1. The European Union is the culmination of decades-long efforts following WWII to minimize nationalism and strengthen the economic resolve of the continent. Some of the preliminary efforts include the Treaty of Rome (1957-1992); Merger Treaty (1967); Schengen Agreement (1985).
2. The European Union was formally established in 1993 with the Maastricht Treaty. Currently, the nations included are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK (see below).
3. Membership in the European Union means agreeing to the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services between sovereign nations.
4. There are at least seven institutions that carry authority in the European Union: The European Council, which is made up of the leaders of the sovereign states; the Council of the European Union which works with the parliament; the European Parliament which serves as the legislative branch; the European Commission which is the executive branch; the Court of Justice of the European Union which applies and interprets the law; the European Central Bank which balances prices across nations and regulates the currency; the European Court of Auditors which checks the budget and spending.
5. Together, the European Union offers the most aid to developing countries in the world.
6. The European Union has diverse views on issues such as climate change, strengthening its economy, how to handle member-states that are characterized by organized crime and corruption, and how to relate to other global leaders such as the US, China, and Russia.
7. On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum to leave the European Union known as “Brexit.” It narrowly passed voters’ approval with 51.9% vs. 48.1%. However, the decision is not legal until a formal process follows. Read seven reasons why some Europeans disapprove of the European Union here.
Read all of the entries in our Seven Quick Facts series.