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  Introduction Back To Top

Preliminary statement:
The evolution of the European Union (EU) from a regional economic agreement among six neighboring states in 1951 to today's supranational organization of 27 countries across the European continent stands as an unprecedented phenomenon in the annals of history. Dynastic unions for territorial consolidation were long the norm in Europe. On a few occasions even country-level unions were arranged - the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian Empire were examples - but for such a large number of nation-states to cede some of their sovereignty to an overarching entity is truly unique.
Although the EU is not a federation in the strict sense, it is far more than a free-trade association such as ASEAN, NAFTA, or Mercosur, and it has many of the attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, anthem, founding date, and currency, as well as an incipient common foreign and security policy in its dealings with other nations.
In the future, many of these nation-like characteristics are likely to be expanded. Thus, inclusion of basic intelligence on the EU has been deemed appropriate as a new, separate entity in The World Factbook. However, because of the EU's special status, this description is placed after the regular country entries.

Following the two devastating World Wars of the first half of the 20th century, a number of European leaders in the late 1940s became convinced that the only way to establish a lasting peace was to unite the two chief belligerent nations - France and Germany - both economically and politically. In 1950, the French Foreign Minister Robert SCHUMAN proposed an eventual union of all Europe, the first step of which would be the integration of the coal and steel industries of Western Europe. The following year the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was set up when six members, Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, signed the Treaty of Paris.
The ECSC was so successful that within a few years the decision was made to integrate other parts of the countries' economies. In 1957, the Treaties of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the six member states undertook to eliminate trade barriers among themselves by forming a common market. In 1967, the institutions of all three communities were formally merged into the European Community (EC), creating a single Commission, a single Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament. Members of the European Parliament were initially selected by national parliaments, but in 1979 the first direct elections were undertaken and they have been held every five years since.
In 1973, the first enlargement of the EC took place with the addition of Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. The 1980s saw further membership expansion with Greece joining in 1981 and Spain and Portugal in 1986. The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht laid the basis for further forms of cooperation in foreign and defense policy, in judicial and internal affairs, and in the creation of an economic and monetary union - including a common currency. This further integration created the European Union (EU). In 1995, Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined the EU, raising the membership total to 15.
A new currency, the euro, was launched in world money markets on 1 January 1999; it became the unit of exchange for all of the EU states except the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark. In 2002, citizens of the 12 euro-area countries began using the euro banknotes and coins. Ten new countries joined the EU in 2004 - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia - and in 2007 Bulgaria and Romania joined, bringing the current membership to 27. In order to ensure that the EU can continue to function efficiently with an expanded membership, the Treaty of Nice (in force as of 1 February 2003) set forth rules streamlining the size and procedures of EU institutions. An effort to establish an EU constitution, begun in October 2004, failed to attain unanimous ratification. A new effort, undertaken in June 2007, calls for the creation of an Intergovernmental Conference to form a political agreement, known as the Reform Treaty, which is to serve as a constitution. Unlike the constitution, however, the Reform Treaty would amend existing treaties rather than replace them.

  Geography Back To Top

Land boundaries:
total: 12,440.8 km
border countries: Albania 282 km, Andorra 120.3 km, Belarus 1,050 km, Croatia 999 km, Holy See 3.2 km, Liechtenstein 34.9 km, Macedonia 394 km, Moldova 450 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Norway 2,348 km, Russia 2,257 km, San Marino 39 km, Serbia 945 km, Switzerland 1,811 km, Turkey 446 km, Ukraine 1,257 km
note: data for European Continent only

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 82, Tropical Timber 94
signed but not ratified: Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds

cold temperate; potentially subarctic in the north to temperate; mild wet winters; hot dry summers in the south

Map references:

Natural resources:
iron ore, natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, lead, zinc, bauxite, uranium, potash, salt, hydropower, arable land, timber, fish

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lammefjord, Denmark -7 m; Zuidplaspolder, Netherlands -7 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m; note - situated on the border between France and Italy

fairly flat along the Baltic and Atlantic coast; mountainous in the central and southern areas

total: 4,324,782 sq km

Europe between the North Atlantic Ocean in the west and Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine to the east

65,992.9 km

Area - comparative:
less than one-half the size of the US

Irrigated land:
168,050 sq km (2003 est.)

Environment - current issues:

Maritime claims:

Natural hazards:
flooding along coasts; avalanches in mountainous area; earthquakes in the south; volcanic eruptions in Italy; periodic droughts in Spain; ice floes in the Baltic

Land use:
arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
other: NA

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
1.5 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.92 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
note - see individual country entries of member states

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
note - see individual country entries of member states

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.32 years
male: 74 years
female: 80.84 years (2008 est.)

