The European Union
a supranational organization
that works toward economic integration among its
The EU is composed of what
originally were three separate organizations --
the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the
European Economic Community (EEC), and the
European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). These
three institutions were merged in 1967, with
headquarters in Brussels.
Structure of the EU
The Council of Ministers of
the European Union, which represents the
member states, is the EU's main decision-taking
body. When it meets at Heads of State or
Government level, it becomes the European
Council, whose role is to provide the EU with
political impetus on key issues. The EU member
states take it in turns to hold the Council
Presidency for a six-month period. Every
Council meeting is attended by one minister from
each country. Which ministers attend a meeting
depends on which topic is on the agenda --
foreign affairs, agriculture, industry, etc. The
Council has legislative power, which it shares
with the European Parliament. In addition, the
Council and the Parliament share equal
responsibility for adopting the EU budget. The
Council also concludes international agreements
that have been negotiated by the Commission. The
number of votes allocated to each EU country
roughly reflects the size of its population.
The European Parliament,
which represents the people, shares legislative
and budgetary power with the Council of the
European Union. Since 1979, members of the
European Parliament have been directly elected,
by universal suffrage, every five years. The
Parliament can give its opinion on draft
directives and regulations proposed by the
European Commission, which is asked to amend its
proposals to take account of Parliament's
position. Since 1987, the Parliament has the
final vote on adoption of international
agreements negotiated by the Commission, as well
as on any proposed enlargement of the EU. In
addition, the Parliament also has the power to
throw out proposed legislation in specific fields
if an absolute majority of members vote against
the Council's common position. The Parliament can
also reject a proposed budget, in which case the
entire budget procedure must be re-started.
Lastly, the Parliament has the power to dismiss
the Commission by adopting a motion of censure.
The European Commission,
which represents the common interest of the EU,
is the main executive body. It has the right to
propose legislation and ensures that EU policies
are properly implemented. Members of the
Commission are appointed for a five-year term by
agreement between the member states, subject to
approval by the European Parliament. The
Commission has wide powers to manage the EU's
common policies, and is also responsible for
managing the budget for these policies.
The Court of Justice of the
European Communities is made up of one judge
from each member nation, assisted by eight
advocates-general, each of which is appointed by
joint agreement of the governments of the member
states for a renewable term of six years. The
Court's role is to ensure that EU law is complied
with, and that the treaties are correctly
interpreted and applied.
Important Dates in
May 9, 1950
Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign
Affairs, proposed that France and the Federal
Republic of Germany pool their coal and steel
resources in a new organization which other
European nations could join.
April 18, 1951
In Paris, Belgium, the Federal Republic of
Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the
Netherlands signed a treaty establishing the
European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).
March 25, 1957
The six countries signed treaties establishing
the European Economic Community (EEC) and the
European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).
January 1, 1958
The 1957 treaties went into effect.
January 7, 1958
Directing commissions were appointed with Walter
Hallstein, West German Secretary of Foreign
Affairs, as president for the Common Market and
Louis Armand, president of the French National
Railway, as president of the Euratom commission.
Pietro Campilli of Italy was named president of
the European Investment Bank, to be set up with
$1 billion capital under the Common Market.
January 4, 1960
The Stockholm Convention established the European
Free Trade Association (EFTA), comprising a
number of European countries that were not part
of the EEC.
April 8, 1965
The executive bodies of the three Communities
were merged to create a single Council and a
July 1, 1968
Customs duties between the member states on
industrial goods were completely abolished and a
common external tariff was introduced.
January 1, 1973
Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom became
the first "new" nations to become
members of the European Community.
March 13, 1979
The European Monetary System took effect among
Common Market countries.
June 7-10, 1979
The first direct elections to the European
Parliament were held.
17, 1979 Simone Veil of France was
elected president of the European Parliament.
February 7, 1992
The Treaty on European Union was signed at
January 1, 1993
The single European market was created.
January 1, 1999
11 EU countries adopted the Euro.
Members of the
member (date of joining)
|Austria (January 1,
Belgium (April 18, 1951)
Bulgaria (January 1, 2007)
Croatia (in process)
Cyprus (May 1, 2004)
Czech Republic (May 1, 2004)
Denmark (January 1, 1973)
Estonia (May 1, 2004)
Finland (January 1, 1995)
France (April 18, 1951)
Germany (April 18, 1951)
Greece (January 1, 1981)
Hungary (May 1, 2004)
Ireland (January 1, 1973)
|Italy (April 18, 1951)
Latvia (May 1, 2004)
Lithuania (May 1, 2004)
Luxembourg (April 18, 1951)
Malta (May 1, 2004)
Netherlands (April 18, 1951)
Poland (May 1, 2004)
Portugal (January 1, 1986)
Romania (January 1, 2007)
Slovakia (May 4, 2004)
Slovenia (May 4, 2004)
Spain (January 1, 1986)
Sweden (January 1, 1995)
United Kingdom (January 1, 1973)
Union's official website is http://europa.eu
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