council of the European Union. A committee of experts put together back in the 1950s supported the choice of Brussels as the capital. The committee deemed Brussels as the best choice for a European Capital for a number of reasons. These reasons included a large and active city, excellent communication systems with member nations, an uncongested city, and others. In addition, it is uniquely situated on the border between the Germanic and Latin civilizations and was crucial during the first integration experiments after war. Lastly, being the capital of a relatively small nation, it could not abuse the institutions to pressurize member states. Despite wide acceptance of the report, the Council failed to agree during the vote thus putting off the matter.
While discussing the capital of the EU, it is impossible to ignore Strasbourg in France which houses the first seat of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is the only one in the world that more than one meeting places and among those that lack the authority to decide its primary meeting location. The other two places for meetings of the parliament are Luxemburg and Brussels. Unfortunately, this current agreement, which exists under the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, is a costly one as it costs millions of euros every time the parliament has to meet in a different country. Initially, Strasbourg was chosen in order to pacify both Germany and France as the two countries had a war over the region in the past. However, most critics now see something that was initially meant to be a symbol of peace as a waste of resources. Consequently, there have been groups exerting constant pressure for the parliament to be moved officially to Brussels since the city is home to almost all other major institutions of the EU.