Net migration rate:
1.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Median age:
note - see individual country entries of member states

491,018,683 (July 2008 est.)

Population growth rate:
0.11% (2008 est.)

Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Gaelic, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish
note: only official languages are listed; German, the major language of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, is the most widely spoken mother tongue - over 19% of the EU population; English is the most widely spoken language - about 49% of the EU population is conversant with it (2007)

Death rate:
10.39 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 6.38 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.23 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.49 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
note - see individual country entries of member states

Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.7% (male 37,208,905/female 35,254,445)
15-64 years: 67.2% (male 155,807,769/female 153,690,235)
65 years and over: 17.1% (male 32,592,595/female 46,273,197) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
10.25 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Kristen SILVERBERG
embassy: 13 Zinnerstraat/Rue Zinner, B-1000 Brussels
mailing address: same as above
telephone: [32] (2) 508-2111
FAX: [32] (2) 508-2063

National holiday:
Europe Day 9 May (1950); note - a Union-wide holiday, the day that Robert SCHUMAN proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community to achieve an organized Europe

18 years of age; universal

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador John BRUTON
chancery: 2300 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037
telephone: [1] (202) 862-9500
FAX: [1] (202) 429-1766

International organization participation:
European Union: ARF (dialogue member), ASEAN (dialogue member), IDA, OAS (observer), PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN (observer)
European Community: Australian Group, CBSS, CERN, FAO, EBRD, G-10, LAIA, NSG (observer), OECD, UNRWA, WCO, WTO, ZC (observer)
European Central Bank: BIS
European Investment Bank: EBRD, WADB (nonregional member)

Legislative branch:
two legislative bodies consisting of the Council of the European Union (27 member-state ministers having 345 votes; the number of votes is roughly proportional to member-states' population; note - the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU) and the European Parliament (785 seats, as of 1 January 2007; seats allocated among member states by proportion to population; members elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term)
elections: last held 10-13 June 2004 (next to be held June 2009)
election results: percent of vote - NA; seats by party - EPP-ED 268, PES 202, ALDE 88, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 36, UEN 27, independents 28; note - seats by party as of 1 December 2007 - EPP-ED 275, PES 217, ALDE 104, UEN 44, Greens/EFA 42, EUL/NGL 41, IND/DEM 24, independents 34, 4 unaccounted for

Legal system:
comparable to the legal systems of member states; first supranational law system

Flag description:
blue field with 12 five-pointed gold stars arranged in a circle in the center, representing the union of the peoples of Europe; the number of stars is fixed

7 February 1992 (Maastricht Treaty signed establishing the EU); 1 November 1993 (Maastricht Treaty entered into force)

Political structure:
a hybrid intergovernmental and supranational organization

Political parties and leaders:
Confederal Group of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left or EUL/NGL [Francis WURTZ]; European People's Party-European Democrats or EPP-ED [Joseph DAUL]; Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe or ALDE [Graham R. WATSON]; Group of Greens/European Free Alliance or Greens/EFA [Monica FRASSONI and Daniel Marc COHN-BENDIT]; Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty Group or ITS [Bruno GOLLNISCH]; Independence/Democracy Group or IND/DEM [Jens-Peter BONDE and Nigel FARAGE]; Socialist Group in the European Parliament or PES [Martin SCHULZ]; Union for Europe of the Nations Group or UEN [Brian CROWLEY and Cristiana MUSCARDINI]

Union name:
conventional long form: European Union
abbreviation: EU

name: Brussels (Belgium), Strasbourg (France), Luxembourg
geographic coordinates: 50 50 N, 4 20 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: the Council of the European Union meets in Brussels, Belgium, the European Parliament meets in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, and the Court of Justice of the European Communities meets in Luxembourg

based on a series of treaties: the Treaty of Paris, which set up the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951; the Treaties of Rome, which set up the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in 1957; the Single European Act in 1986; the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) in 1992; the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997; and the Treaty of Nice in 2003; note - a new draft Constitutional Treaty, signed on 29 October 2004 in Rome, gave member states two years for ratification either by parliamentary vote or national referendum before it was scheduled to take effect on 1 November 2006; defeat in French and Dutch referenda in May-June 2005 dealt a severe setback to the ratification process; in June 2007, the European Council agreed on a clear and concise mandate for an Intergovernmental Conference to form a political agreement and put it into legal form; this agreement, known as the Reform Treaty, would have served as a constitution and was presented to the European Council in October 2007 for individual country ratification; it was rejected by Irish voters in June 2008, again stalling the ratification process

