European Union: An Explainer

What is the European Union (EU)? Why was it established and how does it work? Let’s answer these questions one by one.

The European Union

EU is a body consisting of 28 countries (27 after the Brexit) which acts as a single economic and political block. The 28 member countries are shown below:

How does it work?

EU acts as a single trade, monetary, and political block. With this, the borders are eliminated between the member countries. Save for a few random spot checks to avoid crime, EU citizens can (for the most part) travel from one EU country to another freely. Goods and technology are flowing freely as well — there are no tariffs to worry about.

Development is ideally accelerated across all countries since they can take advantage of one another’s strong points.

What’s in it for the members?

EU was established with the following goals in mind:

  • promote peace, its values and the well-being of its citizens
  • offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders
  • sustainable development based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive market economy with full employment and social progress, and environmental protection
  • combat social exclusion and discrimination
  • promote scientific and technological progress
  • enhance economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity among EU countries
  • respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity
  • establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.

While these goals are great on paper, the EU is far from perfect. The development is not evenly distributed among the EU countries. For instance, it turns out that Italy suffers from high levels of unemployment. In 2010, Greece suffered a debt crisis which is felt until today.

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What’s in it for non-EU countries?

EU is one of the largest trading units in the world. Majority of the goods and services are exported by the EU. At the same time, it is the biggest importer for more than a hundred countries. The European Union is also active in supporting other countries in need of humanitarian aid.

After China, the EU is the largest economy in the world. Despite its shortcomings, the power of the EU cannot be denied. Will this economic stronghold continue to prosper? Only time can tell.

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