What is the EU?

The European Union (EU) is a unique political and economic partnership between 28 European countries that together cover much of the European continent. The EU has its roots in 1952, when six European countries committed to pooling their coal and steel industries in the aftermath of the Second World War, during the terrible post-war economic situation gripping the continent. The vision of the founders of the EU was to bring peace and prosperity to Europe by making European countries so interdependent that a new war between its members would become unthinkable.

Today, the EU is composed of 28 Member States. It has a common market of over 500 million citizens and represents the largest economy in the world. It is the first trading partner and the first foreign investor for almost every country in the globe. It has a common currency (the Euro) in 19 of its Member States and border-free travel over most of its territory.  Internationally, the EU and its Member States are the largest donors of development assistance in the world, and key proponents of democracy, the promotion of human rights and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

In a rapidly changing world, the EU is faced with security challenges within and in its immediate neighbourhood and beyond.  The Common Security and Defence Policy enables the Union to take a leading role in peace keeping operations, conflict prevention and in the strengthening of international security. The EU invests in regional orders, and in cooperation among and within regions, in win-win solutions, that move beyond the illusion that international politics can be a zero-sum game.

Together with its Member States, the EU invests more in development cooperation than the rest of the world combined.  The EU acts globally to address the root causes of conflict and poverty, and to promote human rights. As a responsible global stakeholder, it reaches out to states, regional bodies and international organisations, working with core partners, like-minded countries and regional groupings. It forms partnerships with civil society and the private sector as key players in a networked world.