Member states:
27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK; note - Canary Islands (Spain), Azores and Madeira (Portugal), French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reunion (France) are sometimes listed separately even though they are legally a part of Spain, Portugal, and France; candidate countries: Croatia, Macedonia, Turkey

Executive branch:
chief of union: President of the European Commission Jose Manuel DURAO BARROSO (since 22 November 2004)
cabinet: European Commission (composed of 27 members, one from each member country; each commissioner responsible for one or more policy areas)
elections: the president of the European Commission is designated by member governments and is confirmed by the European Parliament; working from member state recommendations, the Commission president then assembles a "college" of Commission members; the European Parliament confirms the entire Commission for a five-year term; the last confirmation process was held 18 November 2004 (next to be held in 2009)
election results: European Parliament approved the European Commission by an approval vote of 449 to 149 with 82 abstentions
note: the European Council brings together heads of state and government and the president of the European Commission and meets at least four times a year; its aim is to provide the impetus for the major political issues relating to European integration and to issue general policy guidelines

Judicial branch:
Court of Justice of the European Communities (ensures that the treaties are interpreted and applied uniformly throughout the EU; resolve constitutional issues among the EU institutions) - 27 justices (one from each member state) appointed for a six-year term; note - for the sake of efficiency, the court can sit with 13 justices known as the "Grand Chamber"; Court of First Instance - 27 justices appointed for a six-year term

  Economy Back To Top

Electricity - consumption:
2.858 trillion kWh (2007 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
note: This is the European Central Bank's rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks from the Eurosystem (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
NA kWh

Current account balance:

Unemployment rate:
7.2% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
NA bbl/day

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$33,800 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
21.1% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$20.94 trillion
note: this figure refers to the Euro area only; it excludes credit data for members of the EU outside the Eurozone (31 December 2007)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$14.96 trillion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$18.93 trillion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
30.3 (2003 est.)

Exchange rates:
euros per US dollar - 0.6734 (2008 est.), 0.7345 (2007), 0.7964 (2006), 0.8041 (2005), 0.8054 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
1.5% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$5.742 trillion
note: this is the quantity of money, M1, for the Euro Area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of money carried by non-Eurozone members of the European Union (31 December 2007)

Labor force:
224.6 million (2008 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
3.7% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 26.8%
services: 71.1% (2008 est.)

Oil - imports:
NA bbl/day

$1.33 trillion; note - external exports, excluding intra-EU trade (2005)

Natural gas - consumption:
500.1 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
euro, British pound, Bulgarian lev, Czech koruna, Danish krone, Estonian kroon, Hungarian forint, Latvian lat, Lithuanian litas, Polish zloty, Romanian leu, Slovak koruna, Swedish krona

Economy - overview:
Internally, the EU is attempting to lower trade barriers, adopt a common currency, and move toward convergence of living standards. Internationally, the EU aims to bolster Europe's trade position and its political and economic power. Because of the great differences in per capita income among member states (from $7,000 to $69,000) and historic national animosities, the EU faces difficulties in devising and enforcing common policies. For example, since 2003 Germany and France have flouted the member states' treaty obligation to prevent their national budgets from running more than a 3% deficit. In 2004 and 2007, the EU admitted 10 and two countries, respectively, that are, in general, less advanced technologically and economically than the other 15. Eleven established EU member states introduced the euro as their common currency on 1 January 1999 (Greece did so two years later), but the UK, Sweden, and Denmark chose not to participate. Of the 12 most recent member states, only Slovenia (1 January 2007) and Cyprus and Malta (1 January 2008) have adopted the euro; the remaining nine are legally required to adopt the currency upon meeting EU's fiscal and monetary convergence criteria.

Natural gas - exports:
NA cu m

Imports - commodities:
machinery, vehicles, aircraft, plastics, crude oil, chemicals, textiles, metals, foodstuffs, clothing

among the world's largest and most technologically advanced, the European Union industrial base includes: ferrous and non-ferrous metal production and processing, metal products, petroleum, coal, cement, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, construction equipment, industrial equipment, shipbuilding, electrical power equipment, machine tools and automated manufacturing systems, electronics and telecommunications equipment, fishing, food and beverage processing, furniture, paper, textiles, tourism

Electricity - exports:
NA kWh

Population below poverty line:
note - see individual country entries of member states

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
8.03% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$10.93 trillion
note: this is the quantity of quasi money, M2, for the Euro Area, converted into US dollars at the exchange rate for the date indicated; it excludes the stock of quasi money carried by non-Eurozone members of the European Union

Electricity - production:
3.056 trillion kWh (2007 est.)

