The European Union

Q. What is the European Union?

A. The European Union (EU) - previously known as the European Community (EC)- was founded after the Second World War to unite the nations of Europe economically and to help ensure peace in the region. Today, the EU boasts a fully integrated internal market in which citizens, as well as goods and services, can move freely across national borders. Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the six original member states. After four rounds of enlargement (Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom in 1973; Greece in 1981; Spain and Portugal in 1986; and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995), the EU has fifteen member states. On October 9, 2002 in Brussels, the European Commission recommended that ten front-runner candidates be invited to join the EU in 2004: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, and Malta. Second-wave candidates Bulgaria and Romania are expected to join in 2007. For more information, visit the EU website at

Q. What is the euro?

A. The Single European Act (1986) and the Treaty on European Union (1992) introduced the idea of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and laid the foundations for a single currency. On January 1, 1999, the euro was introduced when member states irrevocably fixed their exchange rates. EU citizens continued to use their national currency until euro bank notes and coins were put into circulation on January 1, 2002. The twelve states in the euro zone are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. For more information, visit the euro website at