$1.466 trillion; note - external imports, excluding intra-EU trade (2005)

Oil - proved reserves:
6.144 billion bbl (1 January 2008)

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 4.3%
industry: 26.4%
services: 68.3%
note: the remainder is in miscellaneous public and private sector industries and services (2005 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
2.476 trillion cu m (1 January 2008 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

Oil - consumption:
14.39 million bbl/day (2007)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$15.57 trillion (2008 est.)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.8%
highest 10%: 25.2% (2001 est.)

Exports - commodities:
machinery, motor vehicles, aircraft, plastics, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, fuels, iron and steel, nonferrous metals, wood pulp and paper products, textiles, meat, dairy products, fish, alcoholic beverages.

Natural gas - imports:
NA cu m

Natural gas - production:
197.8 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Fiscal year:

Oil - production:
2.674 million bbl/day (2007)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
247 million (2006)

Telephones - main lines in use:
238 million (2005)

Internet country code:
.eu (effective 2005); note - see country entries of member states for individual country codes

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 930, FM 13,655, shortwave 71 (1998); note - sum of individual country radio broadcast stations; there is also a European-wide station (Euroradio)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
466 million (2005)

Television broadcast stations:
2,700 (1995); note - sum of individual country television broadcast stations excluding repeaters; there is also a European-wide station (Eurovision)

Telephone system:
note - see individual country entries of member states

Internet hosts:
31,693 (2008); note - this sum reflects the number of internet hosts assigned the .eu internet country code

  Transportation Back To Top

52,332 km (2006)

total: 236,436 km
broad gauge: 28,250 km
standard gauge: 200,401 km
narrow gauge: 7,771 km
other: 23 km (2007)

Ports and terminals:
Antwerp (Belgium), Barcelona (Spain), Braila (Romania), Bremen (Germany), Burgas (Bulgaria), Constanta (Romania), Copenhagen (Denmark), Galati (Romania), Gdansk (Poland), Hamburg (Germany), Helsinki (Finland), Las Palmas (Canary Islands, Spain), Le Havre (France), Lisbon (Portugal), London (UK), Marseille (France), Naples (Italy), Peiraiefs or Piraeus (Greece), Riga (Latvia), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Stockholm (Sweden), Talinn (Estonia), Tulcea (Romania), Varna (Bulgaria)

100 (2007)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 1,991
over 3,047m: 110
2,438 to 3,047m: 347
1,524 to 2,437m: 545
914 to 1,523m: 420
under 914m: 569 (2007)

total: 5,454,446 km (2008)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 1,373
over 3,047m: 2
2,438 to 3,047m: 5
1,524 to 2,437m: 30
914m to 1,523m: 267
under 914m: 1,043 (2007)

3,393 (2006)

  Military Back To Top

Military - note:
the five-nation Eurocorps - created in 1992 by France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, and Luxembourg - has deployed troops and police on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and assumed command of the ISAF in Afghanistan in August 2004; Eurocorps directly commands the 5,000-man Franco-German Brigade, the Multinational Command Support Brigade, and EUFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina; in November 2004, the EU Council of Ministers formally committed to creating 13 1,500-man battle groups by the end of 2007, to respond to international crises on a rotating basis; 22 of the EU's 25 nations have agreed to supply troops; France, Italy, and the UK formed the first of three battle groups in 2005; Norway, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland established the Nordic Battle Group effective 1 January 2008; nine other groups are to be formed; a rapid-reaction naval EU Maritime Task Group was stood up in March 2007 (2007)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

Disputes - international:
as a political union, the EU has no border disputes with neighboring countries, but Estonia has no land boundary agreements with Russia, Slovenia disputes its land and maritime boundaries with Croatia, and Spain has territorial and maritime disputes with Morocco and with the UK over Gibraltar; the EU has set up a Schengen area - consisting of 22 EU member states that have signed the convention implementing the Schengen agreements or "acquis" (1985 and 1990) on the free movement of persons and the harmonization of border controls in Europe; these agreements became incorporated into EU law with the implementation of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam on 1 May 1999; in addition, non-EU states Iceland and Norway (as part of the Nordic Union) have been included in the Schengen area since 1996 (full members in 2001), and Switzerland since 2008 bringing the total current membership to 25; the UK (since 2000) and Ireland (since 2002) take part in only some aspects of the Schengen area, especially with respect to police and criminal matters; nine of the 12 new member states that joined the EU since 2004 joined Schengen on 21 December 2007; of the three remaining EU states, Cyprus is expected to join by 2009, while Romania and Bulgaria continue to enhance their border security systems

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